A little independence is an exciting thing! That’s what your toddler is thinking when she begins to realize that she’s no longer totally dependent on you anymore. The problem is that at this stage, she’s still lacking in reasoning skills – and doesn’t have a whole lot of self-control either.
That’s why being toddler – and having one — comes with a good amount of frustration. But the good news is that as long as you have a healthy dose of patience, you’ll both sail through any sudden storms of stubbornness that lie ahead.
The Stubborn Phase
Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, your child will likely go through a phase where every question, suggestion, or comment from you can bring on a bout of stubbornness. This phase of frequent defiance is often referred to as the “terrible two’s” but your toddler isn’t terrible.
He’s simply discovering that he can say, “No.” According to Fairview Pediatrics, when handled the right way, a stubborn toddler will morph back to that sweet, loving child you vaguely recall within a year.
It helps to remember that when your toddler says “No,” what he’s actually asking is does he have to do what you’re suggesting. This questioning of authority is critical to the development of independence and identity.
Reduce Stubborn Refusals
By giving your toddler choices, you remove the opportunity for her to stubbornly refuse to do as you ask. Choices also increase your toddler’s sense of freedom and control — and that will gain her cooperation.
For example, when getting dressed, don’t get hung up on making sure your little one’s outfit matches or looks perfect. Offer a couple of options and let your toddler pick what she wants to wear.
When a toddler feels like the decision-maker, she feels in control. The more control she has, the less she’ll stubbornly refuse to do things your way. Save the battles for when you can’t offer choices because your child’s safety or health are an issue, such as sitting in the car seat or wearing a coat when it’s cold outside.
Be Firm on Important Issues
While stubbornness is normal for toddlers, it doesn’t mean that you should give in to avoid arguments at all costs. Your toddler must prepare for future social relationships, and this means, he must learn to adapt and adjust to the needs of those around him.
For example, if your toddler has a habit of going into his older sister’s room and playing with personal items, you shouldn’t accept this behavior just to avoid an argument. Validate your toddler’s feelings, but set limits.
Tell him that you know his sister’s things are interesting, but he can’t play with them without her permission. Stubbornness is a natural phase, but it’s up to you to help your toddler realize that the world will not revolve around him just because he puts up a stink.
Realistic Rules and Expectations
The more rules you set for your toddler, the less agreeable he’ll become. Only set rules you can enforce consistently – and try not to overwhelm him with too many. Also keep in mind that the rules you set have to contribute to the happiness, safety and health of everyone in your home.
If you eliminate unnecessary rules and expectations, you reduce the potential for stubborn refusals or arguments. For example, wearing his shirt the right way and cleaning his plate are rules that aren’t necessary in most situations, but keeping his scheduled bedtime and going to daycare are rules you must enforce.
By helping your toddler feel less controlled, you encourage positive reactions instead of stubbornness – so you can save your energy for those times when stubbornness does rear its ugly head.