“My toddler is a terror”; “my toddler thinks it’s hysterical when I say no”; “my toddler refuses boundaries”; or even more commonly, “my toddler is sassy as BEEP!” I’ve literally heard it all (often times a little more candidly than I’ve paraphrased here—with a touch more explicit language).
With toddler-hood there are variables added to the mix which make discipline, or let’s call it—goal focused parenting, a little more challenging than with older kids.
You have to think about things like….
In being a bit of an...ahem...a** (and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible) your toddler is kind of hilarious—as a parent, you have to keep your reactions to minimum even though in defiance your kid is actually often outrageously funny (sometimes more in retrospect and sometimes exactly in the moment). You soon realize you can be both furious and trying to hold back laughter with every ounce of self-control you have.
You realize that though they push your buttons (on purpose…you think?) you also realize they are just on the cusp of childhood, still incredibly dependent on you and still basically a walking, talking, baby (for lack of a better term)—they are the team rookie. You realize they are often simultaneously “too smart for their own good” and yet also incredibly unaware and you’re not sure where that leaves them cognitively…can they actually understand the boundaries I am setting here?
You realize that they haven’t yet (and won’t for a while) learned the self-control needed to resist impulse; couple that with a copycat learning style and you’re left with never ending opportunities for goal focused parenting (and potential frustration)! UCH! How can you possibly get into trouble THAT quickly? You begin to notice that in their copycat attitude you can spot the good, the bad and the ugly in your own parenting (and general adult-ing)---where on Earth did she learn that?! Oh wait…
As your toddler goes from loving and giggly baby to unpredictable, mischievous and boundary testing toddler—it’s not uncommon to feel a little defeated (and a little…what the heck?!).
I remember when my daughter first started talking (back), I gave some one step instruction (can’t remember what—“put away _____” “get the ____” “give mommy your ____” ); I am sure I persisted a few times because she usually didn’t listen the first time, without missing a beat she turned to me and said “STOP!” with her hand extended like she was a crossing guard.
I remember thinking, “it’s begun”.
In the moment, I didn’t pay attention to the sass, and proceeded as I would if I was working with any of your kids (which, for the record, comes a lot easier than following through with my own kid). I ignored the rude retort (didn’t love, or want to reinforce, how she chose to express that darling opinion), acknowledged her perspective “I hear you, you want to keep playing but Mommy said ______________ so you need to _______________. “ She looked at me, paused for a second and then did what I asked.