When your toddler starts displaying free will and becoming vocal about what they want (and what they absolutely do NOT want…), it can be more than a little frustrating. With these 6 practical tips, you can learn how to avoid getting caught in a power struggle with your toddler – it’s essential reading!
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Arms folded across his little chest. Lip protruding. Your child is looking at you defiantly and battle is about to commence. What happened to that cute, easy-going baby?!
It’s easy to have panicky thoughts when your toddler resists. All sorts of thoughts can race through our heads:
“If he’s like this now, how will I ever cope when he’s a teenager?”
“How dare he talk back to me like that!”
“He’s just trying to make my life miserable.”
“I can’t let him get away with this.”
But here’s the good news – he’s not trying to get at you, make your life miserable or be impossible. He’s just moving into a new developmental stage.
As much as you loved that cuddly little baby, you know that he needs to grow up. You wouldn’t want him still reliant on you to feed him, change him and meet his every need as an adult, would you?
Our children are pre-programmed to grow up. And while we all know this logically, we forget that this means they will be emotionally growing and stretching as well as physically. As one Mum said: “I was just beginning to get comfortable with how to cope with being the parent of a baby, when the rug was pulled out from under my feet!”
Self-assertion is one of the tasks that the toddler learns at this developmental stage. If you keep in mind that they are practicing this with you, then you’ll probably find it easier to go with the flow. The last things you want is to find yourself getting caught up in a power struggle with your toddler.
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6 Practical Tips For When Your Toddler Protests
#1. Plan ahead and build in enough time to move at his pace
In doing this, you are less likely to get stressed, even is your child does protest. When you’re calm you are more likely to spot the early warning sign that can stop the situation spiralling out of control.
#2. Recognise that your child is doing the best they can right now
Your child is not trying to wind you up or push your buttons. Your child is trying to figure out who they are. They need you to be patient and to give the support they need in this developmental phase.
#3. If your stress level starts rising, focus on calming yourself
Try breathing in while counting up to 7 and breathing out while counting on from 8 to 11. If you find your stress overwhelms you, you’ll find practical help in my article about the one essential thing to stop yelling at your kid or get a copy of my book, Stop Yelling – Nine Steps to Calmer, Happier Parenting.
#4. Where possible, give your child a simple choice
Often a toddler is trying to gain some sense of having control of their lives. Simple choices can often help reduce any rising tensions:
“Would you like Weetabix or porridge for breakfast?”
“Would you like to do up the seat belt or shall I do it?”
#5. Take time to coach your child how to do basic tasks for themselves
Take time to help your child learn how to do things for themselves, like putting on their coat, or buttering their own toast. Being able to “do it myself’” builds a child’s confidence and often overcomes potential frustration hot-spots between you. It also means he’s better equipped when it comes to going to pre-school or other situations where you won’t be there all the time to do things for him.
#6. Find creative solutions to sidestep potential power struggles
Figure out ways to meet his needs and interests, whilst still getting to do the things you need to get done.
For example, you need to go to the shop, but he doesn’t want to go. Rather than focus on persuading him to go along with your need, think about what could make the trip attractive for him. Try something like “let’s walk to the shop and see if that digger is still working at the corner”.
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What situations most easily tip you into a power struggle with your toddler? How do you deal with it? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!