How do I know if I have a defiant toddler?
Find out if you have a defiant toddler in your hands by reading this article, and get tips on how to deal if you do.
Do you really have a defiant toddler?
About the time your baby has their first birthday, they are discovering the world of choices.
They can choose to eat oatmeal… or not.
They can choose to come to you when you hold out your arms… or not.
They can choose to share their toys… or not.
You get the picture.
Now, with this newfound ability to choose, it is completely normal for your little one to turn and go the opposite direction when you call for them, or ignore you, or do exactly what you’ve just told them not to do, or reject going to someone like Grandma or Grandpa when they come to visit.
These are not necessarily acts of defiance (not yet, anyway), but rather the act of making choices — something they’re just discovering they can do. Thus, you need to know how to respond to your child.
How to respond
When your still-learning-to-be-independent child starts saying ‘no,’ you shouldn’t take it too personally or seriously. Don’t dwell on your child’s ‘no’ but instead explore the possible reasons behind it:
- If you tell your toddler to quit playing with her food and she ignores you, assume that she is done eating and take the food out of her reach. Hopefully, she’ll behave better during meals next time.
- If your toddler tells you ‘no’ when you instruct him to put something down or not pick something up, remove the item from his hands, put it back in place, repeat your instructions and move on.
- If your toddler insists on doing something that you know she shouldn’t be doing, remain calm. In cases such as this, you need to remove your child from the situation by either distracting them with something they can have or by holding them on your lap or in your arms.
- Give your child as few opportunities to say ‘no’ as possible. Instead of saying ‘do this or that’, begin with phrases such as ‘please’, ‘I need you to…’ or ