Can Terrible Twos Defiance Be Avoided?

Karen is so annoyed.  Her 2-year old daughter, Tina, is constantly telling her “no!” or becomes defiant and refuses to cooperate with even small requests she typically went along with just last month. 

Karen’s friend tells her, “Oh, this is normal for 2-year olds.  She’s just going through that terrible twos defiance stage.”   Even though her friend tells her it is normal, Karen wishes there was a way to nip this stage in her daughter’s life.

She wants to enjoy her daughter’s cuteness, but is anxious wondering when the next toddler tantrum will arise. 

If you are like most parents, you have probably heard somewhere that all children will go through a “no” stage and it is inevitable.  Many parents consider this the “terrible twos defiance” stage.  Some professionals even agree the “terrible twos” stage is just part of child development.

During the past twenty years, I’ve researched and taught effective parenting skills, learned from my own two children, and have heard testimonials from hundreds of parents. Based on all this, I can tell you absolutely that children do not have to go through a “terrible twos defiance” stage. I can also assure you that avoiding the “negative no’s” has nothing to do with having compliant children. It has to do with how parents handle their power and communicate their limits.

Toddlers and preschoolers are learning how to develop self control and how to influence the world around them. A child this age practices getting power in the ways that are modeled to them and can become very impressed with the power behind the word “no”.

A four-star skill that has spared hundreds of parents and children (even strong-willed ones) is to word “no’s” in a positive way. There are several ways to do this:

USE THE WORD “YES” TO SAY “NO” – This has nothing to do with permitting something you don’t want or “tricking” the child. It simply tells the child under what circumstances it can be a “yes”. For example, instead of, “No, you can’t have candy now.” say, “Yes, you can have candy, after you eat your dinner.”

ACKNOWLEDGE FEELINGS BEFORE SETTING THE LIMIT – As soon as you say “no” or deny a request, children stop listening to your reasons and start defending themselves and convincing you how much they want something. When you acknowledge feelings first, children know you understand how they feel and are still listening when you deny the request. For example, instead of, “No, we can’t stay at the playground. We need to go home now” say, “It’s hard to leave someplace when you are having so much fun isn’t it,” as you proceed to leave.

Say “I bet you wish you could stay at the playground forever! Wouldn’t it be fun! Tell me what you will do the next time you come here.” Instead of “No, you can’t have that toy/candy” say, “What would you do with that toy? How would you play with it?” You will be surprised at your child’s ability to separate fantasy from reality.

Wording limits in the positive meets many goals of parenting: it increases the child’s self-esteem, increases the parent’s confidence, decreases the need for discipline or punishment, improves communication skills, increases cooperation, and teaches children self-control and how to practice power in positive ways.

For more tips and solutions on child defiance and more information about The Parent’s Toolshop®‘s unique Universal Blueprint® problem-solving system. Get the 7 Keys to Parenting Success ebook. You will be less frustrated, respond more calmly and feel more confident in any parenting situation.

The best part is the ebook  is free!  So what are you waiting for?  Sign up for the  ebook today!


Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop and president of Parent’s Toolshop Consulting, where she oversees international network of Toolshop trainers. She has 30 years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She has interviewed many parenting experts on her Parents Tool Talk radio show and is a parenting expert columnist for Chic Mom magazine. She has produced almost 100 multimedia resources, which are available at her award-winning website,

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