I think somebody has already asked this kind of question, but my situation is a little different.

My 2.5-year-old daughter has been in an increasingly-more-difficult period of "no" for 6 long months now.

She says no to everything, and however I ask her, gently, angrily, explaining the goals, etc. it does not work. I have to ask her almost 20 times to put on her shoes, to dress up, to brush her teeth, etc.

Sometimes she does things when asked, but a strategy that works the first time may cause a tantrum the next time, with cries and screams.

What is new now is that she agrees to do something at first, but then refuses, as a kind of test, I guess. For example, she asks to have a banana, and I ask her if she is sure. She says yes, I peel it, and then she doesn't even take a bite.

I (try to) keep calm and explain to her why I want her to put on her shoes, for example, but I always end up raising my voice at the end, and asking 1000 times a day is exhausting...

Aside from that, she can be very good. I think she is a little above average for her age: she speaks very well, is not overactive, goes to sleep well, and eats very well too.

My wife has been pregnant for 3 months, and our daughter has now been aware of the pregnancy for 1 month. She seems to act out more since this announcement, but she takes care of the future baby and plays mother a lot with her stuffed animals.

She has been potty trained for 1.5 months and sleeps in a bed without a barrier (which she asked to have removed), so she is making efforts to grow and learn.

I don't know what else to do. When she is being difficult, I tell she is "offside" (I got that from a Montessori book), and putt her in a room until she becomes calm again. She might cry for 5 minutes at most, but it still happens again and again.

Of course, I don't spank her.

Do you have an idea of what I can do? Can somebody please explain to me why she acts like this? Is it normal behavior?

  • 1
    I have the same issue with my wife, apparently that's not related to age... ^_^
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:48

2 Answers 2


It's hard to be "rational" with a young kid during conflict.

  • Give her choices (we are going to the park like you asked, red or green shoes?)
  • If she knows feeling words, use them instead of being "rational" (I'm disappointed/frustrated that you didn't put on your shoes, I'll have to do it for you)
  • This is important, show her real consequences (I don't want to go to the park with you today, yesterday we fought about shoes. I don't like when we fight, do you want to do something else?) (Last time you didn't eat the banana, I don't want to waste another one, do you want to eat ??? instead).
  • Talk about it when she is calm (Do you remember yesterday when we fought about shoes).
  • If you have time and if the kid is good for it, try to negotiate a little (We have a problem, I want you to have your shoes on but you don't want) and try to find a solution together.

If she has stress in her life, really listen to her, don't push away her thoughts.

Maybe she feels powerless in her life and that's the only way she can find to have power. Let her decide more things when dealing with you or at the minimum look at free play with her deciding all the rules.

You remember when she dropped objects all the time to test gravity? Well now she might say "no" all the time to test how being social works (here, gravity always has predictable concequences).

I don't think she is being mean or anything. See her as a little scientist studying the world. Saying "no" can be seen as magic for kids.

  • 3
    Minor bit on your 3rd point. Concequences need to be immediate to be effective. If they happen hours or days later they don't work particularly well. The bigger the time gap the less effective. Otherwise I agree, at that age kids discover they can affect the world by expressing their wishes.
    – Murphy
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 9:57

One of the best way to avoid always answering "no" is to not ask yes/no questions. Ask open-ended questions. "Do you want to wear these shoes or those shoes today?" "Do you want broccoli or green beans with your pork chops?" "Do you want to brush your teeth before or after your bath?" It still gives her the freedom to choose and exert independence, but within the confines of your rules. We wear shoes when we leave the house. We eat our vegetables because they are healthy. We brush our teeth to keep our teeth and gums healthy. Etc...

Another way to avoid a lot of "No"s is to say yes more often. When she asks for something, say "yes" enthusiastically. "Can I go to the park?" "Yes! Do you want to wear these shoes or those shoes?" Or just throw it into conversation that you are responding in the affirmative. "Yes, we're going to visit Grandma." "Yes, we will read a story before bed."

Lastly, when you have to answer a question and the answer is no, try not to always put the negative in the sentence. "Can I go to the park?" "We are going to visit Grandma first, and then, yes, you can go to the park later today." "Can I have ice cream for dinner?" "We're going to have pork shops for dinner. Would you like broccoli or green beans as a side dish?"

My 18mo says "yes" more than "no" because of these practices. I hope they work for you!

EDIT: In reply to the previous answer, I wouldn't recommend putting that kind of shame on a toddler. "I was disappointed when you didn't put your shoes on." A child shouldn't be seeking to please their parents. She doesn't wear shoes to please mom and dad; she wears shoes to keep her feet warm and protected outside of the house. This explanation seems more appropriate than "because I said so."

I do, however, agree that using "no" is a very powerful statement for a child. They see the reaction it elicits in their parents and others and they like it! Much like how a ball bounces when you drop it on the floor. They are seeing how they have an effect on the world. "I can make the ball fall to floor and roll away." "I can make mom and dad make a funny face and speak loud when I say 'no' and I want to keep doing it because I have the power to do so."

  • 1
    I also wonder if "no" is the precursor to "why". "No" is a great conversational tool for a two year old. "I say no, mommy talks back, then I say no, then mommy talks, then I say no...". It's experimental (frustrating) two year old conversation. "If I say no, mommy keeps talking"
    – user30275
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 18:57

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