Saying “no”, just like saying “me” and “mine”, is a powerful way for children to assert their separateness. By disagreeing with whatever you are proposing, your child brings you up short and forces you to treat her as an individual. Some toddlers say no so relentlessly that they even say it when what they really mean is yes.
All young children go through such periods of negativism. They will ignore direct questions, do the opposite of what they are told and dawdle when they sense that Mother is in particular hurry. At the sometime that they are bolstering their autonomy with this behavior, they are also testing the rules to determine what is expected of them and learning how to create boundaries for themselves. Negativism usually peaks around the third birthday. Its intensity and form of expression varies from child to child. Your child is most likely to rebel at mealtime, bath time or bedtime, or whenever you issue a command.
Try to manage your dealings with your child to reduce the opportunities for personal clashes. When you must assert your will, try suggesting, “Let’s do something else,” rather than flatly declaring, “No, doesn’t do that”. Avoid asking questions such as “Do you want to take your bath now?” that automatically elicit a negative response.
Try using games to accomplish a task or to get through a touchy situation. When you want your child to pick up toys, offer a challenge let’s see how fast we can get these toys back into the box. “Knowing the potential problem areas- cleaning up, taking a nap or eating lunch- you can steer your youngster around them without his sensing your guidance.