Why Toddlers Always Say "No!"

Your child suddenly has opinions about everything. Find out why that's a good thing.

Saying "No" Is Normal

Three-year-old Max Colby doesn't like to wear underwear or short-sleeved shirts. His mom, Andrea, would love to know why -- but Max can't quite explain his objections. "All he does is rip his clothes off and yell 'no, no, no,'" she says. "I have no idea how to handle it."

If you think that you and your defiant toddler are constantly sparring like this, you're right: A recent study in Child Development showed that 2- and 3-year-olds argue with their parents 20 to 25 times an hour! You may get exhausted just looking at those numbers, but there is an upside to all the showdowns. "Kids this age are realizing that they can assert themselves, and arguing with you is one way they gain confidence," says John Sargent, MD, a child psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. Remember: The world is still a big, mysterious place to your toddler, and he feels pretty powerless in it. Saying no is a normal, healthy way for him to feel as if he has some control.

Still, constant conflicts aren't fun, and they're often tricky to solve. Giving in sets a bad precedent, while being too strict or forcing your child to do what you want can make him feel helpless, scared, angry -- and even more defiant. Try these strategies to turn your talking-back toddler into a "yes" kid.

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