1–2 Years

Parents (USA) - - Contents - By JEN­NIFER BEN­JAMIN

What de­fi­ance re­ally means

Don’t take de­fi­ance per­son­ally.

Your strong-willed tod­dler re­ally isn’t ag­gra­vat­ing you on pur­pose. A short time ago, she was car­ried around and given ob­jects to play with. Now she can get and con­trol them her­self. Your child is de­vel­op­ing skills and greater aware­ness, and she wants to ex­plore her new­found power. Try to view this as a means of ex­per­i­ment­ing and learn­ing. A tod­dler tends to act out with the per­son she trusts the most (you!). That doesn’t make her re­bel­lious­ness any less frus­trat­ing, but it should help you be more pa­tient rather than view her ac­tions as a per­sonal af­front.

Make him the boss some­times.

Kids this age push bound­aries be­cause they’re try­ing to as­sert au­thor­ity. That’s why your child’s new fa­vorite phrase may be “Me do it!” or “No! Mine!” Give him some say when you can safely do so, which will help him feel re­spected and less re­sis­tant at other mo­ments. Let him have two ac­cept­able choices. When you’re leav­ing the play­ground, ask if he wants to carry the chalk or the sand toys on the way home. That way, the only op­tion is to leave, but he gets to de­cide how you do it.

Prac­tice pre­ven­tion.

It’s chal­leng­ing for a tod­dler to co­op­er­ate even un­der ideal cir­cum­stances, so do what you can to in­duce good be­hav­ior. Drag­ging your child to the store when she’s hun­gry, tired, or rest­less is set­ting her up for fail­ure. Like­wise, it’s bet­ter to just re­di­rect her rather than ex­plain why she isn’t al­lowed to do some­thing. If she won’t stop pulling up the flow­ers in your yard, take her for a walk or bring her in­side. Also en­cour­age al­ter­na­tives, like bring­ing a play slide in­doors to stop her from climb­ing on the fur­ni­ture.

Fo­cus on pos­i­tive be­hav­ior.

When you tell your child, “Don’t bang the door!” all he hears is the ac­tion: “Bang door.” In­stead, tell him what you’d like him to do. If he’s rest­ing his feet on the din­ner ta­ble, say, “Please put your feet down. Can you wig­gle your toes un­der the ta­ble?” Any at­ten­tion you give to neg­a­tive be­hav­ior is still at­ten­tion. Stay calm—the louder and more en­er­getic your re­sponse, the more likely he is to act out. Look for times to make him feel val­ued. Sim­ply giv­ing him a cud­dle may dampen his de­fi­ance.

Pick your bat­tles.

If you con­stantly say “no” or rep­ri­mand or bar­gain with your tod­dler, con­sider reeval­u­at­ing your re­sponses. Does it re­ally mat­ter if she wears her princess dress for a nap? Let the lit­tle things go. It’ll re­duce your stress level and make your child more in­clined to co­op­er­ate when it truly mat­ters.

Sources: Car­rie Contey, PH.D., a hu­man-de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist and par­ent­ing coach in Austin; Dana Entin, a pe­di­atric nurse-prac­ti­tioner and par­ent ed­u­ca­tor in Los An­ge­les; To­vah Klein, PH.D., au­thor of How Tod­dlers Thrive; Heather Wit­ten­berg, Psy.d., a child psy­chol­o­gist on Maui, Hawaii.

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