My 5 year old daughter is crying every time she is told no. It doesn't matter if it is a little thing or a big thing she is asking for--she cries. We don't give in to her crying.
We have tried several things to change the behavior. We have had her go sit in her room and cry it out, talked to her about making a better choice and thinking "no big deal, maybe I can next time", modeled better behavior, and asking her what she thought her friends would do in her situation. Nothing seems to work. Any Ideas?

  • 1
    I know this isn't what you're asking, but I've heard that substitution is a good way to avoid saying no. (Reference: babywisemom.com/2008/11/substitution-toddlerwise.html) "You can't do X now, but you can do it [here] or at [time]." Maybe if you are able to figure out how to say no less often, it'll be easier to deal with her tantrums when you have to? Good luck!
    – Jerenda
    Jul 14, 2015 at 23:39
  • I do too (cry whenever I'm told "no"), so let me know what you figure out. :D Sep 7, 2016 at 20:07

11 Answers 11


First of all, to kids that age it's all "big stuff." It makes them sad to not get their way, and crying is how they express their sadness. If I suddenly discovered a way to make my children not want to cry in the first place, I don't think I would use it.

That being said, at best crying forces everyone around you to give excessive attention to you and your feelings, and at worst bullies people into giving in, and so is basically antisocial. What I try to do is validate the feeling, but correct its expression with an explanation. "You're sad because you wanted a cookie, but it's not nice to make everyone listen to you cry. If you want to cry, please go to your room." Sometimes they choose to stop crying, and sometimes they choose to go to their room.

Of course, that's easier said than done when they do it all the time. In reality, I'm nice about it the first time or two every day, then get progressively terser as I get progressively more annoyed, but the nice way tends to work the best.

  • 4
    BIG +1 for to the kids it's all "big stuff"!! Feb 6, 2014 at 23:57
  • Right-On! With young kids it's, "I have to have this or I'm gonna die!" For everything. So comfort, explain, and comfort some more. Then let them learn to deal with it. Apr 2, 2015 at 22:00
  • 1
    Very great answer; and I really appreciate that you "tell the truth" about how it actually plays out. It's easy to read answers and just throw your hands up because the answers seem like they are from the perfect parent who is always on point and never loses their cool.
    – dgo
    May 16, 2015 at 14:41

I just want to share a slightly different perspective on this one. I totally agree with Karl that its "all big stuff" and that handling things "the nice way" is usually going to work best for you.

However, I want to offer a perspective I don't already see here: For any social human (which is really all of us) a big part of our psychological validation is just feeling understood - it is actually a need once the physical needs like food and shelter are met. It is why children that don't get touched fail to thrive and why humans constantly search for love and validation. A cold hard no, that doesn't acknowledge in any way the wish of the child is likely to leave a kid feeling that their wishes don't matter or not understood.

Please don't take this to mean I think you shouldn't say "no" far from it!

What I am saying is that it is important to find a way of letting your child know you understand and empathize while you say "no" - at least some of the time. I suggest the following steps be taken while using an even, loving, but not patronizing voice. A voice that expresses empathy but remains very down to business and isn't concerned over prevention or stoppage of crying:

  • first express back to your child what it is she is after.

"Honey, I know you would like a cookie."

  • Follow your acknowledgement with what your ultimate goal is:

"I want you to be healthy and that means eating things other than cookies too."

  • Then, Offer up a Win-Win solution whenever possible

"After you have had five bites of all the things I am serving for dinner, you can have a cookie."

I also understand there will be times when a win-win solution is not possible. However, there is often a workable, "winning solution" anyway

"Honey, I know you want a cookie right now. I want you to be healthy. You have already had five cookies today so you've used up your sweets rations for today. What healthy treat would you like to have instead? I have grapes, raisins or strawberries available for you."

(I know the vocab I'm using here may be a little high-brow for a five year old. Obviously, put it into your own words)

Or, for those times when a win-win or winning alternative are not available of course you can pull the parent card - but this is something that should only be needed in increasingly rarer and rarer circumstances.

Since your daughter is five, You can even begin to enlist her in helping figure out the win-win solution which will help her learn a certain amount of independence and gain some problem solving skills and practice as she searches for a workable answer that takes your wants/needs/wishes/objectives into account as well as her own (don't expect miracles here, modeling and guidance is needed at first, but you are setting yourself up for a much more agreeable time with her when she is a teen if you start training her in this art now - of course, even then I wouldn't expect miracles). The way you put this to your daughter might sound something like:

"I know you would like a cookie right now. I want you to be healthy and it is my job to teach you how to make healthy choices. I am concerned you have already had too many sweets today. Can you come up with an alternative solution that meets both our needs? You get a yummy snack, that is also healthy?"

