Throughout childhood development, children go through different stages that help them shape and consolidate their identity. The “no” stage is one of them. Basically, it is a phase in which the little ones live in constant denial and express it by saying “no” to every suggestion or proposal made to them. No matter what the demand is, the interlocutor will most likely take “no” for an answer. However, contrary to what many parents think, it is not just rebellious behavior but an important phase in the child’s maturation process.

I refuse, therefore I exist

The “no” stage begins around 2 years of age and lasts until 4 years of age. At this age your children begin to discover that they are independent little people, they are learning to think and, although they have not yet developed logical reasoning, they already have their own opinions and are capable of making their own decisions. They also begin to feel autonomous and begin to discover their feelings. Aware that they have a personality independent of that of their parents, they want to express their individuality and their right to be different.

However, as they do not yet have sufficient cognitive and emotional resources, their way of expressing their individuality is through refusals. That is why they say “no” when they disagree with some circumstance, but also when they are angry or tired. It is even likely that they will say “no” to a proposal that benefits them, simply because it is the way they have to exercise their will and set limits.

It is worth noting that in most cases there is no marked interest in challenging parents or making them angry, children are simply exploring the limits. In fact, they are often not even aware of how these refusals affect others and how frustrating they can be for their parents. Nor are they able to understand that many of these negatives can also harm themselves. They are only interested in exercising their independence as a resource to assert themselves and assert their feelings.

5 keys to deal with the “no” stage in children without turning it into a drama

The “no” stage is a really difficult phase for parents. Faced with the constant refusals of children, most of the time without valid and reasonable reasons, it is normal for them to lose patience and end up angry. However, the reaction of the parents to the continuous demands and refusals of the children is key, not only to maintain a good family balance but also to support the self-affirmation of the little ones. Here are some tips so you can deal with this stage without dying trying and even manage to promote the individuality of your children.

1. Allow him to express his anger, but in an assertive way

Behind children’s emphatic “no” there is often hidden rage because they don’t know how to express their point of view or simply feel misunderstood. Scolding or punishing them for their oppositional behavior will only accentuate that feeling. On the other hand, if you allow children to express that anger in an assertive way, you will be teaching them tools to learn self-control and understand their emotions. A good way to do this is by asking him why he refused, why he thinks it’s the best answer, and how he feels about refusing.

2. Watch your use of “no”

How many times a day do you say “no” to your children? Many times we do not even reflect on whether what the children are asking is reasonable and we respond with a “no” as a reflex action. However, have you ever wondered how your “no’s” influence the little ones at home? In many cases, they only make children feel relegated to the background and minimized, to the point of believing that their opinion or feelings do not count for anything. Obviously, this will accentuate the infantile “no” phase. To avoid this, meditate on each answer you give your children and say “no” only when it is really necessary.

3. Respect children’s “no”

Frustrated by their children’s continual denials, parents sometimes won’t take “no” for an answer and force children to act against their will. It is true that sometimes the “no” of the little ones have no place and it is important to make them reflect on their refusal, but ignoring their “no” and forcing them to do something that they have made it clear that they do not want to do is not exactly the best road. If you want your children to meditate on their answers and be aware that their refusals sometimes don’t make sense, the first thing you have to do is respect their “no”.

4. Reinforce their “yeses”

If you want your kids to stop responding with negatives, try positive reinforcement . Basically, all you have to do is focus your attention on your children’s “yeses” and reinforce them. For example, when he says “yes” you can say, “I’m so glad you said yes” or “You don’t know how happy it makes me that you said yes.” Whether it’s a verbal or gestural reinforcement, such as a kiss, a hug or just a smile, reward each “yes” from your child. In this way, you will learn to replace the “no” with “yes”.

5. Teach them to respond appropriately

In the “no” stage, children can become very categorical or even rude. One way for them to reflect on their responses and learn to soften their tone is to teach them other ways to respond. For example, when they say “no” you can ask them: couldn’t it be a maybe? Is it a resounding “no” or do I have any hope? Bearing in mind that children at this age have a fairly small vocabulary, you can also bet on vocabulary games in which they learn new words, such as “can”, “perhaps”, “perhaps” or “perhaps”. And, of course, educate by example. When you have to say “no” to him, don’t just tell him, for example: “I’m sorry, but you can’t”, “no, thanks” or “I don’t think so, but I’ll think about it”.

And above all, stay calm. Keep in mind that your children do not act this way in bad faith or to make you angry. So before you lose your temper, take a deep breath and count to ten. Remember that, sooner or later, this stage will pass and your little one will become a much more independent and mature child.