If you find yourself with a toddler who is outspoken, demanding and opinionated – you are probably trying to parent a strong-willed toddler. While this may not be the easiest job in the world, it is not only possible but having a strong-willed toddler is a blessing.
Firstly, most toddlers are defiant. It’s pretty normal. It is their way of exploring their boundaries and the world around them. If you have a toddler that is showing signs of stubbornness, it’s likely that they will grow up to be adults that know their own minds and can set their own boundaries – great, right? Let’s get you there first!
Give them choices
The one thing that will set a stubborn toddler to dig their heels in is when they are completely controlled. Yes, as their parent, it is your job to tell your child what to do at such a young age. But you know what you can also do? Give them choices. Perhaps eating vegetables is the war in your house. Instead of forcing your child to eat broccoli, give them the choice between broccoli or butternut.
Let them learn by doing
As long as their health and well-being are not at risk, let your strong-willed toddler learn by doing. This allows them to explore their world and learn from experience instead of things being told to them. The next time they demand to bite into a lemon, hand it on over.
Set rules for strong-willed toddlers
Yup, strong-willed children are also in need of set rules and boundaries. The vital thing is to lay out all the rules from the start and stick to them no matter what. This gives your toddler a strong framework to work within and knowing the rules upfront will make it feel like you are ‘bossing’ them around at every point.
Dial down the punishment
Trying to punish a strong-willed child almost never works. No matter what you do, they will not give in. Sound familiar? That doesn’t mean your toddler mustn’t experience consequences, just that you may have to tailor the experience for them. The best way to do this is through using your words and trying to understand them. Saying something like, “that lemon wasn’t nice, was it – that’s why I said it wasn’t a good idea to eat it”. Meeting your stubborn toddler halfway by using empathy will help immensely.
Often, strong-willed children will mirror the emotions that you are showing. If you are angry, so they will be too. If you are kind and understanding, you will find they mimic those emotions from you. Next time you are at your wits-end, take a breath and try to approach your child with kindness and see how they respond to you.
Toptots Early Learning SA