Tackling toddlers in 'no go zone'

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

Parenting columnist Ian Munro has some advice on establishing authortity when it comes to the tricky toddler.

We're in the ''no go zone'' with our latest toddler. A defiant ''no'' or a refusal to ''go'', when asked to do something.

It's that stage all toddlers take you through, and one they will recycle when they are older, as they test the boundaries we work at putting in place for their protection and for the family values we want to instil in them.

There are some quite straightforward techniques for establishing your authority in those early years. The first is to always be their parent. Being their friend is a role for others. That's not to say that the relationship won't evolve into something that's even more special, but that's at least 16 to 20 years away.

The next technique is to be very clear about what it is you are asking them to do. ''Tidy up'' is not specific enough. It's best spelt out. If they're still learning the specifics, work alongside them to show them how.

Better a request than an order first time around and, if you get the desired response, acknowledge it. Don't go overboard with effusive praise. A simple ''thank you'' for the things that you will always expect to be done as a matter of course is quite enough. It's also good modelling. Save the praise for special actions or achievements.

Ordering or telling is the second stage, if the ''ask'' stage has been refused in one of the many ways a child can do this. Don't wait too long between asking and telling. Perhaps a silent count to 10.

And don't allow yourself to be sidetracked into debating the pros and cons. Children are great at attempting the sidetrack. Avoid yelling or lecturing, just quietly, firmly and clearly tell them what it is they have to do, preferably with direct eye contact. Be the parent.

If there's still nothing after another silent count to 10, some action such as a time-out is called for.

Remember that the purpose of time-out is to give them some time to think about what you've asked to be done. You could either set a length of time before they return or allow a return as soon as they feel they're ready to do as they've been told. It puts the solution into their hands.

Remember time out is not just a removal from a physical situation, it's also a temporary removal from your favour, which is why you must always do this as calmly and as impersonally as possible.

If they return but don't show willing, it's back into time-out for some further thinking.

A return and completion of the request is again met with a simple ''thank you'' and no more. And life moves on.


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