When Saying No To a Toddler Starts Losing Meaning

Mother and her son, sitting on the couch, with crossed legs and talking. The boy is looking at camera.

The word ‘no’ has lost all meaning for me over the last few months. I use it 75% more than any other word I use in a day, and I don’t see an end in sight.

No, Sydney, you cannot touch the X-Box.
No, Sydney, you can’t play with the toilet water.
No, Sydney, stop pulling the dog’s tail.
No, Sydney, you can’t jump off the back of the couch.
No, Sydney, you can’t run into the street.
NO. NO. NO.

And, after getting my point across that she will not be doing whatever insane toddler idea she has, her face crumples, and she becomes limp, dead weight as she attempts to wrestle from my grasp. Where does she get this? Are toddlers born with an innate ability to throw a world-class temper tantrum?

A perfect example was an episode that happened a few weeks ago. She and I were happily playing on the floor with her over-sized, plastic piggy bank that came with large plastic coins. Randomly, she picked up a coin and chucked it at our dog, who was calmly and sweetly lying down next to us.

What was that, the toddler version of temporary insanity?

So, since I run a strict “No Tolerance” household, her butt was up and sitting in the rocker for a timeout… sort of. I’m sure in her eyes it was more of a game, with her attempting to escape, and me plopping her back in place. On and on this went as I counted to 120 (two minutes for her almost two years of life).

I’m not sure that did much good. But my other discipline methods aren’t working either—after spanking her bottom (of which she probably felt nothing since she was wearing a padded diaper and thick sweats) and getting giggles in return, that’s when I resorted to timeouts.

I assume that when she eventually grows tired of the “game” and gets annoyed that I turn off Nick Jr. and force her to sit there without her toys, she will get the message.


Right, moms? Please? Because I’m at the end of my discipline goody bag. I can’t wait to be able to ground her from her favorite activities, because in my experience, that works. I remember hiding in my closet with a flashlight and my favorite book because my parents had grounded me from reading. Some people may laugh, but that absolutely worked in my case.

Right now, I don’t think that will have the same effect on Sydney if I take away Goodnight Moon. I’ll keep on struggling with my timeout method.