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Tips For Responding To Defiance

Courtesy Of
May 31, 2017


Observe Learn Respond
  • What triggers defiance?
  • Are there patterns, like rejecting tooth-brushing?
  • Are some times of day more difficult?
  • How do you typically respond?
  • Does defiance help her get her way?
  • What choices can your child make?
  • Offer acceptable choices so she has control
  • Avoid power struggles - don't give in to defiance
  • Validate feelings while setting a limit


It is a toddler's job to be oppositional. This is the period in your child's development when she begins to understand that she is separate from you and can exert some control over her world, but before you know it you may fear you're raising a defiant child.

One powerful way she can do this is by defying you. You say, "Do this..." and she says, "No!" The drive to assert one's self is useful as it motivates your child to want to make things happen.

Being able to do some things for herself builds her confidence. The key is to find ways to show your child how she can be in control and make her own choices in positive ways.

For instance, if she's resistant to brushing her teeth, ask her, "Do you want to brush your teeth before or after we read books?" You can also reinforce that there are positive benefits to cooperating, such as by saying "You helped get yourself dressed for school so quickly. Now we have time to read your favorite book before we go to day care."

Learn more

Coping With Defiance in the Early Years

And check out ZERO TO THREE's resources

Explore other child behaviors:

Agressive Behavior



Sleep Challenges


ZERO TO THREE is a national, nonprofit organization that informs, trains, and supports professionals, policymakers, and parents in their efforts to improve the lives of infants and toddlers.

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