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Outsmart Your Toddler

The battle lines were drawn: It was me against him. And he, my 2-year-old, was a formidable opponent. I lay in wait by the stairs, a pair of size-2T sweatpants clutched to my chest. Catching Kevin and wrestling him into his clothes reminded me of the day I tried (and failed) to catch a greased piglet at a county fair. At least with Kevin I didn't have to worry I'd end up facedown in the mud. Suddenly, my slippery little boy popped up from behind the relative safety of the sofa. Our eyes met. He squealed and bolted for the kitchen. Game on!

Somehow, my master's degree in psychology had lulled me into the mistaken notion that motherhood would be a piece of cake. I knew the latest child-rearing theories. I'd handle behavior problems with finesse.

Ha.

Never did I envision how challenging raising a stubborn and feisty toddler would be.

Thankfully, I've now learned several great toddler-taming strategies that work quite well. Sometimes, I've found, you need to save the "I am the parent! Do as I say!" approach and try a little creative thinking.

Act like an idiot

"Even the most defiant toddler will take pity on us if we seem like total incompetents," says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of the DVD and book The Happiest Toddler on the Block. The trick is to convince your child that you should be helped, not resisted:

Be forgetful. If she's refusing to put away her toys, pick up a few and put them not in the toy box but in some other unexpected place, like the bathtub or a kitchen cabinet. When your child balks (she knows where things belong, even as young as 2), say innocently, "What? I'm putting your toys in your toy box!" She'll likely take pity on you and help you put her stuff where it really belongs.

Be wrong. Next time you foresee a battle getting your toddler in the stroller, try squeezing into it yourself. Chances are good she'll announce, "That's mine!" Finally her possessive streak is good for something.

Be incompetent. Put your coat on backward and place your shoes on your hands. Say, "I'm ready to go, are you?" She'll laugh, straighten you out, and get her own shoes on for once.

Don't worry: Your child won't really think you're a boob, says Dr. Karp. This is just a fun tactic, like playing hide-and-seek and pretending you can't find her.

Deborah Carpenter writes frequently for Parenting.

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