Why your toddler says no all the time

maurice sendakThere was an article in the Daily Mail recently that made me laugh out loud. I’ll save you the read by summing it up in two lines: basically, a group of scientitsts from the Ohio State University are looking into a link between the bacteria in childrens’ digestive tracks and the “Terrible Twos”. Your toddler is acting up? Blame it on the yogurt.

It is a fact however that children of that age resist. A lot. And in different ways. Some will alternate between running away from you and refusing to budge when you call them. Others will state their defiance with a loud, assertive, unequivocal “NO”. In either case there’s nothing to be concerned about: I much rather a child that says no a lot than one that silently acquieses to everything he or she’s told. It’s a part of learning to think.

One of the reasons why “no” is often a toddler’s  favorite word could be rooted in a simple fact of physiology. It is easier to say “no” than it is to say “yes,” just as it is easier to shake ones head from side to side than to move it up and down. Toddlers are also likely to hear the word “no” more often than they do its positive counterpart. Take it as flattery: your child is imitating you!

As the child grows older, the reason for constant negativity changes from physiology to psychology. Even though he or she can now say “yes,” many children still prefer to say “no” to express their desire to do things their own way. Junior or Princess is no longer an extension of Mom and wants to assert his or her independance. At this stage, toddlers are testing their boundaries and your authority. Some will even say “no” to things that they asked for in the first place, or scold their toys and dolls in play.

A child’s negative behavior isn’t necessarily a reflection of you as a parent or your child as a person. All children go through this phase around the ages of two and three, and some begin even earlier. The duration of this phase partly depends on the child’s personality: in some cases toddler rebellion is short-lived and half-hearted while in others the propensity to fight and resist is stronger and more long-lasting. Either way, no healthy toddler can skip this stage in life anymore than he or she can avoid teething, weight gain, or… intestinal flora.

Testing authority is an important part of a child’s learning process, and their first steps as individuals towards making their own decisions.

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