2.5 Year Old Not Listening - Is This Normal and When Will It Pass???!!

Updated on June 28, 2011
J.L. asks from Portland, ME
12 answers

Hi Mamas - my daughter is a little over 2.5 and by most accounts is the sweetest little girl. Very affectionate, lovable and very attached to me. She is very good about doing things when I ask her to - like if I ask her to bring her dish to the sink or help mommy with the laundry (she loves that), she does it and is happy to help. It's when I ask her to stop doing something that she doesn't listen. Like she loves to step and walk on my feet and if she's wearing shoes and I'm not it can be pretty painful...i'll say "ouch, that hurts Mommy - please don't step on my feet" and she'll just laugh. Or she'll be holding onto my hair and twisting it and the same thing - I'll say "we need to be gentle with people's hair and bodies" but again she just laughs. Not malicious or ill-intended at all - I just think she thinks of it as a game (even though i keep a serious tone). Or when I try to get her dressed - she always spins around and makes it a struggle, or runs away and wants me to chase her. I've stopped chasing her and tell her "i won't chase you" and I just walk away until she's ready. I'm just wondering if this is a stage and if I should try to change my approach or just wait for it to pass?? Like I said, she is a really sweet girl - this is just a bit frustrating. Just wondering if others had this same experience and if it passes? thanks ladies!


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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone so much for your extremely helpful replies. Everyone brought up some really good ideas. I picked up a copy of 1-2-3 Magic the other day and just started it today and it does seem really good. Also I'll have to pick up "Postive Discipline" that you mentioned Teresa C. I think that for her personality, the postive discipline may be more effective rathar than Time Outs...at least I'll try that first. I am defintely not ruling out time outs though. Thank you again for all the replies and support - you ladies are the best!!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Sounds like you are doing fine. I wouldn't worry - just keep doing what you are doing. Also - there are lots of way to parent/discipline that do not involve time outs or other punitive consequences.

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answers from Dallas on

This is a really good age, to start time outs. My son is 26 months currently. With him, if it's anything that causes pain...he gets a time out. They don't have impulse control and can't really understand causing pain very well, so there has to be consequences. Also, if I ask him to do something and he laughs...time out. Trust me, she knows what you're asking, and she knows laughing will get her our of it. It only passes, if we take the steps to make them understand, that's not how we behave. If the steps aren't taken, it will get worse and worse.

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answers from Dallas on

I agree with Dana K. You're responding very well. It's very normal at her age. She's not trying to be mean. She simply doesn't understand how the world works yet. She will learn as she gets older and as you teach her. There's nothing wrong with removing her from a situation if she needs it. Like, if she's pulling your hair (twisting/pulling it) or stepping on your feet, move her hand from your hair and don't allow it or gently move her away from your feet so she can't do it, telling her "My feet aren't for stepping on. It hurts." or "My hair isn't for pulling. Be soft" and show her how to be gentle with it.

My daughter used to love to run around when it's time to get dressed too. She thought it was a fun game. Your response is really good. My daughter outgrew it. I also quit dressing her most of the time. She started doing it herself and that helped a lot.

You might be interested in what Dana K mentioned - methods that don't involve punitive consequences. It doesn't mean you are a permissive parent then, it's just a form of it's own! Honestly, what you've described is already similar to some of the positive discipline techniques (though you might be slightly permissive right now, but I can't say for sure since you didn't mention what you did in every situation). "Positive Discipline" by Jane Nelsen. She has ones for ages 0-3, as well as for preschool age (3-5 yrs?). I'm reading them right now and really like it. I highly recommend looking into it and seeing if it's something that fits your thoughts of parenting.

Good luck!

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answers from Las Vegas on

Sounds like your responding well. I've heard that telling them ouch actually feeds their game. Like they recommend you say mommy's feet are not for stepping on or something like that. After you say that comment about your hair, put her down or out of reach of your hair. That's great that you don't chase her and tell her you won't and walk away. Sounds like good natural consequences. Are you being consistent with them?

It's just a phase as far as I've seen with other kids. My daughter does it now. She will play by poking or something and it's a game to her but hurts us when she pokes my cheek hard or my eye. I respond like you do except I am in the middle of mastering turning no's to positives like instead of saying no playing in the mud, saying, when you play in mud you get icky and yucky (with a gross face), so let's go slide (happy face). Example though, I mostly wouldn't care about mud play lol.

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answers from Los Angeles on

She obviously knows what she's doing and it's not too early to introduce consequences. Being sweet, lovable and affectionate really have nothing to do with undesirable behaviors. If the telling her it hurts and to please stop or the struggling when dressing hasn't stopped, the time may have come for time-outs to help her see you're serious.

My little guy is almost 27 months and does time-outs, he had one today.

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answers from Kansas City on

when she hurts you asif it is a game, dont entertain her, pretend to be really hurt and cry... then say: "you made mommy VERY owie (if that is the word you use).. tell her she needs to say sorry and give you a hug... so she can see its not a game, and it is owie! Do this every time she hurts you.

