Of all the the topics I discuss with my families the most popular one is toddler behavior. My message to parents of toddlers is that the number one priority of your parenting during these years is to ESTABLISH YOUR AUTHORITY. If your kids don’t listen to you by about 5-6 years old then it really becomes difficult. I have a few rules to help you do that.
1) DON’T RAISE YOUR VOICE – You are a model on how to act and if your kids see you use your tone or emotion to get your point across then that’s what they will do when they want to be taken seriously. Don’t meet emotion with emotion.
2) DON’T REPEAT YOURSELF – If you have to say it a second time, go over and deal with it. Don’t leave it up to them if they listen or not. Move them or move whatever they are getting into. Just end it.
3) DON’T GIVE REMINDERS ABOUT RULES THEY KNOW – And by 3 years old they know all the rules. And at 18 months they know most of the rules – hitting and biting, throwing food, etc. If they are looking at you with that “What are you going to do about it grin?” then they know they are not supposed to be doing it. And think about it – If I break a rule that I know and all that happens is I have to follow the rule anyway then what have I lost for testing? Nothing!
4) BOTH PARENTS SHOULD REPEAT EACH OTHER – If I hear “No” from both mom and dad then that is a battle I’m less likely to fight.
5) WATCH YOUR MIXED MESSAGES – When you say “Oh no you don’t, you little stinker!” you’re telling them this is a game and it’s fun. Even though they are cute and funny, don’t let them know that. Defiance is not funny. Keep the poker face.
6) PICK YOUR BATTLES – Don’t micromanage a toddler. When in doubt, let them do it. When they want to get the play-doh out and you’re thinking, “Oh, not the play-doh…not today.” get the play-doh out. Don’t say no to little dumb things just because it’s easier for you. The kids know that if they dig their heels then maybe sometimes mom and dad change their mind from a no to a yes. And they have a pretty good idea when you’re likely to give in. So say yes whenever you can and only say no if you have to.
7) FOR SIBLING ISSUES TRY TO LET THEM WORK IT OUT – The time to get involved is when somebody gets whacked. And I know that’s every day. So when somebody gets whacked you are both in trouble. If your sibling hit you you probably deserved it. To be successful in life kids have to learn how to get other people to do what you want them to do. You don’t want them practicing on their friends and playmates so let them practice at home. And the older the kids get the more relevant this is.
I know this sounds easy in the office and it’s hard at home, but I think it is the most important part of your parenting from 18 months to 5 years old. It’s more important than vegetables or potty training so save your mental energy for this.
I made a video on this topic if you’d like to watch that as well: https://youtu.be/ntXoBPaZh88