Turn a defiant ‘No’ Into Happy ‘Yes’

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You fear the day when your toddler learns the word ’no’. It then becomes a word that they use for, let’s be honest here – EVERYTHING! Even when they do decide that they want something, it comes out ‘No’ first. I got so tired of hearing this word, that I took some of my teaching techniques and put them to work.

Having problems with your toddler always giving you a defiant "NO!"? You can turn that "no" into a "yes" with this one very simple question.

When I taught Kindergarten, I found that there was a huge tendency for the kids to tell me ‘no.’ I started to get creative by finding ways to get the children to complete tasks they needed to do, but not forcing them to do it, and certainly not getting any nos.

So I created and perfected my strategy. Are you ready for it?

Ask your child a question by giving choices where ‘no’ isn’t one of the answers.

Seems simple right? It is. But it is something I had to work on. Thinking quick on my feet was not always something that came easy to me. Usually, I asked a child to do something, got a no, and had to find out how to rephrase the question – all before they looked away. By the end of that school year, I had almost no ‘no’s’ because I knew how to ask all of the questions to them giving them choices.

Using them with my toddler was a bit of a different story. Here is how we used this strategy in our home. 

— “Let’s get dressed for the day. You can wear your blue shirt with Elsa on it!” NO!

This happened all too often. So I changed it to: “It’s time to get dressed, do you want to wear the blue shirt with Elsa or the pink shirt with Ariel?”

As I am saying this, I am laying them out on the floor for her to choose one. She picks which one she wants and usually has no problem changing into it. She is having an opinion – choosing which shirt to wear – and you are getting her dressed. Win-Win if you ask me.

We have been doing this for a while with our daughter, so now when I say it’s time to  get dressed, I can tell her to go to her drawer and choose her shirt. Sometimes, I even let her choose her pants from the drawer too. Most of the time she doesn’t match, but if wearing red plaid pants and a pink and orange shirt makes her happy, that is all that matters.Mismatched Outfit for the Win

— “It’s time to go to the store” NO! “We can even go to the Disney store if you’re good.” NO!

Raise your hand if you have even used bribery to try and get your kids to do what you want them to <raising hand over here>. I changed my request to: “I see you are playing so nicely. I am setting the timer for when it is time to leave. Would you like to play for 5 or 8 more minutes? But remember when the timer goes off it’s time to let the toys rest”

At this stage, our daughter doesn’t understand time, but giving her an option of times, still gives her a choice. We have been using a timer for a lot of things in our home, so she knows when the timer goes off, it’s time to start something new (that’s another post for a different time). Sometimes, if she is really involved in her toy, I will give her the option to take one or two of them in the car with her. Letting her have them in the back seat is not effecting me in anyway (unless she throws them at the back of my head), but will make a huge difference for her.

— Our biggest hurdle is getting ready for bed. No matter what, she does not want to get ready to go to bed. So this time of the day is much more tricky. I usually let her choose her pajamas between 2 options (I still get to choose which ones she will wear). I let her choose her nighttime pull-up between 2 princesses (she is still getting her pull-up on for bed). And I usually give her the option to get dressed in the warm bathroom or in her cold bedroom (she now chooses the warm bathroom option after a couple of cold bedroom choices). All of these ‘options’ that I give her, still lead to my ultimate goal, but it allows her to not tell me no and gives her a sense of independence – which we all hope our children will develop some day.

Once you get a handle on this technique of asking your child to do something, you can use it for a long time. When I substitute taught middle school students, I often used a similar technique with them and it worked beautifully!

Sure I have times when I tell her we are getting her jacket on and she tells me ‘no’, but then I change my request to a question and ask her which jacket she wants to wear – and more often than not, it’s the one not in my hand. Toddlers are starting to learn that they can have opinions and have preferences, if we learn to harness that into a parenting technique, we are one step ahead – for now. So let them have a choice. It will lead to fewer defiant moments and much more happiness all around.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. What a great idea! Having taught kindergarten, I understand the struggle, but giving them two good options is such a good way to help them learn to be independent without being rebellious. Thanks for sharing!

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Hi, there! I’m Heather Bowen, and I am so glad you’re here.

My passion lies in helping homeschool moms balance marriage, motherhood, homemaking, and homeschooling all while remaining sane!

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