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Hurricane Behavior in Toddler

Question

Our almost three year old daughter can be very defiant and disrespectful. When she wants something, she wants it right away. She will ask repeatedly for something even when we tell her no. She is always trying to grab things away from her one year old brother or knock him over. She is always telling us what to do. It seems as though she is always ahead of me and in the moment I don’t know what to do other than tell her no. It feels like there are a lot of problems with her behavior but I don’t know where to start, please help!

Answer

Take a BIG deep breath!

I am sure you realize right now your toddler will push with all of her might and it can seem like a hurricane whirling around you. Rest easy, this to shall pass. Let’s get you set up so that you can handle this season, cause you can!

First thing, you are in the transitional year of parenting. You are going from the season of ‘Servant’ to ‘ Leadership and Authority’. Understand kids at this age don’t want entitlements to end. Also, they don’t know what is in their best interest. They only know what they ‘want’ and will do whatever to get what they ‘want’. Your goal is to be decisive, direct and purposeful with parenting your daughter through this season.

A few tips:
• Behaviors typically associated with this transition do not warrant overreaction.
• Remember a loving yet firm approach to discipline.
• You must discipline yourself in order to be effective at disciplining your child. Any parental behavior that is driven by fear or frustration lacks discipline.

Regarding discipline set limits that contain your daughter’s behavior but that does not interfere with her growth of mastery. Help her develop the ability to delay gratification and tolerate frustration. Convince her that you control her world and are thus capable of providing for and protecting her under any and all circumstances. To convince a two-year-old of this, you must first demonstrate that you are in charge of her, which you must first be in control of yourself.

It is important that you use effective communication by using concrete words, being concise, and commanding.

Lastly, consistency – unless you are consistent with her discipline, your daughter cannot predict consequences. You have to be consistent with what you will accept as acceptable behavior or not. You cannot allow her to do something one day and then discipline her for the exact same thing the next day. This will cause your daughter to continue to ‘test’ you; to pin you down on exactly what behavior is acceptable or not. Remember the discipline does not have to be the same every time for the same behavior. The discipline you do just needs to be something that says, “I won’t allow you to behave like that.” She needs to get the idea that when she does something you do not accept, you are going to do something that she won’t like. Which in turn your daughter will learn to exercise more control over herself.

Now that we have an understanding of what is going on, goals, and your role, let’s talk about action. Above you mentioned a bunch of behaviors that you want corrected. Let’s tackle them one at a time, literally. Choose the easiest one. When you solve that problem it puts you in a good position to solve another and so forth. Draw a picture of the problem, post it to the fridge and tell your daughter what it means. Get a timer, when the target misbehavior occurs, identify the behavior (“That’s grabbing from brother” or “Being defiant” etc.) and say, “That’s your picture and means you have to spend ten minutes in your room.” Now do as you said, take your daughter to her room, set the timer and walk away. When the timer goes off, she can come out of her room.

You got this!

I will also recommend John Rosemond’s book: Making the “Terrible” Twos Terrific!
It has a lot of helpful information with this important transitional parenting season.

Amy Timberlake
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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