Celebrate Your Toddler's "No!"
by Judy Arnall
Photo © Serhiy Kobyakov/Shutterstock
I walked into the kitchen and discovered my two-year-old blonde haired
daughter, dressed in her little pink fleece sleeper with the padded feet,
standing on top of the chair next to the counter. She was preoccupied with
dipping her fingers into the butter bowl and then into the sugar bowl before
they headed into her waiting mouth. When she saw me enter the kitchen, a
potential threat to her wonderful activity, she formed a very concise
pointed finger at me, and firmly delivered “NO!” at my astonished
“NO!” It’s probably the most commonly used word in toddlerhood! It flies out
of our children’s mouths before they even have time to really think about
what they are saying “no” to.
When my five children were young, they were allowed to say “no” as much as
they wanted to. I would always try to respect their “no” as much as I could
within the parameters of the particular situation, and especially in
circumstances such as when they didn’t want to be tickled by me, or didn’t
want to hear me sing, or didn’t want to be kissed by Grandma, or didn’t want
to share their prized possessions. I think “no” is an important word for
asserting their feelings and desires and unless it is a matter of safety,
they have the right to have their opinion listened to and respected. Here is
why children should be allowed to say “no”:
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is three and her daddy might want to
put her in the front seat and not the car seat because it is less hassle.
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is five and her little five-year-old
friend might want her to cross a busy street without an adult.
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is nine and her uncle might want to
touch her in her private places.
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is twelve and her friends might want
her to steal a candy bar from the grocery store.
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is fourteen and her friends might
bully a fellow student.
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is fifteen and a friend’s drunk
parent might want to drive her home from a sleepover party.
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is sixteen and her boyfriend might
want to show her how much he loves her.
I want my daughter to say “no” when she is eighteen and her buddies might
want her to try some “ecstasy.”
So, when she is two-years-old, my daughter can practice saying “no” as much
as she needs to. And I won’t take it personally.
Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning parenting and
teacher conference speaker, and trainer, mom of five children, and author of
the best-selling book “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising
caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or
bribery” and the new DVD “Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital
generation for health, safety and love” as well as the new book “The Last
Word on Parenting Advice.” Find her at the website
www.professionalparenting.ca and contact her at