“I can do it myself.” “I want [insert random demand] right now!” “NO! Don’t wanna!”
WHAT in the WORLD has happened to my totally calm and angelic toddler???!!! I used to wake up to the sounds of her sweet little voice chirping, bird-like, in the mornings, and now I’m awakened by a bossy, demanding…little…person…who does not hesitate to let me know when she is unpleased.
It wasn’t until I was having lunch in the VIP room at the Mom’s Club (you know, the Chick-Fil-A dining room when all the kids are in the playplace? It’s sooo worth the price of admission!) and one of the other mothers, kindly leaned over, looked at me knowingly and said “Oh, you have a threenager!” She said it so calmly that relief flooded me in an instant, and I wanted to sit at her feet and absorb ALL of the motherly wisdom I just knew she had to offer! Unfortunately, she couldn’t stay long due to appointments for the kids, but what she said left an indelible impression on my brain. I got home and started googling threenager and was able to come up with some sound advice and tactics to stop the temper tantrums and bossiness! I’m sharing some goodies with y’all below!
Work With It, Not Against It
I’m beginning to understand that this burgeoning independence, while frustrating, is not a bad thing. From what I’ve read, my actions during this stage will determine if my child ends up a fiercely determined go-getter, or a needy damsel in distress. By allowing her the opportunity to figure things out on her own, and take care of her needs (within reason), I am creating a healthy environment that will naturally foster high self-confidence and self-awareness. Or so they say…?
The Manipulation Tactics Are Otherwordly
There is nothing on Earth more manipulative than a threenager who has just been told “no.” Bella, for instance, will push out her lower lip and begin to pitifully cry, all while scanning my face with cyborg like accuracy to determine if I’m falling for it. Or, she appeals to her father to see if his resolve is a little less fierce than my own. Toddlers who resort to manipulation tactics are at a desperate point: they realize they are thisclose to not getting their way and are trying to make it happen as quickly as possible. Their pouty faces may be cute now, but picture the same behavior at 6, or 8 years of age. Redirect the manipulative behavior now by letting your “no” mean “no” and your “yes” mean “yes”. Tantrums are annoying (I totally get that!) and sometimes it may seem easier to just give in, but your resolve has got to be stronger than theirs! Oh, and never overrule the other parent’s decision when a clear “no” has been uttered.
Encourage Independence Over Bossiness
Ah, the threenager years…that wonderful time when children play so nicely with their peers allowing you 2-3 whole hours to get things done around the house. NOT!!!! Anytime Bella has a play date, it goes a little something like this: “it’s mine!” “Don’t do that!” “You do this!” *random crash* A few gulp’s and sorry’s, and children emerging covered in magic marker while looking sheepish. (And this is in a 10 minute span with parental supervision, albeit, from their father’s ?)
Bella can be…a bit bossy…but it’s not a total negative. We recognize this characteristic as an inner leadership quality. She’s the toddler who is always looking back to the grab the next child’s hand to make sure they are included. Sweet right? But if we don’t gently guide this behavior, it can become annoying as she gets older. We are teaching Bella to be helpful to others and to give her opinion, but to never grab or force a child to do anything they don’t want to do. It is never too early to teach toddlers about boundaries and how to respect them. This sets the stage for their leadership qualities to develop into mature independence as opposed to bossiness.
I get it. You’re the parent(s) and what you say goes! (Plus, I did just talk about that steely resolve ya gotta have!) But in some instances, it’s good to take a step back and look at life from the threenager perspective. They are perceiving the world on a much more advanced level now, but they are still short and relatively powerless (imagine someone just being able to come scoop you up on a whim!) Their vocabulary continues to grow by the day, yet they still have some difficultly with always finding the correct words to express what they feel or need.
I’ve had to make efforts to understand and respect the growing pains that Bella is dealing with, and as a result my patience level has grown exponentially. I try to step back and let her handle the tasks that she is reasonably able to perform (“I do it myself” is a common refrain in our house), and I only jump in when necessary. Most of the time, Bella makes the right decisions, and because I step back and respect her need to figure the world out on her own terms, I’m often rewarded with kisses and giggles. And that’s what makes it worth it!
I have to give Bella credit for being mild mannered and obedient most of the time. Since she’s become a threenager however, she has moments where her own curiosity wants to override what she has been asked to do, or not do. Like any other parent, “no” and “stop” become our go-to words, but children learn so quickly to tune those words (and yelling) out. What works best for us is redirecting Bella’s behavior, and then taking time to reflect on good choices when she makes them. According to PBS Parents, redirection is the act of providing your child with a positive behavior to replace the negative behavior. An example of how we use this method is when Bella is driving me crazy by banging her metal pots and pans like drums, instead of yelling “stop it!”, I distract her with a new toy that makes much less noise. Then I will mention something like “that other toy was so noisy. Isn’t this one much quieter? Show me how to use this toy!” In less than 1 minute, I have peace and quiet, and Bella is happy because she gets to show me something. PBS also states that “a child acting up at the grocery store could be enlisted to help pick out oranges or rearrange the items in a grocery cart, or a kid running around a swimming pool might be challenged to walk “as if on marshmallows.” Redirection works for us about 75% of the time, so it’s a great tool to have in your arsenal of parenting tactics!
Raising a toddler is a joy, but it doesn’t come with an instruction manual (or much needed bottles of wine!) Between the terrible two’s, the threenager years, and early school ages we often get thrown for a loop! I’m no parenting expert, and much of this post was tongue-in-cheek, but I think we mom’s owe it to ourselves to share as much as we can, and help pull each other out of the trenches! Do you have any tried and true techniques that you think I, and all my other socialites need to know? Share this post on Facebook, and leave a comment below!
See you next time!