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Why You Need To Say “No” To Your Toddler

Lori Freson


Toddlers can absolutely be the most adorable creatures on earth. They are cute, funny, and their budding personalities can be quite entertaining. They can also be little terrors. They will assert themselves and in their efforts to try to get what they want, they will find the most endless and unimaginable ways to wear you down, every step of the way. It is hard, really hard.

You know you’re supposed to be the one in charge, but gosh, it’s hard to say “No” to a toddler in the midst of a meltdown. Sometimes, it’s just easier to give in and say “Yes”. While it is true that you must pick your battles, and sometimes you will need to cave and just give in for the sake of your sanity, be careful not to fall into the trap. Children learn incredibly fast how to manipulate their parents. Don’t let that happen to you.

Here are some important reasons why you need to say no to your toddler.

  1. You’re in charge. It is your job to keep your child safe, and to teach your child right from wrong. It is literally impossible to do that without uttering the word “No”. Teach them young and teach them often, and respecting the word no becomes second nature. Let them walk all over you and manipulate you, you’re in for a lifetime of challenges, disrespect, and trouble. I know some experts will tell you to minimize how often you use the word “No” and to find other ways to communicate. I say that’s a bunch of hogwash and this theory has a created a generation that can’t handle following instructions or even the slightest bit of criticism. Ask any employer…they’ll tell you the same thing.
  2. Children need boundaries in order to feel safe. They are testing you to see if you’ll set the limits. You need to do so swiftly and firmly. There is no wavering, or they will see their opportunity to seize the moment and manipulate you. As much as children seem to want permission to do whatever they want, kids with no rules and no boundaries are typically unhappy and feel out of control. Structure, rules and boundaries are a child’s instruction book for life. It helps them feel secure and safe.
  3. Children are not developmentally equipped to make important decisions about their own health, safety, or well-being. That is your job. Leaving important decisions to young children, even with the best intentions, often leads them to feel immense pressure. They are looking to you to lead the way. When you don’t, children often become laden with anxiety and depression, acting out and even getting ulcers. This is not okay.
  4. Do you really want to raise an entitled brat? Look, I know it’s not easy. But you don’t need to be your child’s friend. If your child doesn’t hate you at least some of the time, chances are you’re not doing your job. I know that it is your goal to raise a functional, independent, and successful human being. You child needs to understand what is and is not okay, how to follow rules, take criticism, and work hard. If you are afraid to say no to him or her, you are setting the stage for a lifetime of dysfunction in the real world. Teachers and bosses and society say no all the time. The world does not and will not revolve around your child’s every desire. So do your job and start teaching this from a young age.

As hard as it is sometimes to say no to your child, this is probably the single most important word you must learn to use as a parent. Practice it a lot while the children are young, as you will need to rely on that a lot when they become teenagers. The bottom line is that you don’t want bratty and obnoxious kids that are totally dependent on you for everything. What you want is to raise confident, secure, happy and productive children that will grow into successful and competent adults.

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Lori Freson

Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.