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How to Use Positive Discipline to Turn "No" Into "Yes"

How to Use Positive Discipline to Turn "No" Into "Yes"

How to Use Positive Discipline to Turn "No" Into "Yes"

Is your toddler all about "no" these days? Does it sometimes feel like she resists even your simplest requests just to make you crazy?

We've all heard of the "terrible twos," and whether your child starts them at 18 months or waits until the age of 3, it can be helpful to know that it's all perfectly normal. He's testing boundaries, asserting his power, and feeling frustrated that he can't accomplish everything he wants, all by himself.

But you still need to figure out how to handle all that testing. Circle of Moms member Erin P. raises a good question about the "no" phase. She's tried asking open-ended questions and using more directive language with her toddler girl, and yet her daughter still won't cooperate. So what does work?

One approach I like, and that I myself am still learning, is positive discipline. It's both a very effective and very empowering method for handling a contrary toddler. My son's Montessori teachers make it seem simple, and while there are many books that address its finer points, such as Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, I'm finding that you can get started even without studying the details, because its basic principles are so commonsensical. 


Limited Choices and Natural Consequences

 It works like this: Instead of meting out punishments when a child refuses to cooperate, which can just reinforce for her that she's small and less powerful than you, you try to foster independence, responsibility, and critical thinking. You do this by providing structure through limited choices and by showing your child that her behavior has consequences that are natural, rather than arbitrarily imposed by you.

For example, if your child throws a book across the room, the natural consequence is that she can no longer read the book. (An "unnatural" consequence would be being sent to her room.) If your child intentionally spills milk onto the floor, the natural consequence is that she can no longer drink it out of the cup. (An unnatural consequence would be that she loses TV time.)

Many Circle of Moms members use and advocate these communication techniques. Rachel C., for one, tells her son, " OK, dinner is all done. Time for a bath," rather than asking him if he's ready. This eliminates choice and establishes order.

Other circumstances require choice. When my son is getting dressed, for example, I'll ask him if he wants to put his shirt on first, or his pants. These are his two choices. If he resists both, I tell him that I'm going to go do something else until he's ready. Faced with a lack of engagement on my part, he makes the choice to get dressed.


Giving Cuddles and Support

One important component of positive discipline is expressing empathy for your child's frustrations. If she throws her book across the room, it can be sad for her to realize that she no longer has the book to read while sitting on your lap. You can empathize with her sadness by telling her that you miss having the book, too, and that you can try again another time when she doesn't want to throw the book. 

There's also room for humor. Alisa P. says she can usually cajole her resistant daughter into a giggle over a power struggle, and this changes the dynamic to a more open stance on both ends.

Practicing these strategies won't obliterate all the "no's" from your child's vocabulary, but it will help her develop confidence and reasoning skills. And, as I'm finding, it can make the terrible twos a whole lot less terrible — for both of you.


Image Source: Courtesy of Zuhair Ahmad via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
Michelle6114 Michelle6114 5 years
Oops just realized this post was several months ago!
Michelle6114 Michelle6114 5 years
I read a book some time ago (sorry don't remember when or where) about just taking 'no' out of your sentence. As in, can I watch more tv? instead of 'no, its time to go to bed', you simply say 'its time to go to bed.' its very difficult to do, and takes several days to break yourself of the habit of starting out with everything saying 'no' but I think it works!!
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