PARENTS

Who's The Boss - You Or Your Toddler?

07/11/2014 09:22 | Updated 20 May 2015

Bossy toddlers

It occurred to me as I was negotiating breakfast time with my toddler son William this morning that he is my most demanding boss ever - and believe me, I've had some awful bosses.

I'm ashamed to say that too often William dictates my schedule and my spending, he tells me off ('naughty, messy, silly mummy' - thanks Peppa Pig) and generally thinks he's in charge. It would not occur to him that I work for anyone else but him, or even that diplomacy and meeting people half way could be a good thing.

i

These meltdowns that occur if I ever dare say no to him often get nasty (shouting, screaming, lying on the floor and refusing to budge) and I don't even have an HR department that I can report him to.

i

According to my fellow, downtrodden parent friends, this is all par for the course.

"Evie positively relishes her bossy boots status in our house," sighs my pal, Jo, while her 3ft 3inch dictator snarls from the sidelines.

"I used to be all 'hooray, she's not going to be pushed around, go girl' and now I'm just like, 'please pipe down and listen to me for a minute. I'm your mum, I do know best!'"

Getting Evelyn out of the house wearing appropriate attire each morning is normally a 30 minute battle, which leaves Jo feeling shaky and furious.

"I really don't like my daughter when she's refusing to do as she's told. If it's pouring with rain outside, she has to wear a a coat. No amount of her barking at me that she wants to wear a T shirt and shorts can make a difference. All her attitude does is get us both off to a really bad start every day."

Family therapist Katherine Loyd pleads with me - and with other toddler parents - not to despair; that there are ways of negotiating a middle ground that let's your youngster feel empowered, without handing over the reigns of sanity.

"Firstly, its good to allow William choices, but those choices are best limited in number. For example, do you want to wear your rain boots today or your trainers? You may even have a little discussion about what you are going to be doing and which shoes might be best for the activity.

"If he opts to go with the shoes you feel are less suitable you just live with it and then use it as a learning opportunity later...'How did those shoes work out for you today?'

"Again, opening up discussion - limited with three-year-olds, yes, but still possible - gives the child some autonomy and he gets to experience the consequences of his choices. This is important because he will begin to develop his own understanding of cause and effect and modify his behavior accordingly.

"Secondly, the key to relieving these frustrating power struggles is to begin to expand your three or four years old's vocabulary of feelings. We generally act out - all of us, even adults - because of what we are feeling but we seldom take the time to examine and understand that feeling.

i

Start now and you will have an amazingly self connected, self adjusting adult son 20 years from now.

i

That sounds good, but how do I do this?

"It's easy," Katherine promises. '"You, as the parent, make observations about your child's feelings. Not constantly, but often enough for him to learn about some of the different feelings he is having and that it's worth paying attention to them.

"For example, 'it looks like you're sad that daddy's gone to work now. I bet you miss him sometimes' or 'William you look so excited to be at the beach today!'

"Don't try to fix the sad, angry, mean, bossy feelings...just name them and move on! If you are wrong about an observation he will tell you. Kids won't necessarily say 'yes, that's right, mum' but they will be quick to correct you if they're not feeling that way at all."

Understanding that his bossy moments stem from normal feelings of frustration and a natural testing - or should I say, pushing - of boundaries will help me accept these difficult moments, and I'll try to work with William through them.

Well, I say that now, when he's tucked up sound asleep in bed. Let's see how I feel tomorrow morning, when the daily battle to get him to eat his breakfast without flinging Cheerios at his baby sister begins again...

More on Parentdish:

Common toddler phases

Suggest a correction