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Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to Avoid Power Struggles with Toddlers

Throwback Thursday - This is a Practical Parenting article I wrote back in January 2002. My youngest son, Eric, would have been two at the time.




"I don't like that!"
"I don't want to go to bed!!"
"NO!!!"

Welcome to the language headquarters of toddlers and budding preschoolers...and welcome to my world.

Remember the old adage, "Children should be seen and not heard" today's modern moms say that phrase is antiquated but I am finding that a form of that attitude still exists today.

As early as 18 months, toddlers begin to show signs of independence. They may become non-compliant when it comes to a parent's request. They may try to escape from their crib to get out of nap time, or wiggle away when getting their diaper changed. Toddlers may refuse to stop touching an unsafe item at your verbal request or refuse to pause long enough to have their hands or face washed. This is all normal behavior of a healthy, developing two or three year old!

Helping parents to recognize that this behavior is to be expected and equipping them with the parenting skills necessary to head off unwanted power struggles is important.

When parents recognize that their child is beginning to exert their independence, their immediate response should be one of enthusiasm, not remorse. A skilled parent will steer those energies into positive and healthy situations where the child can exercise his or her budding independence without upsetting the entire household or worse, making your child feel like a brat.

This takes time. Bad news, I know. Of course, you can put on your kid's coat quicker than they can but they need to practice emerging independence skills. So, the answer isn't to huff and puff and be exasperated. Instead, allow for more time.

Instead of entering into a power struggle over what there is or isn't time for, simply adjust your routine to allow extra time for your toddler or preschooler to help themselves. The long lasting effects will benefit you both.

Trust me, you don't want to hinder developing independence skills or you may find yourself brushing your kid's teeth waaaay longer than either of you want.

Remember, don't scold a child who wants to try something for themselves. You'd hate to discourage them with comments like, "You're just too slow" or "You do it all wrong". These types of negative comments can carry over and discourage children from being brave later in life.

Parents encourage your children. Let them try new tasks on their own. Offer them lots of praise both for trying and accomplishing tasks. Watch them grow and develop into strong, independent young adults who are willing to embrace the future with a steadfast spirit.

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