Thirteen-month-old Avery Watson says "no" to everything, even when she clearly doesn't mean it. "I was trying to give her Goldfish and she shook her head 'no' while putting one in her mouth," says her mom, Rachael, of Portland, OR. "I can't figure out the disconnect!" Toddlers often send this mixed message. It's a way to hone their social skills and stand up for themselves, says Harvey Karp, M.D., creator of The Happiest Toddler on the Block. How to navigate in the meantime:
Read their body language Toddlers are better at right-brained body language than left-brained verbal language, says Dr. Karp. So believe what they do, not what they say. "If they're acting 'yes,' ignore the 'no.' If they're really putting up a fight, 'no' means 'no.'"
Let 'em win Part of the reason toddlers nix random things is they get frustrated with all they can't do. "They're weaker, they're slower, they can't reach as high -- all they want to do is win a few," says Dr. Karp. Indulge them occasionally; it'll encourage cooperation.
Offer choices Instead of "yes" or "no" questions, empower your kid with a choice between options -- and step or look away for a minute while she decides. "Waiting and watching sometimes slows down the process," says Dr. Karp.