Negotiating No

December 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm 2 comments

My daughter has discovered the power of No. I can’t tell if it’s just a part of being two years old or the fallout from my constant campaign of No to keep her from touching, pushing, hitting, throwing, climbing, spilling, stepping in, pulling on, or eating the wrong things. It is likely a combination of both.

Parent/Child Polarity

Sometimes we are like magnets that repel each other with our No polarity. The simple act of showing her the clothing I want her to wear can send her as far away from me as she can possibly go. There I am chasing after her, barking “No, no, no, get back here…” while she’s streaking down the hall crying “No, no, no…” Sometimes it’s a just a game and she laughs all the way to the far corner of the kitchen, wedging herself between two cabinets. I can play that game without much difficulty because she is easy to catch.

Sometimes, though, she plays that game at the most inappropriate moments.


Earlier this week was my office holiday party. Many of my coworkers wanted to see our kids so my wife kindly brought them to the event. I was on high alert because we’ve had some bathroom issues with our daughter recently and the last thing I wanted was be cleaning up a mess in our conference room while surrounded by my coworkers. Fortunately, when the need arrived she notified me and we headed off to the restroom.

The bathrooms at our office have two stalls and one was occupied when we came in. As we started to enter the other stall my daughter suddenly turned around. “No, Dada, I don’t want you in here,” she stated firmly, shoving the door closed. Parental alarms went off in my head. If I hold the door open she’s going to get angry and I risk losing her willingness to go. However, she has shown in the past an ability to shut a public stall and actually use the toilet. Should I trust her to go now or risk a showdown? I had better decide quick because she is shutting the door…

Too late. Now the door is shut. I figure, however, that she can’t reach the lock and probably won’t know how it works if she does.

Click, goes the lock.

My heart jumped and I stood frozen for a second realizing I just got played again by a two year old. I gently pushed on the door in a vain hope that it would open. I peered through the crack in the door and saw a little blue eye peering back at me.

“Honey, can you open the door, please?” I asked with forced cheer.

“No,” she casually replied.

“Do you have to go potty?”


“Do you know how to unlock the door? Can you show me how?” I’m asking stupid questions now. Of course she knows how to unlock the door.


Events like this make your life compress into a singular moment. The only purpose to my life now is to get my daughter out of a locked bathroom stall. I am acutely aware that one of my coworkers is in the stall next to me so I can’t use The Dad Voice. Gotta keep it cool.

As I stand there with my palm pressed firmly against my forehead, I wonder just how I am going to get out of this with clean clothes and my dignity. The silence is broken by unpleasant bathroom noises from the stall next to us. So much for the dignity. I took a deep breath, which I instantly regretted, and peered into the stall again. My daughter has now moved to the back, wedging herself between the wall and toilet. I really do not want to be here.

“Honey, can you open the door, please?”

“No,” she states casually and with a big smile. What do they say is the definition of insanity?

Ok, clearly just asking her to help won’t work. I thought I was being positive and encouraging when I passively let her shut the door. I know she’s done this before with my wife so I figured she could do it again with me. While I’m thinking of what it will take to get out of this I see my daughter drop to the floor and begin to crawl around on her hands and knees, giggling as she tries to look at me from under the stall. It’s getting worse and I have to act now. What is the one thing I can do to get her attention without making her angry? What will make her want me to be in there with her?

Then it dawns on me – I walk away. I walk all the way to the far end of the bathroom. As she sees me disappear from view I can hear her voice in a rising panic. “No, Dada, No no no…” The polarity has reversed and now she wants Dad back.

“Can you unlock the door, please?” I say from across the room as if nothing is wrong.

Click, goes the lock and I quickly make my way back and step in to the stall. The rest of the process went smoothly and soon we were back to the party.

No Easy Answers

It is wonderful watching our daughter grow and make decisions for herself. She has spent the past two years having every choice made for her and has certainly heard her share of No’s from me. Now that she can articulate her desires more clearly she wants to have her say about what happens to her. The challenge is figuring out how much I let her get away with and at the office party my indecision got me in trouble.

I don’t mind my daughter telling me I can’t have a sandwich, leave the kitchen, or sit on the couch today. But these incidents like we had in the restroom? Well, they just stink.

Entry filed under: Being Dad. Tags: , , , , , .

Of Boys And Brewing Hop Mom IPA

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Glenn Bradford  |  December 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Bravo Dad! The situations vary constantly, so must the answers. And while you were saying no with your voice, you were there and taking care of your daughter. Like life, 90% of parenting is showing up.

  • 2. Joe  |  December 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Great post, HopDad. Our son is 24 now so I have the benefit of hindsight (please pardon the term). You’ll have some wins…you’ll have some losses as time goes on. Some things you encounter will be utterly inexplicable. But as Glenn said, most of it is just being there and being you. Did I make mistakes? You bet. I’d love to have some do-overs. But our kid turned out just fine and so will yours just because of the kind of parents you both naturally are.


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