“No is the new maybe.”

October 30, 2013

Notable Stats

Negativity Multiplier (NM) – Whenever you present an option to your toddler, the option is weighed by how many times your child will say “no” before you can find something that will make them say “yes.” An average reading is 13.

“No” Realness Assessor (NRF) – The true value of an emphatic “No!” that your toddler stomps at you. It may not actually mean they don’t want to do something, in fact, it may be to see if you will eventually beg them to change their mind by using candy. Until then, strap on your seatbelt, parents…

Don’t take it personally, toddlers just scream “No” for no apparent reason. It is as if the cells in their brain are fusing together so rapidly that they have nefariously calculated that “No” has one less letter than “Yes” and, out of nobility, they will use the environmentally efficient approach and save a letter.

Our daughter is within 2 months of turning 2 years old and we are now witnessing the beginning stages of two-dom. Forget all the stories about the “terrible twos,” it is basically an age where they are headstrong and want to do everything, touch everything, experiment with everything, but lack the ability to recognize consequence of any kind. All while starting to be scared of random objects and scientific realities. These fears range from a blender to the inconvenient truth that touching water makes that part of your body wet.

So you can’t threaten much in the area of consequences at this age. If-Then statements have no impact. In fact, they want to actually want to see if A leads to B just for kicks. So if your cellphone ends up in the compost bin or the freezer, so be it. What prize do I win? Knowledge, they reply.

In part because at this age, the prize of attention is worth any risk. Your need to swing your head around in their direction after realizing they just took a bite out of your purse, is pure nirvana.

Then we look at the concept of possession. Everything is theirs, everything. No concept of ownership. It is all eminent domain and they have the jurisdiction to call it in, even if they will then only take the property that they stole from you to give it to their stuffed armadillo. They at least want you to acknowledge that they have that right.

They are busy and cannot be interrupted at all. Do not stop me from anything I am doing no matter how dangerous, no matter how much property damage may occur. I must proceed to my finish line and, since I am immune to injury by wearing Crocs, I will be fine.

Of course, presentation matters. They could have excitedly eaten penne pasta for 20 straight days until one day when “No” is needed to keep everyone honest. Then, they will treat that same plate of pasta like a mix of arsenic and asbestos. But besides their need to throw “No” in there just for the heck of it, they are suddenly truly disturbed with your cooking. Since whoever taught you did not explain that you must garnish pasta dishes with one of three things – Booberry cereal, a lollipop, or maple syrup. Anything else will get a plate thrown at you.

Even irrational people acknowledge how irrational they are at this age. Our five and four year old, who still have many toddleresque moments, scratch their heads at various times wondering how someone so tiny whose head (and hair) is more than half their body weight, can have a brain inside it that thinks everything is a conspiracy.

She was super compliant just months ago, she smiled a lot, she treated a nap like a gift from Santa Claus. Now, she is looking to see if a spork can penetrate Santa’s red suit, so that he knows what is coming to him if she is on that “naughty” list.

Thankfully, we have been down this road before; we are not worried, we know that drill. We know toddlers are born comedians and actors. We know their ability to impersonate a sibling is second to none. We know. But even so, we have to help her get to the other side when logic statements will yield results we like. Until then, we will hear “No” from sun-up to sun-down, and all we can do is smile when she says “No” after we offer her something she actually loves. Remember, we are the ones who get to drink that milkshake she pushed back at us.

- Doug Glanville

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