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Sidestep Toddlers When They Dig Their Heels In

Toddler cargivers deserve a break. And they deserve a lot more respect and compensation for their work. Most people know this but how many know what to do about it?

Parents of toddlers also deserve a break. It seems that many of them aren't getting one. Especially when it comes to going back to work outside of the home or continuing to work inside the home for that matter.

Is there anyone who knows what to do about that?

Apparently, if there is anyone who realizes what's going on in the US nobody important is listening to them. But there is some hope in other countries.

Take Finland for example. In Finland early childhood teachers and are both respected and compensated for their levels of expertise. And parents get to have them as teachers without paying the full price of childcare because fees are based on parent's income and in some municipalities it's free.

I would imagine that in such situations teachers and parents would find it easier to work together without blaming or shaming each other. And that would most definately improve the care recieved by the young children.

At early childhood rocks, nonprofit organization, we know how important reducing blame and shame is to the world so we want to support you and help you as much as we can. We're not here to "teach" you how to interact with young children but we are here to highlight the things you manage to do right in a challenging world of care and help you find new and practical ideas to use right away.

Here's one of them for you. When toddlers dig their heels in for some unknown reason, it's time to think quick. Giving in can be the quickest and easist thing to try but be careful because giving in so often backfires.

Know that they're testing their power and that it's not their fault. It's a neccessary but difficut developmental phase. Children are probably going for power when it make you feel like making them do it or prove your power over them.

Here's an example from real life.

Stuart is refusing to get in his car seat because he wants Mommy, not Mama to buckle him in.

Instead of giving in she ackowleges his power in this situation.

  • acknowleage their power We're not going to leave for the park until your buckled and and you're not letting me do it.

  • give a couple clear choices that aren't punishments Mommy's already in her seat and buckled so it's not a choice to get her to do it so here are your choices. You can let me buckle you in, or you can help me do it

  • explain briefly what will happen if and when they make each choice offered If you don't let me or help me, I will wait right here until you do. The sooner we do it, the sooner we leave for the park.

  • Tell them what you're going to do If I have to wait too long, we won't have time for the park and we'll have to go back inside without going.

  • Follow Through

As you can see, this requires some thought and it helps to plan it all in advance.

Now, don't get me wrong because I know that you don't always have the time for the scenario above. Here's an alternative for when you don't.

I can hear how much you want Mommy to get out and do it but she's not going to because we're in a hurry today. Sometimes parents decide things. Sometimes teachers, grandparents, nannies etc. decide things. I can buckle you in right now, or I can give you one minute. What would be better for you?

Children can feel empowered to do good when they have choices. But choices remain a privilege and not a given. Young children are better off when they are able to accept that and live within the boundaries we carefully and thoughfuly set for them. It helps them to feel safer.

Think of setting the right boundaries as building a beautiful picket fence around the yard that clearly show where it's safe to play.

In early childhood education they say that one should have few rules but they should be powerful and concise. Limits are different and can change by age or situation.

After many, many years in the field I came up with this idea for my actual rules. It works because it short, to the point, and covers almost everything a toddler could think of. Plus it ryhmes and you can sing it!

Feel free to copy my poster or make your own with your own rules.

Want to know exactly what to do and say when a child's anger gets physical?

Or they won't stop whining?

Click on the Magic Words ebook cover to get your free copy now!

Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY!  She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.

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