There is some kind of strange irony that while we spend so much time and energy teaching our children to communicate in words, it is the smallest, simplest word of all that toddlers seem to have so much trouble understanding.
Two letters. A black and white concept. What could possibly go wrong?
And yet … the word ‘no’ seems to always be open to interpretation when in the hands of a toddler. While they’re happy to hammer out an endless stream of no’s night and day themselves, when you utter the word, they inexplicably cease to understand the concept.
Here’s what your toddler really hears when you give them a firm NO:
1. “The jury is out – convince me further”
This NO appeals to all the toddler-sized lawyers out there – you say no and think that’s the end of the story, meanwhile they’re rolling up their sleeves in preparation to mount an exhaustive argument as to why a YES would be the much more appropriate response.
2. “When I say no, I really mean …”
If a strong-willed toddler senses that their parents are at all wishy-washy when issuing their NO, they know all they have to do is annoy aforementioned parents for approximately three minutes to get the YES they were looking for. Pester power for the win!
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3. “Go and ask your father – because you might get a different answer there”
This is the specialty of the divide-and-conquer toddler. Mum says NO, Dad’s not paying attention to the question so says YES. Which is exactly how making mud pies in your party dress happens.
4. “Oh hell, yes!”
Oh, who are we kidding? There are some toddlers out there who so rarely hear the word NO that they simply don’t compute the word. It’s all YES, YES, YES in their rose-tinted world. Lucky buggers.
5. “Let’s revisit this topic again every 20 minutes for the next three hours”
This is pester power on steroids. The relentlessness of being asked the same question until the end of time can weaken the knees of even the most strong-willed of parents. In the end, it comes down to who is the most determined? Parent vs toddler. We know how this battle will end. And it won’t be pretty.
6. “Please shame me by proceeding to have a very public tantrum right here, right now”
You know the drill. You’re out somewhere public. Toddler asks for something crazy, you say NO. Cue the epic meltdown. The tears. The chest-beating. The dropping to the floor, and all the while your toddler has one steely eye trained on you, to gauge the exact moment when you’re contemplating caving to the crazy request so you can get the hell away from the judgement of the crowd that has now gathered.
7. “I heard you say no, but if you really loved me, you’d say yes”
They say a pouty lip conveys a thousand words – but if that pouty lip is attached to a small human who can also do the gentle chin wobble and the tear-rimmed wide-eyed stare, then you are really wandering into deep emotional waters and we dare you to say NO and stick to it for more than a couple of minutes.