Handling the “NO!” phase

Havvie, in the last week has started screaming NO (or sometimes simply yelling) to almost anything, anyone asks of her. I know this is a completely healthy and important phase of development, but it can be very testing.  She’s becoming her own individual and looking to us as parents to guide her through the boundaries that we set.


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I’ve had to quickly learn of ways to help her manage her responses and co-regulate her emotions. I’m still learning but here are the things that seem to help her so far.

  • Slowing down – if I’m running through things too quickly she gets overwhelmed and upset and I have to remember to take it in baby (or toddler) steps. After all she shouldn’t have to try to keep up with me all day.
  • Helping her find the right words – she sometimes yells if she doesn’t have the vocabulary yet to describe what she wants. I try and help her work through the words she may be trying to express so she can speak calmly next time.
  • Offering choices – with things I know she will say no to, I offer her two choices that I’m ok with, so she can feel a sense of control over what she is doing. This usually avoids the No conversation altogether.
  • Singing a song – sometimes I sing a song for things that I need her to do but I know she will say no to. For example I know sometimes she doesn’t want to put on underwear, so I have made up a song about putting her legs in the holes and pulling the underwear up. Works a treat!
  • Involving her in practical life as much as possible – I find that when she’s involved in doing the things we do as adults, such as putting on a load of washing, emptying the dishwasher or preparing a snack, she’s at her most engaged. Even when I ask her to do things related to these activities, she rarely says No.
  • Set the boundary and stick to it – there are occasions when a boundary needs to be set and Havvie won’t like having to do what I’m asking her to. An example is standing in her highchair which can be dangerous. In these situations I let her be upset and express how she’s feeling. Once she’s calm, I let her know I understand that she’s feeling upset that she doesn’t get to stand in the chair. We have to sit when we eat otherwise she may fall over. This is the hardest strategy for me to practice but also the most important and I’m going to focus my energies on getting this one right.

The most important thing is to remain calm and firm during these times so Havvie can feel confident that she can rely on me. A resource that I found helpful for strategies is Janet Lansbury’s Unruffled podcast.

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