Who’s In Charge Here: Taming Your Toddler By Ceding More Control
By CALVALYN G. DAY
Let’s say she has a mind of her own, specifically when it comes to her wardrobe. Other things too, but definitely her clothes. I am already dreading her life in school uniforms, but that is for another day, and another post.
There was a time when I probably wouldn’t have allowed such costumes to leave the house. A time when I would have forced her to change into something a little more standard, you know something that matched. After all, I’m in charge here. I say what is and isn’t acceptable wardrobe, right?
But alas those days are gone. As the youngest of four girls, my Leila has the great pleasure of reaping the rewards from years of child rearing. I have learned what is and isn’t worth fighting over. Clearly, I won’t be letting Leila run out in the snow in a swimsuit, but I have discovered the number one way to avoid power struggles with kids.
Give your kids power to make good choices. Every chance you get.
Amy McCreedy over at PositiveParentingSolutions.com describes it as giving kids positive power and control throughout the day. She lists it as the number one way to tame temper tantrums. The truth is as much as we think kids are controlling our lives, they often feel the exact same way. Things like bedtime routines and organized snack time, which are completely necessary, sometimes leave kids feeling like they never get to be heard. Finding simple ways of letting kids assert some control will allow them to feel good about their choices, and not look for ways of having more power. (I’ll spare you the picture of a screaming toddler, but you know the visual I’m going for here)
I hear parents all the time say things like, “You have to let kids know who’s in charge,” or “If you don’t let them know who’s the boss, they’ll run all over you.” Ok, maybe I heard myself say that.
I agree, kids need to respect their parents authority, but kids who feel more confident in the small decisions that they make will be less likely to act out and make bigger mistakes as time goes by. Kids who work through their own choices, with a parent’s guidance are more likely to make better choices in the future.
I know it can be challenging but here are three choices your kids can safely make most days, and tips for implementing in your life today.
- Wardrobe: Remember my Leila the next time your little princess wants to wear her tiara to church. You may get a few strange looks, but who are you hurting? Want to start a little smaller, even the youngest toddler can choose between a red shirt and a blue. Worried about time? Pick out clothes the night before. Then you might even have an excited child getting dressed in the morning. Follow up with a compliment about the choice, and suddenly you have the trifecta of parenting delight!
- Food: I know this one is loaded, but hear me out. No, I don’t expect you to fix chicken nuggets every night, but think kids menu at IHOP, not the entire grocery freezer section. If you are a meal planner, let the kids pick from the cookbook, once or twice. If you’re standing in front of the fridge feeling uninspired, pull one of the kids in and let them help you with the choice. I’m seeing at least a few extra bites of dinner down the hatch, when the kids see their choice on the table.
- Activities: The nice thing about modern day America, is there is no shortage of expos, events, or activities to choose from on a daily basis. Often we push kids into the things that we think they should do, but what about giving them the choice? I’m willing to bet if there were more choices given in advance, there would be less t-ballers refusing to bat on Saturday morning, and a few less frustrated parents to boot.
Kids need to feel not only the power to make choices, but pride from successful ones and the experience gained from the less than stellar. Ultimately, you have enough things to think about in your day, leave the simple ones to the kids.
Calvalyn G. Day draws on personal experience as a counselor, wife and mother of four daughters. She works as a parenting coach, with The Well Counseling and Consulting Group, to help caregivers give their best. Check out more of her work at www.IndyParentCoach.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @IndyParentCoach.