Time outs works.... They say a minute per year of the child's age.. but it is totally up to you. Get a kitchen timer and sit her down, she is not to MOVE until the timer rings. Or she will stay another two minutes. She will get the message.

The dressing thing is a phase.. also, dont entertain her. Dont even say: "I am not going to chase you.. " just put her clothes down and walk away. You can also give her options as to what she wants to wear, if she understands that..

Put out two shirts, and a pair of pants/skirt and tell her she can choose what she wants to wear... she might want to wear a TUTU and a tank top with feathers in her hair... you know what toddlers are like....

A dress doll could be fun, let her dress and undress the doll.

Good luck. Dont give in, and dont give up. Remind yourself that YOU are the parent, and she is your child...

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answers from Provo on

I have three different kids with totally different personalities. They all went through this and I handled it in three different ways. I used a firm voice with all of them and they responded best. My oldest was a clown and she would do anything to make me laugh and when I did it became a game. She knew that once I changed my voice it was time to shape up. She was a fairly easy child. My middle son just needed me to say, "I need you to ........" and he did it. My youngest liked me to count. He got to the point where he liked to count along with me. I let them pick out their own clothes and I tried to let them feel in control of themselves most of the time. I think she will grow out of most of this.

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answers from St. Louis on

let's flip this one: if she were doing the exact same things to someone other than you....how would you react? Would you find it acceptable or would you take the time to nip it in the bud?

In my daycare, I have a 2yo who actually grabs her momma's face & slaps it. OMG, it takes all I have in me....not to send her little beheinie to timeout - right then & there! I do not understand "why" mom allows this! But, because I never step in between Mom/child, I keep my lip zipped. As soon as mom leaves, the child is placed in timeout for hurting mommy.

I do know that with this family, the child repeatedly challenges mom & never dad. Dad is the disciplinarian.....even down to each/every issue during the day is addressed by Daddy at home. As far as I'm concerned, Mom has given away all of her authority with the child & it's getting out of hand!

My advice: stand firm, don't give in. Make her behave, make her treat you decently. Don't let her run away/walk away.....& don't walk away yourself. Stand tall & firm..... I highly recommend watching the "1-2-3- Magic" video to get a better handle on how to deal with issues such as this! Peace.

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answers from New York on

she will respond more to your face and the tone of your voice then your words. Exagerate your OW! and dramatize your hurt face! Then change to a very STRICT voice No, NO no, we do not hurt other people! Oor NO NO NO do NOT run away from Mommy. You do not have to yell but VERY upset and firm voice. she has to know you are not playing and she doesnt know that. Mine responded to making getting dressed a game. bet to playing beat the clock or beat Daddy "can we get you dressed faster than Daddy can shave? or before the clock says 8:00 or the timer goes off. bet yu cant put your pants on before I count to 15



answers from Washington DC on

I would definitely say it 's normal. Both my kids went through it. (My 3 yo son is not quite out of it yet!) Not necessarily trying to be mean, but just not understanding what's appropriate and what's not.

I would certainly encourage consequences (whatever they look like in your house). If you take the time now to clearly show her that your "no" means "no" by using consequences for behavior, she will learn that she needs to listen to you. If you just try to talk her out of it or outsmart her in some way, she may just get craftier and outsmart you soon! :)

She must learn right and wrong behavior (with or without bad intentions) and the only way she'll learn is if you take the time to teach her. Hang in there, it's a tough stage!!



answers from Richmond on

So happy you posted this - my 2.5 yo son acts the same way. Glad to know it's not just him! Hang in there.



answers from Washington DC on

Definitely use counting -- the "1-2-3 Magic" is good, or I count to five. I say, "if you don't [do whatever it is] by the time I count to five, then you will lose [whatever privilege]." Always give a last chance too, sometimes they just need time to evaluate whether they really want the consequence to happen. But this strategy should be the last resort -- probably the problem is that she doesn't like being told what to do, just like any of us don't.

So, there are different ways... you could try singing a song about what she should do (this is amazingly effective for us, and whispering in her ear is good too), or you could try saying it completely wrong and let her correct you ("I know the rule! We run so far from mommy that we can't see mommy and she misses us.") Or if you don't like being so tricky, you can just ask her what the rule is instead of telling her the rule.

Oh, and I think you should let her start to choose her clothes and get dressed herself! A good consequence for her not doing this on her own is choosing clothes for her (ones that she doesn't like are best for your choice!)

If she is not listening about stepping on your feet, you could always pick her up and put her down somewhere else and think of a fun game for her to play ("Can you touch your hands together over your head?") She might just be bored and she is looking for attention. That reminds me, please do talk to her about positive and negative attention (we call them warm fuzzies and cold pricklies, from a book "T.A. for Tots"). Giving warm fuzzies bring you more warm fuzzies, giving cold pricklies bring you more cold pricklies.

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