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When children say "no"

"Are you sleepy?" "Would you like an apple?" "Can you kiss Grandma?" Ask your 1-year-old and his likely answer is: "No."

Until toddlers are about 13 months old, they may not know the difference between yes and no. And even after they learn, "no" still may be their go-to response, says Barbara Polland, Ph.D., author of No Directions on the Package: Questions and Answers for Parents With Children From Birth to Age 12. "They're discovering that they can make their own decisions," she says. So even if that apple looks yummy, your child may reject it, just because he can. To help curb his knee-jerk negativity:

Cut down on your nos. If he asks for something he can't have, tell him "later," or distract him with a silly song. If he's up to something naughty, say "stop." Save "no" for when he's doing something truly unsafe.

Watch what he does, not what he says. If your child reaches for something or does what you ask after saying "no," he really meant "yes"  -- no need to scold him! If he ignores you after he says "no," though, he probably meant it.

Don't ask. Tell him what you'd like him to do instead of giving him a chance to respond negatively. Say "It's time to brush your teeth," for example, not "Do you want to brush?" Rather than asking whether he wants juice, sit his cup where he can reach it if he chooses.

By age 2, you'll find he's much more agreeable (though maybe not at bedtime).

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