What’s one of your worst fears as a mom?
Is it PTA meetings, pushy soccer moms or is it a toddler who defies your every rule?
You look forward to the toddler years when you can enjoy the cute, unexpected things that your youngster says.
One of your favorite things to do is watch her learn, play and explore the world around her.
But what you might not have expected, is a strong-willed child, ready to counter every bedtime rule or say “no” to everything mom says.
You’re starting to feel drained and at your wit’s end, wondering where you went wrong, and feeling ashamed to ask for help because you can’t stand the blame game.
Then it comes back to you.
One of the…incidents.
You remember that time at the supermarket when you were rushing in with your little one in tow to grab some snacks for an upcoming picnic. You just wanted to make a quick trip and then dash home to prep for dinner.
That’s when you hear the little voice asking for the candy when you get to the cashier counter.
You tell her nicely that mommy’s hurrying and that you’ll get candy for her another day – but the voice returns and you have a sinking feeling that it’s about to get louder.
You keep reassuring your toddler that you’ll get the candy another time. That’s when the screaming starts and the relentless begging for candy.
It goes on and on for what seems like an eternity. You don’t dare to look behind you at what you can assume are judgemental looks and annoyed scowls.
Once the last grocery items are packed, you grab them and duck out with your head down, hoping to avoid all the stares.
Then you drive home while silently sobbing.
You wonder…when will she get over this stage?
How do you deal with a toddler who wants her own way? How do you cope?
If you want to avoid further meltdowns and learn a few tips on dealing with a defiant toddler, then read on my friend!
Do You Really Have a Defiant Toddler?
Let’s remember that a 2 or 3-year old has a brain that is much less developed than an adult. What might look like defiance, might actually be evidence of learning.
Your toddler is young and has not yet assimilated into following the rules that mommy or daddy has laid down.
Children, especially the younger ones, are conflicted between their desires and those of the parent.
Most likely your toddler is still ‘learning the rules’ through observation and interaction in the immediate environment, and is in no way ‘out to get you’.
With that said, let’s learn how to cope with a ‘defiant child’, to avoid detrimental results for the long term.
Tips for Moms With Defiant Toddlers
1. Reward Positive Behavior
When you do something right, wouldn’t you want someone to notice?
Guess what? Your little one feels the same way too!
If your toddler picks up after herself or eats her veggies, that’s a suitable time to praise the behavior. I understand not wanting to shower children with too much praise, but at this younger stage, a little bit goes a long way.
Working to build on positive actions, as small as they may seem, allows your child to acknowledge what positive actions are, and will be more likely to practice them in the future.
Utilizing positive reinforcement can work to stimulate your toddler’s need to be cooperative in their daily routine and foster a love for listening to parental requests.
2. Be Firm and Consistent
This might be harder for some of us, but it’s necessary to show who’s the boss!
When your toddler insists that they should have their own way, you can show them that there are other options.
As soon as your child shows signs of going against a rule, it’s best to step in immediately and correct that behavior.
It should be done in a kind but firm way, to show that you mean business.
We don’t want any pirates on this ship!
But in all seriousness, this will help your toddler to know what kind of behavior is right or wrong.
When you show a no-nonsense attitude about it, they will realize that the action will not be tolerated. This can bring them to an understanding that their defiance at that moment is not what mommy wants and they start to shift to a positive one.
Above all, always remember to be consistent.
3. Set Limits
Our kids aren’t going to like every decision we make especially when it affects them.
Talk to your toddler and make sure you get a grasp on what they’re feeling as you communicate what you need them to do.
Showing them that you appreciate them and want them to be happy, can make it a much more simple process in making them listen.
Once you have done this, then you can set a limit and then enforce it.
For example, if your child enjoys playing games on the Ipad, and you want to set screen limits, this can be done in a kind and gentle way.
You could say, “It’s time for a little break but you’ll be able to play again tomorrow.”
If you see resistance coming, reassure them that you will join them as a special treat and they can get an extra 5 minutes just for fun.
4. Remain Patient At All Costs
It feels like about the 100th time you’ve kindly asked your toddler to head to bed.
You want to read him a bedtime story so he can drift off and you can hopefully engage in some nighttime self-care treatments.
But as usual, your toddler declines and you feel like you’re about to blow.
But showing anger, frustration and impatience can work against curbing your child’s defiance.
Your toddler can feed off your energy and even reciprocate what you’re feeling – causing further frustration for both of you.
Try not to snap at them at the moment or show how stressed or anxious you are.
But what is the answer?
Think about or do something that can help you stay calm.
For some people it may be counting to 10, uttering a positive statement, or thinking about a happy memory.
Whatever it is, use it to keep you calm until you can move to a place (alone) and scream into a pillow.
5. Use Flexible “No’s”
Does your toddler always hear a “no” for almost every response?
If this is the case, it might be an issue.
When your child keeps hearing a monotonous “no” again and again, they will start to expect it and could continue their deviant behavior – resulting in the very same actions you don’t want.
So always saying “no”, might be counterintuitive in this case.
Sometimes, we can turn our “no’s” into another suitable option. This could mean an alternative choice that can satisfy both child and parent.
Instead of a “no” when your toddler wants to play with playdough on the floor, you can turn it into a “yes”, but we play outside in the backyard instead.
This way your toddler can enjoy their playtime in peace, and you won’t have to worry about your gorgeous wooden floors being destroyed.
6. Enable Consequences
Sometimes it may seem harsh to enforce consequences, but they can work wonders for the development of your toddler.
In removing certain pleasures or enforcing certain rules, they will understand that there will be consequences to certain behaviors.
A removal of pleasures may involve taking a toy, a short time out, or no TV time. Your child will understand that once they engage in certain behavior, a negative consequence results from it.
Parents can use simple techniques like these with toddlers, so they can develop an understanding of action and reaction.
So in the toddler’s mind, they will realize that when I do A, this happens, so I will refrain from doing A.
That’s a Wrap!
Toddlers are expressive little persons who want to explore the world around them and find new adventures. On their journey, moms and dads will be the navigators, guiding their little steps to safety.
While they may put up a fight, incorporating helpful rules necessary for their growth and development is a must.
It may not always make them happy, but they will understand through love and care that we have their best interest at heart. These no-nonsense tips aren’t exactly rigid and are just simple ways to help your toddler to learn behaviors he will need later in life.
I hope these tips will help you with your tiny tot and that you can find a balance when things get a bit ‘topsy-turvey’.