Toddler Teachings Vol 2: The Truth About No


This week has been quite a ride when it comes to parenting. I'm not sure if it's Theodore's development as he scoots closer to 20 months, the lunar eclipse, Mars or all of it combined (though I'd place money on it all). Regardless there have been a ton of tantrums, completely ignoring us when we say "No" or "Stop" and even some hitting. Thankfully he's stopped biting us when he's mad so that is a win in my book!

I've been scouring tons of parenting books, articles, blogs etc trying to find coping mechanisms and more to help me feel like an empowered parent. One who doesn't crush their kid's creativeness but who also is still capable of teaching my kid that while crying while frustrated is totally okay, throwing your toy tractor at my face isn't. 

More and more I'm noticing tantrums are happening when we tell him "NO" or that he can't/shouldn't do something. It's not that he's incapable of doing it - more like "Don't run down the stairs into the river" at the local park sort of issue. We tell him not to do it, that we are leaving if he doesn't listen etc and he doesn't seem to care. He still runs right at those stairs prompting John and myself to drop everything and bolt after him before he makes it to the top one and into the water. It's not only frustrating, it's terrifying. 

So the general parenting articles and things weren't really any help and the three of us have slowly been more and more frustrated with each other. Until John hit a little gold mine. 

He told Theodore what to do instead of what he shouldn't do. "Wait at the top of the stairs for Mama and Daddy so we can go down to the water together please. It's dangerous for you to go alone." He ran, stopped at the stairs, turned around and stared at us until we were close enough to hold hands and walk down to the water. Poof. Whole new experience for us all - no screaming toddler and no frustrated parents.

Theodore realized we actually understood what he was trying to tell us before - aka "I want to go play in the shallow part of the water.". And we realized that he wasn't ignoring us when we said "No" because he thought it was funny/he didn't care/wanted to get hurt. Instead we started to wonder if he's not listening to us because he literally doesn't understand why he we are telling him no. He knows he can get down the stairs and into the water - so why wouldn't he? 

A little more research into how the human brain develops and bingo! Theodore doesn't listen to the word "No" because he can't understand. At 19 months old the brain isn't developed in a way where a child can stop or switch behaviours when it's unclear what they should do instead. So by just telling Theodore "NO" and not giving him other ways/routes of behaving, nothing will change right now. But by giving him the alternative he is able figure out that there are right and wrong ways of doing things. The added information of "It's dangerous" or "We sit on chairs, we don't stand on them" will eventually help him understand why there are alternatives. 

I'll also be linking the website at the bottom of the page where I found the most informational/clear cut facts on how the human brain develops. This website isn't going to be for everyone, but I want to be clear about where I get information from and it just might be the website you've been combing the internet for. 

So this next week we'll be telling Theodore what he CAN do instead of just saying "No" or "Stop" so that he has the chance to understand what's going on. We'll also be working on making sure he knows we understand him. I'll report back on the tantrums and how I'm feeling as a parent next Sunday! 

And please note: We are VERY careful when it comes to Theodore and water!!!!!!

Here's the link: