One of the things I’ve noticed about parenting toddlers is that kids can be very demanding. Not only will they make demands of you, but their demands can get increasingly specific. It almost seems like they are doing it on purpose just to see how far they can push things.
My youngest daughters was a great example of this behavior. I remember when she was about 3 years old. She would wake up early and I’d take her downstairs to have breakfast together. She’d tell me she wanted cereal for breakfast, so I’d get out the Cheerios. Then she’d tell me, “No I want Raisin Bran”. After I switched cereals, I grabbed her a bowl. In a very whinny toddler voice she’d say, “No I want the yellow bowl, not the orange one” How can you ever win?
In the beginning I wasn’t worried about this. It was no big deal, and it wasn’t worth a fight. But soon afterward I realized I was going to have to show her how to make her own decisions and how to be responsible for her own choices. After I came to that realization, I started making her do things for herself if she changed her mind.
As a simple example, say she told me that she really didn’t want the orange bowl. I’d just say to her, “That’s fine sweetie – just go to the drawer and get whatever bowl you want, and put this one back”. If she really wanted to make a change it was now up to her. Sure, she fussed about this at first, because she wanted me to do it for her. I just pushed the responsibility back to her politely.
Children want parents to do things for them. They test the boundaries and they want to see how much influence they can have over Mom and Dad. Instead of getting angry at these tests, just realize that they are a normal part of growing up. It’s so much easier to just show them how to take action to solve their own problems.
Always keep in mind that children will get upset if you say “No” right to their face. It can really be easier to say “I see – you want a different color bowl? No problem, here’s where you can go to get it by yourself” When you do this you’re presenting a solution
Sometimes parents won’t offer solutions. They just seem to put up roadblocks. They say “No, I won’t get you another bowl”. I suggest that when you have a conflict with your young kids, you offer them solutions rather than roadblocks. This forces them to take responsibility for adopting the solution.
Toddlers and young kids will push the boundaries as a part of their learning experience. If you understand that this is a normal process, you’ll find it much easier to redirect the conflict towards teaching them how to solve their own problems.
Chris Thompson is the creator of the Talking to Toddlers audio course for parents. He shows parents how to use language to reduce parenting stress. Listen instantly to his free lesson on raising toddlers.