You may find that she still cries (especially at first), but in my experience, if you stick with it long enough, the crying will abate and be replaced with attempts at finding win-win solutions with you most of the time

You haven't hurt anything by prepping your child with an acknowledgement and a request for a win-win instead of a flat out "no." Respond with the same emotionally neutral but loving tone you've already been using.

"Wow, I see that you feel really sad about this. I offered up the best compromise I could think of and unfortunately, crying won't actually help you at this point."

Sometimes, If I think there is a chance I am missing something in regard to what is upsetting the child, I might add at the end of that,

"Try a deep breath. Can you tell me what need you have, I haven't met?"

That last one can be dangerous to use because it can result in a heightening of the crying/emotive outburst so use it with caution. However, I do find it helpful in those situations where I really am having trouble figuring out what it is that is wanted or wrong.

For kids that just can't get a hold of themselves:

"You look like you could use some time to yourself to work through your disappointment. Would you like a quick hug before you go? We'll see you back here again when you are ready."

In regard to the "your child shouldn't get anything for this behavior" sentiment, I agree - If, it truly is a matter of a child honestly and with intention attempting to manipulate you.

If, after your efforts toward understanding, your child simply won't budge (and consistently) - then yes, your child is behaving stubbornly and should be dealt with accordingly. At this point, on the occasions when a child has cried and then come back at me with the exact same request and is crying, begging, pleading, or throwing a tantrum about it, that is when I simply say.

"Negotiation time over. Your decisions are not geared for a win-win."

and then the child does not get what he or she wanted or any sort of compromised "half way", and gets some time alone in whatever place is most appropriate for the age (Room, time-out spot, etc etc).

The "Sales Pitch" (so to speak) If you think about it, this is much more true-to-life way to handle agreements/disagreements anyway. When an adult makes a request that keeps both party's goals in mind, that adult is a lot more likely to make the sale, get the bargain, figure out the compromise, maintain healthy, happy friendships/relationships, etc. than someone that just throws their weight around trying to get what they want no matter the expense to everyone else. It solves a problem for you and teaches your kid an important life skill through modeling and practice.

I recommend two great books you may find helpful and from whence much of this answer is inspired:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families (and its child oriented compliment The Seven Habits of Happy Kids as well as the Seven Habits Blog)


How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk

Know that you are far from alone in the battle, we are all cheering you on, and that in the end, you have your child's health and well-being at heart - eventually, your child will come to a place in life where she will come to understand that - even if it is 30-40 years from now :-)

  • Another great answer. I appreciate your perspective as a balance to the other.
    – dgo
    May 16, 2015 at 14:42
  • Very nice use of "non violent communication". Thanks for the examples!
    – Konerak
    Aug 2, 2016 at 12:11

This is one of the hardest things to get right. I find myself saying "no" and not really meaning it. This type of "no" conveys "not right now, but maybe if you keep carrying on about it, it'll be yes." Most of the time these types of "no's" function well. The child knows when to carry on and when not to under normal circumstances.

But every once in awhile, they don't quite get the message and a more forceful response is needed. This is when a "no" takes on the meaning "No, absolutely not. I don't care how hard you cry or what you think on the subject, The answer is no." I do this in a way that is abundantly clear and unmistakable to understand. I look them in the eye, I say "no" in a deeper tone of voice, all while signing the word "no" (in American sign language). I metaphorically draw the line clearly in the sand which they know they cannot cross.

Once doing this, the hardest part is being consistent. I try not to give an absolute "no" unless I have no other option, as I know I will have to enforce it 100% of the time or it will lose its power (or at least enforce it 98% of the time). If the child whines and carries on about the issue, I give them the option of crying in their room. If they continue crying, I then take them to their room.

Testing behavioral boundaries and limits is a normal part of life. When boundaries are clearly expressed to children, they will be much more likely to stay within them (and, of course, test them).

I would also check on the other children she hangs around. One of the children in our daughter's class had a few bad habits my daughter picked up. Once we found the source, we were able to treat the problem.


If she continues to cry every time she's told 'No,' despite apparently not getting what she wants, then I'd argue that there's some value in it for her and she IS getting at least some of what she wants out of it. Examine your behavior when she starts to cry: are you cuddling her? Cajoling her? Giving in in other ways? It could be that you do none of that, but she can tell that you're getting flustered or frustrated, and she keeps doing it to demonstrate to herself that she has the power to upset you by crying. (It certainly affects my husband that way!)

When one of ours tries tears to get what he/she wants, we remind them of our saying about these things: "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." (Or, "you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit.") Kind of silly to have a mantra for tantrums, but it works.

Tl;dr: find out what she's gaining by crying and then adjust your strategy accordingly.


