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The healthy “NO”



We automatically have a negative connotation to the word no, however, the word no can be one of the most important words that we will ever say to our toddlers.


A challenge to many parents is setting boundaries for toddlers. This is because they may cry, beg or bargain in the pursuit of getting their way and sometimes we just do not have the emotional energy to deal with this. As a result, we might feel it’s easier to say yes in order to avoid dealing with their emotional breakdown. We also tend to feel guilty when saying no. However, it is important to keep in mind that as our toddlers are becoming their own person with their own thoughts and opinions, setting boundaries play an important role in developing executive functioning skills. It is true that this developmental phase comes with behavioural challenges such as the testing of boundaries to see what reactions they get from adults. However, this is a perfectly normal and healthy way of making sense of the world around them. Nevertheless, it is very important to be aware of how we react in these situations.


Cindy Huang, Assistant Professor of Counselling Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University explains that they learn rules about their own behaviours and how to navigate the complex social world around them. For toddlers to be able to navigate themselves, parents have to set the limit. Your response to their behaviour will ultimately shape their behaviour.


When teaching a toddler that no sets a healthy boundary, we are laying the groundwork for their own ability to make sensible choices. As a result, if they feel uncomfortable in a certain situation, they will be equipped to say no.


Let’s not be afraid to say no but rather see it as one more tool which we can use to set equip our toddlers to shape their own behaviour.


Nikita Pretorius


Huang, C., 2020. Today's Parent – Why your toddler’s “no!” phase is so important (and how to survive it). Today's Parent, 12 July.