Deliberate Disobedience: How to handle a Toddler

Disobedience – How to handle a Toddler who is showing Deliberate Disobedience?

Do you often get frustrated when your child doesn’t listen to you on purpose? This happens to most of the parents at home or at social gatherings when toddlers do not stay disciplined even after being told or reminded several times. 

The room was full of toys, all scattered. I was surprised by this as this was not the usual habit of my toddler. I asked her to put things in their respective places. This went unheard. She was still playing with some toys in a different room.

Here are some tips which commonly work and are helpful when toddlers are acting deliberately disobedient.
Some tips which commonly work and are helpful when toddlers are acting deliberately disobedient. 

“It’s time to put the toys away,” I tried again, my patience waning. “That means you have to stop and put those cars back in the box.”

I raised my tone of voice a little with a hope that it would lend some weight to it’s importance, but instead she stayed rooted in her place, playing with the cars. Not only that, a smile spread through her face, as if the whole thing was part of a big joke.

How to discipline your child at different ages?

Even for the most patient mom, dealing with a toddler who is not listening to what is being asked to him to do is challenging. This is the point when you get the kind of anger, which you never knew you possess. And this is the time when you want to do anything to make your child listen to you. Things get hotter in your brain when no matter how angry you get or the threats you make, nothing seems to get him to cooperate.

Then a realization strikes and you feel terrible about how petty the initial “argument” had been: talking past his bedtime, not cleaning his mess after reminders, not coming to room when you asked him to. 

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler? Disciplining a toddler who doesn’t listen

When after nagging, repeating and losing your temper, you are still not able to discipline your child. You need to change something in the approach.

Most people punish their children at this point, to control their behaviour or follow a time out method as an alternative.

There are some other ways that can be adapted to discipline your child, which will change both your and your toddler’s behaviour.I then learned an important lesson in what discipline really means that changed my whole outlook and my toddler’s behavior.

Discipline is actually something different from punishments and time outs. Discipline is teaching. We’re teaching children how to behave and helping them understand and express their emotions.

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

― Plato

Here are some tips which commonly work and are helpful when toddlers are acting deliberately disobedient. 

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

1. Make an eye contact: you need to get down to your toddler’s level 

It is always good to look at the situation from your toddler’s point of view, and I mean it literally. The simplest way to better communicate with children is to get down to their eye level when we speak to them. Three benefits of doing this are:

  • Chances of your being taken seriously increases.  Children of this age take everything as a part of play or fun. Your getting down to his level will most likely convey to your child that you’re trying to be serious with your child. Get down to his level so you’re making eye contact and phrase your instructions in a calm but firm tone.
  • You’re being more respectful. When we’re speaking to them from high above children feel “talked down to”. Kneeling to your toddler’s level forces you to speak and address his needs more respectfully.
  • You avoid power struggles. Eye to eye contact makes your toddler feel heard. He gets less defensive and more likely to oblige. Try this and you’ll see his body relax as he becomes more willing to comply.

Point to remember: Kneeling down to your child’s level will help him take you seriously and feel respected.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

2. Find out about his side of the story,find your toddler’s intentions for such behavior. 

Defiance seems to be everywhere. And it surfaces when your child refuses to come to the table to eat. Or when he refuses to stop jumping in the sand pit  (especially after you’ve asked him not to do many times before).

Kids usually don’t misbehave to make us angry. Find your toddler’s intentions and you might see your child was trying to arrange a puzzle right when you asked him to come to the table to eat. Jumping on the sandpit was not to show rebellion, but it was the excitement which he was unaware or unable to contain.

Point to remember: Pause before reacting to your child’s behavior. Be curious to know about why he’s behaving the way he is. Doing so will make him feel that you are on his side and you are ready to listen to his view. 

Always try to acknowledge and show empathy with how your child feels and why he’s not listening before laying out consequences.

Maybe he is feeling tired from a long day and needs your company but unaware of his feelings. Looking for the reason behind your child’s action will make him feel understood, not attacked or scolded.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

3. Keeping your word: give and follow through with consequences

“You behave properly or else [fill in the blank]?” 

