We are near the middle point of age 2 with our first born. At this point, she has learned a few words, which we are excited about since we are a bilingual home. One of her favorites is "no". I realize this is most likely just a phase and everyone talks about how toddlers are becoming independent, testing their parents every move. The reason I am concerned is because it has gotten worse. Ever since our second was born, she has said "no" constantly and is just generally defiant. I realize she is most likely jealous of the perceived attention drawn away from her and put on to him, but I don't know how to let her know that 1, we still care about her and love her deeply and 2, at the same time, let her know that her behavior is unacceptable. Has anyone dealt with a situation similar to this? If so, how did you approach it?
The best advice I can give is to make sure she understands the times when 'No!' or defiance is acceptable and when it's not. Sometimes, "No" is totally okay - "Do you want ice cream?". Sometimes it's not what you want to hear, but it's probably acceptable: "Do you want green beans?". Sometimes it's not acceptable, but you can accept the answer and work with her ("I don't want to eat anything", my son's favorite). And finally, sometimes it's unacceptable and you can't brook any discussion ("I don't want to get off the bus at our stop").
For 1 and 2, allow the no - but make sure they know the consequences of the no. If she says "No" to ice cream, okay - and that means no ice cream that day (and stick to it). If she says "No" to green beans, assuming you've decided not to make this a 'must', say okay - and that means no dessert, or it means no additional food later in the evening if she's still hungry. Meaningful "No" allows your daughter control over her environment, and it also introduces the concept of consequences. Let her own her "No", but also own the consequences, and stick to them. "I don't want ice cream, I want a toy car" happens a lot for us; he gets his toy car, and then has to watch Mommy and Daddy eat their ice cream.
For 3, explain to her why she needs to follow the instruction. "You need to eat dinner, because you will be hungry if you don't." If you can give her an option that's acceptable, do so (make this a #2) - odds are she'll take it. "You don't have to eat anything if you're not hungry, but you need to sit at the table." or "You don't have to eat the meatloaf I made, but you have to eat either that or one of the leftovers we have," for example. If that doesn't work, then this converts to a #4 situation. Key here, though, is explain - do not let her argue. If you're going to offer options, that should be the first thing out of your mouth. A lot of "No" is trying to figure out if she can move you off your point - if you don't want to be moved, don't get into the discussion of it being optional. Explain why it's not optional and then make it clear you expect compliance.
For 4, enforce the required activity as immediately as is needed. If you're getting off a bus, pick her up and move her off the bus like a baby. If you don't need quite so immediate action, but this is a 'definite yes' situation, tell her calmly that she needs to do whatever it is, right now. Make sure it's clear, timebound, and specific. "You need to go to the table right now." If she doesn't, it might be time to start doing short (1-2 minute) time outs. Some people like to count (If you don't ... by the time I get to 3, ...). Others don't find that effective as the kid won't do it until you start counting, so you spend half your life counting.
Whatever the rule, make sure you are specific and consistent, and most importantly don't get mad or yell. Keep a level tone no matter what.