Toddlin’ ain’t easy. There will always be defiance. It’s not your fault.
Here are 8 tips to help you cope.
1. Understand: It’s hard to be a kid. It’s hard to leave your friends. It’s hard eating lunches someone else made for you. Try to show your child that you understand all of this, and ask if they need help switching to the next task.
An example from the park (where all parenting seems to be tested): Try saying, “I know you love playing with your friends. You will see them next time we come here. Would you like me to help you wash your hands?” Then take your child by the hand and lead them to the sink. Then away. Into the car. Quickly, before they notice their friends!!!
2. Set limits. Hitting, biting, spitting is never OK. You must hold hands in the parking lot/crossing the street. Food does not belong on the floor. These limits (and others you may have) need to be set and reinforced all the time. A quick reminder is always helpful! A quick consequence (with consistency) may be needed as well. When a child hits, the reaction needs to be swift, smooth and every. single. time. You throw food on the floor? You are done with your meal. No yelling, just limits.
Chronic hitters, biters, etc. may have other issues going on. This will have to be covered at a later time.
3. Phrase in the positive. This has been a great trick. Try phrasing reminders in the positive. Instead of saying, “Don’t color on the wall,” (kids only hear, “Color on the wall.”), try saying, “Keep your crayon on the paper!” It works in a magic and subtle way. This is good for adult people too! Who likes hearing negative words all the time (don’t, no, never, etc.)? Practice rephrasing in the positive.
4. Reinforce good behavior. The “Caught You Being Good Jar” has worked miracles in my house. I wasn’t giving her enough credit. It’s easy to see the few things that go wrong, rather than all the things that go right! When my daughter does something wonderful, sweet, helpful (WITHOUT BEING ASKED), she gets a cotton ball in the jar. When the jar is full, she gets a prize. The cotton ball is immediate. She gets to put it in the jar herself. The prizes are small. For example, she picked out a bunch of books at a book fair. I bought them for her, but she earns them one at a time. I give them freely! Also, I shout “CAUGHT-CHA’ BEING GOOD!” She beams.
5. Chill-Out (Time-Out’s cousin). The CHILL-OUT is very important. It is pre-time-out. It is a breath. We take it together. Deep breath. Hold. Hold. Hold. Then, I see who can take a deeper breath, me or her. Sometimes, I tell the girls I need to chill out for a second and hide in the bathroom. Sometimes, I tell my daughter to chill out when I can see her emotions getting too high, too often (needs a nap). She can read in her room for a bit while she thinks. She can cry. Whatever she needs to do. After a bit (one minute per year of age), I’ll see if she’s ready to chat. The breathing works well with little ones. The second one can be added around pre-school-ish.
6. Pick your battles…well. Socks with sandals? Zebra-print shirt with polka dot pants? Sure!!! As long as your child’s outfit doesn’t interfere with the activity at hand, and is appropriate for the season, who cares what he wears? Let her have some choices, some feeling of control. These choices can sometimes be adorable. Other times…well, it’s a phase.
7. Smoke & Mirrors: Distract and divert! I’ve even been known to say, “What’s that on your arm?” With a concerned face, I will look closely…then closer…then closer…and then blow a raspberry! Giggles, laughter. What were we arguing about? I also keep maracas in the car…
8. Respect: Who doesn’t want it? They are people. They have brains, and they are just learning. Try to remember how little they are. There’s a poem about little hands that goes around on FB (tear-fest every time I read it). It’s true. They are tiny. They are all different. Which things make your child awesome? Focus on those. Remind your child of those. Stop comparing yourself to other parents. Stop comparing yourself to other kids.
I am a fan of doubling-up on tactics. Leaving the play area of the mall? Try a one-two punch of understanding and smoke and mirrors. Follow up with some positive reinforcement. “I know you are having fun. Let me help you get those shoes on, so we can move on to another exciting adventure! Was that a fairy?” Now grab your kid and go! Then – when you are safely in the car – remember to say, “Great listening today when it was time to leave!!! When you act like that, I want to keep taking you to fun places.”
What are your fly moves for dealing with defiance? Please share.
P.S. I like wine. A lot.