How To Teach Your Toddler “No”

As a parent or guardian to a young child, you know that it’s your place to teach them boundaries. And a big part of that is knowing how to teach a toddler no. The reason this is so important is that when your child begins to hear it from you, they will start learning how to apply it to themself and their behaviour.

The thing is, it can be hard to know how to say no to a toddler and it can be tempting to instead replace it with a “yes” when faced with a screaming child who is demanding something and demanding it now! 

How often have you heard your little one ask for something completely unreasonable? Or to want something impossible right there and then? 

It happens. And you need to say no. But if you’re wondering whether or not should you say no to a toddler, trust us, you do – so here’s how.

How to Teach a Toddler “No”: 6 Tips

Believe it or not, we spend a lot of time at our nurseries saying “no.” But the crucial thing to know is how to deliver it in a positive manner.

With that in mind, here are 6 of Little Angels nurseries’ top tips for saying no – positively.

1. Use Body Language

You can start teaching your toddler the signs for no, even before they’re old enough to talk or understand you through body language.

Facial expressions are a huge part of this. But again, it needs to be positive. You may wince every time your kiddie is about to do something potentially catastrophic and of course a firm “no” combined with the appropriate face is going to be your natural reaction.

But when you use a lot of positive body language when your baby is little, such as smiling, cuddling, and tickling, using a stern expression while stating “no!” will make them pay attention.

2. Try Not to Default to “No”

We realise this might sound counterintuitive, but you really do need to find a balance between the yeses and nos. 

If you automatically say no to all of your toddler’s requests, you could be doing more harm than good. Of course there will always be some situations where “no” is required to keep your child safe, but children have a natural instinct for exploring and trying new things. 

Even though you’re teaching your toddler no, it’s also important that you allow them to experience  things that will help them flourish, learn and grow. 

Not granting permission to do something because you just don’t want to do it is fine once in a while, but try not to restrict your toddler just because defaulting to “no” has become a habit.

3. Use “No” Alternatives

When do toddlers understand no is a question that has many parents and guardians wondering. But the downside of trying to force young children to learn the meaning of no can get lost if it’s used too frequently.

Therefore, we’ve found that creating variations on the theme can be helpful. Try using different words that are applicable to the scenario. 

For example, if your child tries to grab your hot cup of tea or coffee say something like “Hot! It will hurt!” while using an “ouch!” expression. Use the same phrase and facial expression the next time they repeat the action. 

4. Add an Explanation After “No”

We’re going to assume you like to deal with toddler tantrums swiftly – and, of course, avoid them altogether wherever possible! 

However, simply saying “no” and not providing an explanation can feel restrictive for some children and can spark a typical toddler meltdown. Therefore, you should use phrases that show your concern but don’t trigger an unwanted reaction.

For example, if your little one is putting themself in danger you need a firm “no” coupled with an explanation. “No, don’t do that because you might hurt yourself” shows them you’re not just being mean. Instead you’re telling them that actions have consequences and they will start to associate “no” with being safe.

5. Adapt Your Tone of Voice

As well as employing body language and facial expressions as part of your strategy of how to teach a toddler no, you also need to use a certain tone of voice.

Your little one is still learning and if you say “no” in a friendly or less than authoritative tone, it’s not going to have much effect.

The aim here is to teach your toddler no, so make sure you’re not giving them mixed signals. Use a firm tone of voice. The sooner your toddler knows that no means no, the better!

6. Turn a Negative Into a Positive

If you want to know how to teach a toddler no effectively, one of our top tips is to reframe a negative situation with a positive one.

Let’s say your child wants to play with something unsuitable or even just inconvenient. You’re trying to work and they want to press your laptop keys. You’re watching television and they’re playing with the remote control.  

Try using a matter of fact voice and saying something along the lines of “you can’t play with my laptop because I’m working. But you can play with this ball/car/doll/game” to distract them.

How To Say No To a Toddler: the Lowdown

We all want to instil good values and behaviour in our children from an early age and knowing how to teach a toddler no is a part of that.

We want them to become well-rounded little humans who are respectful of their parents or guardians and who know how to play nicely, share, and take turns with their peers.

And a big part of that is knowing when you should say no to a toddler. It gives them the foundation on which to build and moderate their behaviour.

Dealing with bad behaviour in toddlers doesn’t have to be hard, but with the right framework it can be mostly circumnavigated in the first place.

Of course, there will always be frustrating moments when you’re asking yourself “When do toddlers understand no?!” but we hope that with our tips it will be sooner rather than later!

Teaching Toddlers at Little Angels Nurseries

At Little Angels nursery in Perkins Square we work closely with parents and guardians to help educate your children as you see fit. 

We’re also always on hand to offer friendly and non-judgemental advice so if you’re wondering should you say no to a toddler, or when do toddlers understand no (finally!) we can give you the benefit of our expertise. 

And if you’re looking for a nursery for your baby, toddler or preschooler that offers fun and creative extra-curricular activities and first rate facilities, you’ve just found us.

Download our brochure now or book onto an in-person or video tour and we’ll look forward to welcoming your little angel very soon!