THE PROBLEM: My toddler says ‘no’ to everything! Even if it’s something she usually likes. I know this is normal, but I keep finding myself in a battle with her, which feels ridiculous. Shouldn’t I be the boss, here? I mean, I’m always tuned in to what she likes and doesn’t like, so it’s not like I’m not listening to her or trying to give her what she needs. I’m not sure what more I can do, but I feel like we’re in an unhealthy pattern here. Me telling her to do something, and her saying ‘no.’
MARY SAYS: Toddlers want so badly to be the boss of their own lives, even if they’re ill-equipped to do so. But gaining a ‘sense’ of being in charge is so important at this age, and you’ve given your daughter a gift by letting her exercise her own power to choose.
Sometimes, though, the answer has to be ‘no,’ doesn’t it?
This one is actually pretty easy. While you want to encourage your daughter to make some of the choices in her life, if the best thing right now is for her to do what you’re telling her to do, don’t negotiate. Rather than relying on her to decide for herself whether or not to turn the TV off, get ready for bed, or stop pulling the dog’s tail, physically take command of the situation. You turn the TV off. Pick her up and carry her to her room to get her PJ’s on. Extricate the dog’s tail from her grasp.
And as you do this, give a directive without seeking a response from her.
For example, as you turn of the TV, say something like: “TV is done for today. You may watch again tomorrow.” Or, when you scoop her off the couch to get her ready for bed, say: “Time for night night. PJ’s on now.”
What you DON’T want to do is try to distract her so she doesn’t get upset. While it’s tempting to keep the peace by turning everything into a game, what your daughter needs to know is that you are in charge. Be firm. Believe it or not, despite her effort to gain control by saying ‘no’ to everything, she’ll feel a lot safer knowing that a grownup is there to make most of her decisions for her.
Erika is out this week but will return for our next ASK MOM post.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
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Mary Follin is author of the award-winning children’s book ETHYR and Teach Your Child to Read™, an online phonics program for children ages 3-6. She is mom to two grown kids. Follow Mary on Instagram at @advice_mom.
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.
Suzanne Johnson, mom of five children and grandma of eight, is an illustrator, book cover designer, and author of Realms of Edenocht.