Stop your toddler from always saying no!

Constantly battling with a toddler who refuses to cooperate? Get through the day with as little resistance as possible with our handy tips and advice…


Once your toddler’s learned she can challenge something with the magic ‘no’ word, it quickly becomes her favourite!


“But it’s completely normal behaviour,” says parenting expert Eileen Hayes. “Your toddler is learning to gain independence – she’s so used to being controlled that once she understands she has a bit of power she sees it as a great opportunity to have her say.”

But how do you get through your day without going into meltdown? From getting dressed to eating veg, we tell you how to cope when she says, “No, I won’t” to…

Getting dressed, bedtime and mealtimes can be a bit of a battle

… getting dressed

Your toddler still needs your help to get dressed and it can sometimes turn into bedlam if she refuses to cooperate. And then there’s the coat/shoe/hat battle once you’ve got the clothes on.

“In an ideal world it’d be great to give your toddler a choice of two tops so she feels like she has some control, or turn putting her coat on into a game, but if you’re rushing out the door this might not be a realistic option,” says Eileen.

“Don’t be scared to tell her she can’t have her way – you may end up with tears but sometimes it’s necessary if you’re in a rush. But do explain to her that if it happens again you’ll give her more time to choose which of the two tops she’d like to put on,” she adds.

Mum’s tip

“I get Ramyjot to put her coat and shoes on by sitting her on the stairs and playing ‘This Little Piggy’ on her toes then slipping her shoes on. We do the same with the hands and then pretend to look for her fingers once the coat is on. Since making it fun, we’ve had a lot less ‘no’ from her when it comes to getting out the door.”

Mangla Sachdev, 30, from Middlesex, mum to Premjyot, 5, and Ramjyot, 2.

Using TV to give children a little rest time is fine.

… turning off the TV

You sit your toddler in front of CBeebies while you’re doing some chores, but it ends up backfiring when you can’t persuade her to turn it off. And it’s even more of a problem if you need to go out.

“If you’re in a rush, don’t set yourself up for a potential battle by giving your toddler something she might view as a treat before you need to go out,” says Lorraine Thomas, author of The Mummy Coach.

“But if you do find yourself in this situation, stay calm and talk your toddler through what you’re doing – don’t just turn it off and drag her out.

“Instead, motivate her to want to come out by making the next activity sound like a fun adventure. And if there’s a next time make sure you have a giant egg timer so she has a visual idea of when the TV has to be turned off,” she adds.


… getting in the buggy

Juggling a walking toddler and heavy bags of shopping can be hard work, so sometimes it’s necessary for her to have some buggy time. But how do you get her in if she’s wailing “No, no, no!” at the top of her voice?

“If your toddler needs to be in her buggy for safety reasons – if you’re crossing a busy road, for example – there’s no room to compromise. Make it calm, firm and show your toddler you mean it without getting angry,” says Eileen Hayes.

“By telling her she has to get in but that you’ll let her get out again when you get to the next shop should help to soothe the situation.”

Mum’s tip

“We’ve been experiencing a lot of ‘no’ when we attempt to put Ella back in the pushchair once she’s had a bit of freedom. Instead of wrestling with her, I hold her close, look in her eyes and quietly explain why I’m putting her back in and where we’re going next, using that as the incentive for why she needs to get in. Sometimes I have to repeat myself, but I refuse to bribe her with food or other treats.”

Karin Joyce, 39, from Cambridgeshire, mum to Ella, 18 months.

A healthy diet will ensure you and your growing baby get all the vitamins and minerals you need

… eating veg

You lovingly prepare a family meal, but it all turns sour when your toddler creates a scene at the table by refusing to eat her greens.

“As long as your child is eating a balanced diet, there’s no need to worry too much about what she doesn’t like. It doesn’t matter if she never eats green beans as long as she eats broccoli,” says Eileen, who’s been working with SMA Nutrition to advise parents on their tricky toddlers’ eating habits.

“If you’re going to offer a new type of veg, always offer it alongside something she does like as that way she’s more likely not to refuse it.”

Mum’s tip

“I haven’t given my toddlers the option of not eating veg by never saying, ‘You must eat your veg.’ Instead I say ‘You must eat everything,’ as by making a big deal of eating just the veg they’re more likely to refuse it. They’re also given small portions of everything and have to eat what they’ve been given if they want pudding.”


Melissa Bendall, 29, from West Sussex, mum to Isabelle, 5, Lily, 3, and Charlie, 8 months.

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