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Language and Development - Toddlers

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How can we explain the frequency of the word "No" in toddlers, as well as other toddler's baffling behaviors? What developmental needs does the word 'no' meet in the child? Give an example please.

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Solution Summary

This solution provides a detailed explanation of the developmental needs the child meets through using the word "No." Theoretical explanations are also explained.

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1. How can we explain the frequency of the word "No" in toddlers, as well as other toddler's baffling behaviors? What developmental needs does 'no' meet in the child? Give an example please.

The toddler presents with many behaviors that require an incredible amount of understanding and patience on the part of the parents. In looking at the toddler's behavior, Cathie Kryczka (2002) presents the following scenario:

Would you like a day at the spa?
Someone to come in and do the yardwork?
A long weekend?
A fancy dinner out?

This scenario would never happen in your house with another adult. But if you fill in toddler-sized questions, it might sound a lot more familiar:

Would you like to clean up now and have a snack, Kayla?
I made you some little pieces of cheese cut out to look like roosters. Aren't they cute?
And there are some animal crackers - you like those.
And they can be friends with the cheese roosters.

Even if you know that your toddler would love to play with little edible animals, no matter what you offer - short of a platter of sugar cubes (and we're not advocating that!) delivered personally by Bob the Builder - the answer is still going to be no! The complication is that sometimes no means no. But sometimes it really means "I'm busy," or "I'm tired." Sometimes it means yes. A toddler gets himself into a bind with that automatic no. Reed says, "When Colin says no, it's not always what he means. David can change his mind - he has the vocabulary to do that - but Colin isn't that verbal so he can't say, 'I changed my mind.' So he gets mad."

Why do we get "no" from toddlers so often, whatever the meaning? It's all part of the complicated little package that is a toddler. As pointed out by Cathie Kryczka (2002), the reasons why toddlers do the things they do are as follows:

1. Imitating adults.

First of all, in our effort to keep them (and the contents of our homes) safe, we grown-ups say no a lot. Toddlers hear it and they see how it works. Barbara Morrongiello, a professor of psychology at University of Guelph, says, "As part of limit setting, we are often saying no in some way, and they quickly learn that no is a power word, a control word, an 'I'm-in-charge' word. So they use it to try to exercise some control. It's not always in their best interest to do that - it's often a matter of cutting off their nose to spite their face."

2. Searching for control and identity

Not that toddlers are power-mad, negative little tyrants. This search for control is an important step in your toddler's development. Pauline Camuti-Cull, coordinator of early childhood education at Centennial College in Toronto, says, "What a toddler is working on is finding an identity independent and separate from the parent." And if this sounds like a big job for a little ...

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