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The Power of No

Jack hit an important toddler milestone this week: he started saying "no."


These small bursts of toddler defiance are usually shrieked or shouted – at least the ones I'm used to hearing. I've heard it yelled and fussed and whined and drawn out in one long syllable, complete with an ear-piercing mother-mortifying wail. Jack's "no," however, is without any exclamation points. It's curt and to the point, often accompanied by a quick head shake. This is the boy who, until about a month ago, had nothing to say other than "cookie!" and "uh oh!" Now he's saying everything from "mess!" to "please!" to "dance!" but "no," unfortunately, is definitely his favorite.

"Jack, do you want cereal for breakfast?"

"No." Gives his mother look that says, "I would accept a cookie for breakfast, thank you."

"Jack, should we go change your diaper?"

"No." Quick head shake. Is she kidding?

"Jack, let's go take a bath."

"No." Run!

Now that he says "no" (and sometimes "yes," although it sounds like "Ooooooh!") I feel like I should give him choices. Grilled cheese or soup? Play outside or play upstairs? Get dressed now or later? Like I should be engaging him, giving him options, starting to let him choose what happens.

I'm not entirely comfortable doing this. I am very much the Do What I Tell You To Do RIGHT THIS MINUTE kind of mom, and sometimes I hear myself asking Jack which shoes he wants to wear and I think, "Seriously, self? JUST PICK OUT THE SHOES." But it's a different experience, now that he's actually bothering to communicate. I want to engage him in our little stay-at-home world. I want him to use all of his words and learn new ones and enjoy what we do around here. And, it's true, sometimes I just want someone else to make a decision for me!

This little vocabulary explosion is fun, but something I'm also approaching with caution. It seems that my easygoing cheerful little boy has some strong opinions and is not afraid to share them. Nearly every question is met with his firm little "no," and something tells me I'm not going to be enjoying this particular communication skill for long.


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