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Put it down…
Most of the direct instructions, heck most of the conversation a toddler hears each day is generally designed to stop them doing something. Now obviously this is because toddlers have a knack for doing things that they shouldn’t be doing!
But we know that developmentally a toddler’s job is to explore the world and we want to support them to do just that.
(Also shouting ‘No’ in a panicked voice 3752 times a day gets old fast.)
So, what’s a parent to do?
Here are our top tips for shifting into YES mode.
You were probably pretty hot at baby-proofing, but toddler-proofing requires a whole new level of planning! Look at it this way – it isn’t really your toddlers fault if they spill all your makeup all on the floor. They didn’t know it was make-up or have any concept of how long it takes to clean crumbled blusher out of carpets. They just saw a novel item and did what they do – explored it.
It’s up to us as parents to keep stuff safe and out of the way. Having a really good look around the rooms you spend time in with your toddler and moving things around can immediately make your life a whole lot simpler. This doesn’t just mean moving things you don’t want them to get. It also means enabling them to get the things you do want them to get.
The easier you make it for them to get the things they want. The more likely they are to begin to develop independence skills and move away from trashing all the adult things.
*Except your phone and the TV remote. It doesn’t matter where you keep them. Toddlers are like ninja burglars when it comes to those.
We’ve all heard the old adage to pick your battles and it certainly applies here. Keep your list of non-negotiables short and learn to think before you automatically say no.
No response – No, it’s nearly dinnertime
Yes response – You can have 3 grapes or a ricecake. It’s dinner soon
No response – No! We’ll have to get straight out of the bath if you carry on.
Yes response – That was a big splash. Can you splash that way or stir the water like this instead?
Request (or enthusiastic non-verbal pointing!)
No response – No, it’s time to eat.
Yes response – Yep, we can go out to play as soon as you’ve eaten lunch.
In the shop
No response – No you have lots of toys, we aren’t buying anymore.
Yes response – Mmm that does looks fun, when we get home why don’t we get out the instruments we already have for a play.
Using a ‘YES’ response strategy won’t always get the result you want but it does engage your toddler in a different way and honestly, just feels nicer.
Saying no less means that when you do say it, you’re more likely to be listened to. Generally, it’s worth trying to just reserve strong negative responses for safety issues or high-level behaviours like hitting or biting.
If this is a big change in your language it’ll take a few weeks before your toddler gets the hang of it. Even then one of the joys of being a toddler parent is that you can expect to hear yourself say the same things repeatedly over the next few years.
This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your toddler, only that children’s brains develop in direct response to repeated experiences.
So, if you feel like a broken record, you’re doing it right!
It’s a lot more fun being a YES parent and it helps you and your child feel connected rather than feeling like the NO police.
Think you could give it a try?
Hint the answer is YES!
Claire and Dr Nneka founded Mellownest with a simple purpose; to inspire and empower mums. Their backgrounds in Psychology and Wellbeing mean they know what it takes to stay happy, healthy and connected to your values. Recognised for their mindful, relationship-based approach to parenting, regular contributors to Mumbler and been featured on Motherly and Parent.com.