Don't Say No Unless You'll Go!

I have been working on a two-part podcast episode about one year olds. So many child training (and child enjoying!) tricks and tips have come back to me recently as I have been enjoying being Nonna to our first grandchild, fourteen month old Jason Nathanael.

Jason is a sweet, good-natured little guy. And our daughter and son-in-law have already done a great job laying a foundation for being able to really enjoy him during his toddler years. He goes to bed well, takes a predictable nap, sits in a high chair for meals, sits on their laps during church, etc. He is curious—that’s for sure! And that is what made me remember how important it is to not continually say “No, no, no, no!” to a toddler.


I get to keep Jason one day a week while my daughter works on their disability ministry (One Heart). I don’t get anything done! 🙂  And I am fine with that because he is, after all, one year old! And he is inquisitive, curious, and healthy. When I do sit down for a few minutes to try to write something quickly or answer an email, I find myself saying, “No, Jason. That’s Nonna’s. Don’t touch it” or “No, Jason. That’s not a baby toy.” And so on and so forth.

Then, just like many mothers and fathers (and other Nonnas, I’m sure) of toddlers, I decide how much I need for him to get out of whatever he is into! The computer keyboard or electrical cords—I jump right up after I say no and pull him away from them. Speak firmly to him. And move him back to his toys.

An empty rice box that my son needs to take out to the trash? I decide that isn’t important enough to get up for—and I let him keep it. Even though I just said, ‘No, Jason. That’s uncle’s trash.”

And that is when I remembered my husband and my advice to each other not to say no unless

(1) we really mean it (it is truly important), and

(2) we are willing to follow up on that no.


Thus, “Don’t Say No Unless You’ll Go!”

One year olds hear a chorus of “no’s” all day. If we only act on half of the no’s we say, a no begins to lose its significance. A toddler can hear our no but continue right on with what he was getting into before—unless we pull him away from the forbidden object and re-direct him. (Or, in some cases, tap his hand or behind—especially in dangerous situations.)

If each time we are about to say no to our toddler, we think about whether we really mean it and if we are actually willing to get up and get him out of something—follow through on our no—we will say no less frequently, and the toddler will actually learn to get out of things.

If we want to start genuinely training a toddler to obey our commands, we can’t say no unless we’ll go.


To learn more about toddler training, listen to Donna’s latest podcast episodes on Wondering Wednesday: Q & A—What to Do With a Wonderful One Year Old and What to Do With a Wonderful One Year Old Part II




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