There comes a time when our toddlers discover a new superpower. A superpower that makes Kim Jong-Un jealous and that can push parents to the verge of insanity. Maybe your days are still somewhat filled with obedience and serenity. Others, like me, are less lucky. Our kids have discovered the power of “No”.
They’re not trying to be little assholes
I remember well when T. first discovered his new power. I almost saw it click when he first tried it and boy did he try it a lot. More often than not I feel like I’m a broken record. The knowledge that he hears me but just plain refuses anything I say is extremely frustrating. However, according to several Child Developmental Specialists he isn’t purposely undermining me, he is just acting his age. It’s part of him growing up, becoming his own person with his own wants and needs.
Strategies to try
Although it’s great to know this is perfectly normal, it can still be a challenge to even get trough the day. Luckily there are a few strategies that are definitely worth trying to make this whole phase a little less frustrating. Avoiding even one power struggle or creating a few minutes of peace can keep you from showing your dark side. I’d say that’s beneficial for everyone involved.
Keep it simple
Don’t over-explain the situation. Toddlers like to discover and test. When you give an elaborate reaction it only triggers their interest. For toddlers it usually doesn’t matter if you react positively or negatively. A reaction is attention, so they will try it again. And again. And ag..well you get me. If you keep it short and simple they have less reason to try again because it’s not as interesting as they thought.
Call them by name
Even though I call my son a wide variety of nicknames, when it comes to listening I found calling him by his actual name is the most effective. It gets his immediate attention and he knows I’m serious and about to share important information. It shows him where the playing ends and serious business is going down.
Get on the same level
Literally. By squatting down to your kids eye-level they instinctively feel that you care. You also see and hear each other better which naturally improves listening. Looking your child in the eye when you are on their eye-level and saying their name immediately gets their attention. This gets your child to focus on what you are saying.
stop making threats
We’ve (almost) all been there. We threat to take away something our kids find important and then..nothing. What kind of message does that send? They will happily continue with whatever they were doing because, well, why not? If you’re saying disobedience has consequences, let it have consequences. That way next time you’re telling them a consequence they know you actually mean it.
Don’t be a negative Nancy
Without some positive reinforcement your child loses his motivation to listen. Immediately praising your child for what he did well does wonders in the long run. It’s important to actually describe what your child did well. For example: “Thank you for turning off the TV when I asked you to” or “You were really helpful when you immediately put away your toys“. Praising your child will strengthen their confidence and will help them to start doing what you like.
Have realistic expectations
Toddlers will obey only some of the time. We give our children more instructions than we realize. We ask them to put their shoes away, to put their toy away, to stop screaming, to stop whining, to go play.. It’s not realistic to expect our toddlers to listen to every instruction, simply because they can’t. Recognize this and decide for yourself what the real important instructions are. Does it really matter if they put their own shoes away or that they use too many toys at once?