Have you ever said so? And then didn’t follow through that [fill in the blank]. False threats are ineffective and rarely implemented

Consequences that tie to your toddler’s behavior are learning experiences, as  long as you follow through. Not following through the consequences establishes limits that your child needs.

Point to remember: Keeping your word strengthens the trust your toddler places on you. While you may not win short-term favor, you’re gaining your child’s trust when you follow through consistently. Otherwise, your child learns they can continue to misbehave because the consequences will never be happening. 

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

4. Wisely pick the important things to focus on. 

There are times when parents just watch their children like a hawk and point at every little thing that is not as per expectation. Spending time correcting your child is draining and that too when every interaction leads to fight. 

Sometimes we need to choose our battles wisely and decide which behavior is critical to correct, and which ones aren’t as important. 

There is no set pattern for perfect behaviour. While best behaviour is desired, allow some room for the nuances of life.

Ask and evaluate if what you’re arguing about truly matters, especially in the long run. 

Point to remember:  When you’re willing to pick your battles and keep your tone lighthearted and you stay calm instead of being bossy and mean, your toddler will be less likely to drag his misbehavior and sour mood even further.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

5. Encourage your toddler to listen by giving your toddler a choice

Offering choices can curb a potential meltdown and encourage your toddler to listen. 

Offering choices leads to self satisfaction as otherwise toddlers are always under the rule of adult decisions. This also allows him to voice his decisions. Children feel that we care for them and respect their decisions. This develops critical thinking skills. He will stay responsible for the consequences of his decisions. 

Sometimes offering choices can backfire. So put the choices wisely. Don’t always give choice, limit this option. 

Point to remember: Always stay alert to offer a choice between two parent-approved options, either of which you’d be okay with.

If you are going to market, and your child is unwilling to get ready, give choices like, “which dress you want to wear to the market?” Don’t say, “Do you want to go to the market or stay here at home?” especially if you don’t plan to have him stay.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

6. Explain why they should, what you want them to do.

children are more motivated to comply knowing why they should follow the rules, and what are the consequences when not.

Next time say  “Don’t play with the knife or you might hurt yourself.”

Point to remember: Knowing a reason takes the parent out of the equation and focuses on the task that needs to be done. Children will understand the reason for your concern.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

7. Praise your toddler when he follows the rules 

Point out and praise the good behaviour done by the child. Children thrive on attention. Attention could be of any nature good or bad. 

Love, praise, cuddling, playing or working on an activity are good attention, arguments, yelling, and scolding are types of bad attention. They take both as attention.

Parents are expected to judge the nature of the attention. 

The best way to counter misbehavior is to praise your toddler and give him attention when he is behaving.

Point to remember:  Basically kids want to please their parents. They want our approval and are crushed when we’re disappointed or angry with them. Use that to your advantage and praise your toddler when he behaves well.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

8. Have some weight in you instruction

There are times when parents give the instruction but follow it halfway, this is when the whole effort shreds away. 

When you have asked them to come to bed, don’t let them keep playing for a long time. Your instructions could be crisp and clear. It is time for bed, let’s sleep. 

Point to remember:Avoid negotiation when you can’t.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

9. Use positive language

Use positive language when you speak to your kids. This means phrasing your words in something your child can do, not something he can’t. 

Point to remember: Kids respond better to positive language because no one likes being told what not to do.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

10. Talking will work only after the tantrum storm is over. 

Children don’t listen when they are in a tarturm. Talking will not work. 

Allow the tantrum to subside, stay there for your child, give a hug and allow your child to settle down. 

Point to remember: Once she’s calm, only then can you talk with the expectation of being heard.

Deliberate Disobedience:How to handle a Toddler?

11. Attend them

Listen to your children. Listen to what they have to stay. Their stories might not make sense, still try not to give the empty “ hmm hmm hmmm” response.

discipline without physical punishment

Happy childhood is every child’s right.

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