Ask Moderate Mum - How do you make toddlers less stubborn? Liam Bishop


This question made me snort into my cuppa. All I can picture is a toddler somewhere, perhaps sat in a sandpit, contemplating the question - how can I make my father less stubborn? That is your child's experience, they're making the completely reasonable request to go to nursery dressed in a superhero costume and wellies and stubborn old dad just won't let it happen.

Lead by example - I think it's a fair question. Could you be less stuck in your ways? Just because you have a few decades on the kid, doesn't mean you know everything. Have a think, is there any areas where you could just let go? So the kid wants to sleep under the dining room table for the night, will the world end? They feel like eating their peas one by one with their fingers - bigger picture, at least they're eating. Where do you think this child is learning the stubbornness from? If you backed down from a few things you might find that your kid also feels able to pull back a little, this role modelling business is the real deal. 

Let them learn from experience - My mother has a plethora of sayings passed down to her from her father. Most of them are nonsensical (chicken merry, hawk is near?) but one has always resonated - 'If you can't hear, you must feel.' So your kid insists that wearing a coat on a wintry morning is surplus to requirements, unless you're reading this in a Siberian climate, it probably won't harm them to let it happen but twenty minutes later when their teeth are chattering so hard the buggy vibrates, they might just understand what you were banging on about. One hour of sub par parenting might avoid a tonne of future battles. 

Give them choice - Being a kid is completely awesome apart from the fact that you spend most of your life feeling powerless. It's okay to trick your little general into thinking he or she is getting their own way. Rather than asking if they want their vegetables give them a choice between peas and sweetcorn. You will seem like their humble servant when all along you are a master manipulator. 

Not too much choice - Choice can actually be quite overwhelming. Do you know why people like all inclusive holidays? It's not because anyone likes to queue for luke warm pizza, it's because it's wonderful not to have to think for a week or two. Sometimes when a toddler is given too many options for their mind to cope with they'll dig their heels in and do nothing. Plan each day and let your kid in on the plan, they'll never tell you but kids love to be parented. 

Let them know you're listening - Sometimes stubbornness is just a desire to be acknowledged and you can do that without letting your child have their own way. A couple of weeks ago my son was having a full scale meltdown in the shopping centre because I was trying to do the unthinkable and get him into a lift. I sat on the floor with him outside of Debenhams and said, 'Are you angry? Is mummy horrible? You don't like the lift?' 

'Roscoe sad. Roscoe crying,' he said (because he talks about himself in the third person Kanye West style). Then we had a cuddle and I let him press the lift button. It's like when you threaten to leave your mobile provider because they're doing their head in and then you don't, obviously, because you've got yourself tied into a three hundred year contract. Sometimes we all just need a little vent. 

Got a question for Ask Moderate Mum, put in the comments or email to moderatemum@gmail.com

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                     photo credit: WickedVT Photographing a two-year old via photopin (license)

14 comments

  1. Toddlers are funny little creatures. I do think as adults we need to relax a little and go at a toddlers pace every now and then x

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  2. I totally agree with giving choice but limited choice. I find if my little one has too many options that's when the trouble starts!

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  3. I have four very stubborn children, I'm not sure that you can ever make them less stubborn completely, at 37 I am still as stubborn as our two year old!

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  4. I'm a stubborn mum with a stubborn son and it's like battling fire with fire! I choose my battles well!

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  5. Great tips here. I remember my being little and going through this stage :)

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  6. I look after my little cousin every week and I always offer too many choices, which results in tears! I shall try the 2 option approach. Thank you!

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  7. I work with toddlers every day and love their personalities. It can be frustrating at times too

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  8. I really enjoyed reading this. I'm very stubborn and my eldest daughter is too. Lots for me to work on

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  9. This also applies to teenagers too...lol
    I do some of these things with my girl and it works wonders. :D x

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    1. Ha ha! You mean there's more to come :D

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  10. I really agree that sometimes we need to relax and let them have their way. It's important to pick our battles. They are, after all, learning and that takes experimenting sometimes. They need the freedom to try doing things their own way. #PoCoLo

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  11. as a mother to 5 kids who have all reached adult hood i'd say pick your battles carefully and don't ask open ended questions, give limited choices and if they want to go out dressed as superman, then why not #pocolo

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  12. Have more kids and that will force you to pick your battles! My 5-year-old regularly goes around dressed like a colorblind person and does her own hair. I don't think her older siblings could have gotten away with that, but she's the 4th out of 6 and I've realized that it doesn't even matter so why waste time and effort if she just wants to wear a leotard and jeans to the grocery store?

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    1. Ha ha! I dramatic but very effective solution :)

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