Ask a Neighbor: From Toddler Terror to Toddler Dishwasher

Written by Emily Mathon (Cross-posted from Empathy Parenting)

“Ask a Neighbor” is a new series that will draw on the diverse expertise of Cherrywood residents. Emily has lived in the neighborhood for three years, and teaches positive parenting classes based on the Redirecting Children’s Behavior philosophy. Her next five week course starts Monday, Jan. 26th and will be held at Genesis Presbyterian Church. Sign up on her website.

Here’s a recent question I received from one of my readers, my response and the result:

Mother’s question: “My daughter has exited her sweet baby phase. She’s been whiny, crying on a whim, throwing tantrums, and in some instances even grabbing me aggressively or biting. I’ve been doing a bunch of reading and giving choices, averting power struggles, and the like. However, sometimes I just need to say no and need her to do what mommy says. Like this morning when we needed to get out the door on time and the only socks that were not dirty were pink ones. Of course since mommy chose them, she suddenly does not like pink socks and they of course do not match the dress with the pink flowers on it, the flowers that are not pink but red according to you know who. I just had to get the socks on and get out the door, which resulted in a major power struggle.

Any suggestions on how to say no and get agreement? I know I could have put her socks on earlier and given her choices, etc. but sometimes mommy just has to move along. HELP!”

My response: “First of all…You are an awesome mom!  You love that girl to pieces! Second, yes. Toddlerhood is a phase, albeit a challenging one. It will pass, as will the anger and frustration you might be feeling when you’re feeling rushed or like you’re ‘going to make her’ put her darn socks on. Like a painful yoga pose, it will pass. There are ways to support you in getting what you need while supporting her in becoming her own person. She is learning that she has some control over her environment. It’s your job to illuminate what she has control over.

  • Give her as many choices as possible
    1. two choices
    2. not yes or no
    3. both acceptable to you.
  • Give her as much responsibility as she finds enjoyable.
  • Have fun & be silly. The silliness takes the sting out of power struggles for both you and her.
  • And, as you said, be sure you are giving yourselves enough time so that you don’t feel as rushed.

A great line I use A LOT is: “It’s time to ____. You can either ____ or _____. What do you choose?” This way you are stating the limit while still offering choice. Some kids also respond better to a job – “Would you carry this to the door for me?” That makes them feel important and powerful.

Does that help? Let me know what other questions you have!!!

The next day, I received this photo of the “toddler terror” helping her mother with the dishes.

Dishwashing toddler

Photo used with permission of the parent.

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