As a child starts to grow, it’s natural for them to have defiance. They’re testing boundaries in an attempt to learn about themselves and their place within the world. It doesn’t make it any less frustrating when they are defiant. Does the question then become how we can allow them to have the freedom to learn while curbing defiance, both for your sake and theirs?
The singular most important tool you need when dealing with challenging toddlers is consistency. No matter what tips and advice you’re following, if you’re not consistent, it’s not going to work. Plain and simple. Whenever you’re trying something, there is going to be a natural regression. The child isn’t used to it and therefore won’t react kindly to it. Keep in mind acting out is a worst-case scenario. But it’s still a point of consideration. The tips you follow, they need to be done consistently, which means over and over again, no matter how frustrating it may be. Consistency lets them know what to expect and also gives them a sense of comfort, even in something not so fun.
Keep a Level Head
Dealing with unruly toddlers can be so frustrating. We are human, too, and it’s easy for us to snap and yell when they are defiant, which is what we can’t do. Like consistency, when dealing with our toddlers, we need to keep a level head. How we react to a situation, especially involving them, will set the tone for their behavioral development for time to come. Be fair yet be just. Be stern yet be compassionate. Show you’re angry yet show love and patience. Us losing ourselves helps them none, so avoid it at all costs.
A great way to avoid defiance is by incorporating structure into their lives. You don’t need to have every minute of every day planned out for them, but having set tasks and activities set in place will help them avoid defiance, because, like consistency, they come to know what to expect. We are creatures of habit, which is a character trait learned at a young age. Having a specific time for meals, a specific time for chores, TV, or electronic time set into place, all of these help to keep their lives organized and combat against defiance because they know what to expect and when.
Engage in Lesson Learning
Lesson learning is all about talking the talk and walking the walk. One of the things best to avoid saying is, “Because I said so.” They have no impactful reason not to do those things you don’t want them to do, which is one of the easiest ways to create defiance within them. Instead of saying because I said so, instead give them the benefits of not doing it versus the consequence of doing it. Get down to their level and help them to understand the lesson. Once you teach them the lesson, make sure you are giving them a living example of what you’re talking about, because remember: Monkey see, monkey do. Your toddler will mimic what you do. If there is a conflict between what you say and what you do, their default will always be to copy what you do.
Also important in this topic is when you do punish your toddler, make sure you’re explaining to them why such behavior is wrong. Attach a positive to the negative, and they will be much more receptive to the lessons you are trying to teach them.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a toddler is just going to act out, leaving us with no choice but to discipline them. To err is to be human, after all. Thus, make sure you’re approaching their discipline with a level head. Losing your head will have zero positive impact on the child and only serve to make them more challenging in the future. Furthermore, when disciplining the toddler, it is important to have the consequence be related to the offense. If they aren’t listening, or are throwing a temper tantrum, time out would be best, and let them know why they are getting the time out and when it will stop (after they calm down). Another great idea for discipline is restitution, a payback type of method. Have they marked-up walls? Clean them. Called someone bad names? Say three nice things to them. Broke a toy? Pay it off with chores or giving the other child one of their toys of equal value. Remember, every discipline is not just about punishing the toddler but instead about teaching them life lessons. Children are never too young to learn lessons. Most lessons they will learn in life are learned as a child. It’s the application of those lessons to life we learn as we get older. So let’s make sure we are teaching our children good moral lessons.
At face value, it may seem counterproductive, but hear me out. It’s not about congratulating them on bad behavior, but instead rewarding them for overcoming good behavior. If you gave them a 10 minute time out because they were whining excessively or yelling, and they go into their room and de-escalate, and come out of it calmer, reward them for overcoming the situation healthily. Hug them and explain you’re proud of them, give them a snack, give them something positive, along with words to go with it because words and actions go hand in hand. You explain to them what they did to earn the punishment was not good. Still, their ability to accept the punishment and do good with it and this will stick with them a long time because it reinforces the idea bad behavior brings undesirable action while good behavior brings reward.
In closing, remember it’s never easy raising children. And as they get older, it does not become easier. It only becomes different. We are dealing with work, relationships, life, and on top of it all, our children. It’s stressful. It’s tiring. But these same lessons we are applying to our children, if we apply them to ourselves as well, it will help to raise them to be that much easier, which will leave fonder memories and more time to create those fond memories with them. And in the end, those are what’s most important and most rewarding in our lives.