My toddler has graduated from saying ‘NO!’ to more sophisticated forms of expression, mainly: ‘I want THIS!’ or ‘I don’t want this!’. (Note: ‘This’ can be replaced by the name of the object of affection/rejection, if known to her.)
I’m not sure if I’m particularly excited about this development. It sure makes for highly unpredictable days – we could go from ‘very good day’ to ‘very bad day’ in a matter of minutes. Although in all honesty, I think if we as parents were better prepared in handling the want-this-don’t-want-that-toddler, the swing would not be as great.
Some days, broccoli would be her worst enemy, other days, it would be carrot, or pumpkin, or some pea hidden in her rice somewhere. Some days, she would adore (and go nuts if she can’t find) her pink blanket, other days, she would crave her yellow one (oh, not the one with the baby motif). She used to love cold milk, now she turns whiny if it’s not served hot.
As one can tell, this dynamic toddler makes feeding and other everyday life matters as nerve-wrecking as navigating a minefield. It’s a battle of wits, and the parents are calling out for more strategic ammunition.
We’ve tried caning, which usually serves as a deterrent once the object is mentioned or sighted. But just yesterday, the two-and-a-quarter year old demanded for a tissue (to play with, not to use), and I said if you want to waste the tissue, you have to get one whack of the cane. She put my words to the test, and received one whack on the palm. After a few seconds, she asked for another whack. I granted her her wish, this time making sure the pain was felt. She kept silent.
This rather strange, one-off episode tells me she’s gearing up for a stronger challenge, as if she’s declaring: ‘I’m not afraid.’
She’s open to reasoning if she’s in an agreeable mood. It also helps if the bait or the promise is attractive, such as being able to do some painting, or have a tasty treat.
All in all, we’ve been trying to make her fussiness and tantrums as much as a non-event as possible, unless she really is in the mood for trouble. I remember some good advice I read awhile ago: Pick your battles.
Dobson advocates the establishing of parental authority from an early age, and drawing consistent boundaries of right/wrong, with appropriate levels of punishment meted out for each undesirable behaviour, the worst of which are outright acts of defiance.
I think it’s time to try out some of his suggested strategies and tactics for this age group, such as time-out. (Have tried a variation of this a couple of times, esp. at mealtimes when she fusses over her food and refuses to eat. I would just pick her up silently and set her on the sofa, and ignore her for awhile. Usually she would come round to asking for food by herself.)
Lest I’ve made my toddler out to be some kind of monster, I must add that on good days, she’s usually a cheerful, playful, fun-loving sweetheart. We love her to the max.
But because we do, we can’t let her wreak havoc with her wilful ways. As the good book says:”...the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13)