What to Do When Your Toddler Says “No” To Everything

Constant streams of “no” from their children can really frustrate parents. Fortunately, Today’s Parent offers reassurance, describing this as a very natural developmental phase for toddlers (although sometimes a pretty dramatic one!) As one family psychologist describes it, it can be a “developmental powder keg.” 

So… You’re Toddler Says “NO” to Everything

When a toddler says no to everything, the article explains, they’re in the process of becoming an independent person, one separate from parents and caregivers. This is why the therapist calls this age the “Tremendous Twos” rather the “Terrible Twos.”

Knowing this information and being patient during the process can be helpful—but you’re probably still wondering, “Isn’t there something else I can do about this?” Fortunately, yes. 

A medically-reviewed article published at offers this suggestion: to look behind the no to try to discern the reason and respond appropriately. They give an example where saying no to eating vegetables is quite different from a fearful no, and you’d react differently. Plus, toddlers need to adjust to plenty of new events in life; maybe that’s where some of the “no” responses are coming from. Also, your toddler may just be bored. So, experiment with variety in clothing, food, toys, and so forth to provide variety.

Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

Another reason: toddlers have a limited vocabulary. Perhaps they’d like to tell you something more elaborate, but they just don’t have the words to use quite yet. offers another strategy, one that helps parents to cut out negotiation. Don’t say, “Do you want spaghetti for lunch?” This gives your toddler a clear invitation to respond in a negative. Instead, say, “Would you like spaghetti or chicken nuggets for lunch?” By doing this, you’ve given your toddler a choice and a sense of control. Many times, they’ll pick one or the other. If they don’t, stand firm and let them know that those are the only options.

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Ignore The Child Who Says “No”

As for, they suggest that you pay attention to your child—but ignore the no. When you give that word attention, whether positive or negative, you’re giving the word power. (So, don’t try to explain why the child shouldn’t say no!) Just respond with, “I see you don’t want to do this. Let me know when you do.” 

An example they give of this strategy revolves around a diaper change. If you prepare to change theirs, and your child says no, then simply tell them to let you know when they’re ready and go do something else. Are parents always able to use this strategy? No. Sometimes time limits exist—but this can be handy as another tool in the toolbox.

You can also, notes, create diversions. This can include taking out toys or books or something shiny to divert their attention. Finally, as needed, consider a time out for the child where they can simply take a breather. Use that time for you, as a parent, to pause and reflect on your reactions to the no.

If none of these ideas work, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Professionals can check to see if there are medical or emotional issues that are contributing beyond normal toddler behavior. 

Bubble Tots Education Centers Child Development

Bubble Tots Education Centers appreciates what parents go through and understand that it takes a village to raise a child. Our programs are designed to help your child grow academically and socially. 

For more information, contact us, so we can find the classroom that is right for your child.

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