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Two-Year-Old Testing Language Tests Mom



After reading your informative answer to a question re contrary children, I wish to ask your advice re a continuing pattern with my 2 1/2 year old daughter.  She has quite advanced language and I generally try to give her a lot of autonomy but with (a few) rules consistently enforced.

She will begin by expressing a wish, in a whiny tone, such as "I would like some milk" or "I want to have a bath", to which I will say "OK, I'll get you some milk" etc.  Then she will start crying and say "I don't want some milk".  I say "OK, you don't have to have any milk if you don't want it", she will then say, very upset "I want some milk".  We keep going until I give up, then usually just stay around her but ignore any further requests or comments.

Do you have any suggestions for how I should deal with this?


With regard to toddlers, there is quite a difference between knowing many words and being able to string them together and then truly knowing what one wants or even being able to comprehend what one is talking about.

While your daughter knows many words and even sentences, do not mistake this for truly understanding what is asked of her or her truly being able to express her needs and wants. Further, she may even be bored and driving you to distraction as her entertainment.

Further, just as the one-year-old will drop food, toys and utensils off the high chair as if in a game, at times to the upset of parents, two and three-year-olds will test out their new language to see the reaction and what happens in much the same way.

As with the younger child dropping items from the high chair, we come to ignore the behaviour and certainly do not indulge it, so too can we handle the behaviour you are describing. Further, when your daughter seems to have you on the defensive trying to decipher her needs and wants, particularly when there may not be a specific need or want apart from testing her language skills, you too can redirect her by citing a rhyme with her. By exploring and using language, she is still entertained, but put on a linguistic activity under your control.

Many parents find their children entertained at some pint with rhyming words. I remember when our son  stood at the top of the stairs rhyming real and pretend words with "duck". You can imagine where that one went! At all times retain your composure and just move on. Eventually your daughter will come to truly understand language use and then you can carry on meaningful conversations.


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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


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