Giving Alex the Opportunity to Say “No”

Next month, Alex will be two years old. And at this stage of his life, he starts to show his will and preference (stronger than ever and will get stronger and stronger, I guess) and exercise them by saying “No” or sometimes even “No. No.”

I have been anticipating this to happen and believe that it is a phase that he needs to go through as a growing up child and it is perfectly normal for a person (even if he is just a kid) to say no and assert his will.

“Kids this age are realizing that they can assert themselves, and arguing with you is one way they gain confidence,” says John Sargent, MD, a child psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. Remember: The world is still a big, mysterious place to your toddler, and he feels pretty powerless in it. Saying no is a normal, healthy way for him to feel as if he has some control. And being too strict or forcing your child to do what you want all the times can make him feel helpless, scared, angry — and even more defiant.

However, it is not easy for me to accept Alex’s “No” sometimes. Especially when I am not feeling well and my list-to-do seems endless on that day. But since he really ‘needs’ to say no and exercise his will at this point of life, so I try to create many opportunities where he can say “No” and is allowed to say “No”.

Scenario 1
It is now 10.30 in the morning, and Alex normally has his lunch at 11am.
Me  : “Lex, do you want to have your lunch now?”
Alex: “No. No.” (firmly)
Me  : “Oh, OK.”
He looks at me for a while, smiles and then gently says, “OK…”

Scenario 2
I just gave him a cup of water and he drank 3/4 of it. I am satisfied.
Me   : “Lex, do you still want some water?”
Alex : “No”
Me   : “OK”
Alex : “OK…”

Scenario 3
He just pooped with his diapers on.
Me    : “Lex, do you want me to change your diapers?”
Alex  : “No. No.”
Me    : “OK.” (I thought, maybe he is not done yet)

5 minutes later…
Me  : “Lex, do you want me to change your diapers now?”
Alex: “No. No.”
Me  : “Oh…OK” (I really don’t know why he doesn’t want to change his diapers now)

5 minutes later…I can’t take the smell anymore. So no more question and no more choice. I gently carried him and said “Lex, let’s change your diapers now and then you can continue playing later, OK?!” He will usually follow and say “OK…”

The purpose of me doing all these is to let him realizes that I can actually accept his “No” and respect his will, even though it is not all the time.

And after practicing it for quite some time, I notice that he starts saying “No” only when he really means it (not just because of anger or being defiant). And I also notice that he starts saying “No” firmly but politely. I guess, that’s because he is assured that I will listen and respect his preference without him shouting or kicking his legs around.

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