As others have said, it's important to make sure she is getting absolutely nothing from you ( a reaction, attention, whatever). Carefully guard yourself. You must very matter-of-factly ignore it. Speak to her exactly as you would if she weren't crying.

When the behavior finally begins to extinguish itself (she handles a "no" appropriately) make sure you let her know you noticed. You could say something like "hey, I know that you are disappointed, but you're doing a great job being a big girl. I'm very proud of you." Kids at this age want to please you, and want you to be proud of them.


I was visiting my daughter when my grandson was 4 or 5. She was not into discipline too much. While there, she and her husband wanted to go out for the night and my daughter's parting words were "Mom, if you can get Billy to take a bath, that'd be great." My immediate thought was, "Hmmmm I outweigh him by at least 70 lbs. I'll bet I can 'get' him to take a bath.". Step one "Billy, time for a bath." "NOOOOOO" Step two "I wasn't asking dear, it's time for a bath." "NOOOOOOOOOO!" So, my husband brought him like a football under his arm, kicking and screaming. He was deposited between me and the door. As I was undressing him, he was yelling for all he was worth. I got him in the tub and said (but he couldn't hear), "You know what? Grandma LOVES the screaming game!" I took a lungfull of air and let loose. My grandson stopped, looked at me and said "Grandma STOP!" I said "But, I thought we were playing the screaming game." He said, "No, I don't want to play anymore." My humble advice, cry with her.

  • You go grandma!
    – user7678
    Jul 15, 2015 at 17:14

There may be some value in letting her cry it out in front of you, while you continue going by with your routine. Sending her to her room to cry it out may be sending her a message of "you're being punished for the crying" but not that "crying won't get you what you want" because eventually you will have to go to her room anyway to do something.

If she gets upset with you, you should probably let her be upset because it will force her to learn to deal with your "NO" in a different way, negotiating, pleading, and so on.

While we would like to believe that we can talk our way out of the situation that our kids show amazing self control at that age they really don't care yet about what we have to say.

  • Good point! Depending on their development level, kids often really don't care, and that's okay. They can still figure it out themselves if given a safe space to do so. Oct 13, 2019 at 9:18

Oy, tough one. I can tell it's a real tightwire; it sounds like you would just rather give in if for no other reason than to get some respite but you know that's counterproductive.

Here's what I like to: "Honey, if you eat that cookie right now, it will taste good and your tummy will feel happy. BUT!! Then the sugar will get all over your teeth and you'll have to brush them extra-carefully right after you eat the cookie. Since you have to brush your teeth anyway before bedtime, wouldn't that be a better time to have one?" This acknowledges her yen for the cookie, points out an immediate consequence (she'll have to brush her teeth right afterward), and suggests an alternative (have the cookie before bedtime teethbrushing). Typically an impatient child wants it NOW so remind her she will have to immediately brush her teeth. This just might make a cookie less appealing.

If the tot is simply overwrought and beyond reason, walk her into her bedroom, say "count to _______ (whatever highest number she knows) and say hello to ______ (favourite stuffed toy) for me." Then walk out and, provided nothing is actually wrong with her, IGNORE for 10 minutes.

It's very hard to stay unemotional about this ongoing power struggle, but that's why it IS one! She needs to see you're not pliable.

Offering this reason why it's better to wait for a later cookie may seem clumsy and time-consuming, but it sidesteps the usual conflict about her getting her own way. Having a goofy tone sometimes helps as well.


I'm not a mother, but I do babysit and have been looking after kids for a long time. I know I'm just a teen but what I've found that works with most kids I watch, is that if they start crying over something just ignore them. don't give them attention for it because that's what they are trying to get. It doesn't work immediately, but I've found that for the kids I watch their behavior and attitude improves over time, sometimes just a matter of weeks.

They start listening more and they accept no easily. Just make sure to give them lots of attention when they do accept no without a fuss.


This made me laugh as my daughter has ALWAYS been like this... I think you have had enough "in depth " answers on this so I shall just tell you what I found works for me... If I'm saying a 100% no...... For example she asked to cross a busy rd alone.. I will answer with "no way Lauren " putting emphasis on the way part seemed to help and she just accepts it!?


I have a boy who is similar, he's four. I've learned to modify my language so I don't even say no just in case it has such a strong and lengthy reaction from him that it disrupts everything. He does it when he is overly tired, ill, run down, hungry (the mornings can be terrible) or constipated (which he can be a bit prone to be and sneaks up on us). It can go on for days and is stressful and arresting for us all. But the causes are mainly somatic, he can be incredibly difficult because he's physically sensitive to his internal state.

When he's feeling good, life is rosy. I think what I'm saying is, yes it can behavioural but also consider physical causes. It's easy to feel children are just being difficult just to be difficult or they don't understand why you're saying no. Possibly they are feeling out of sorts.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .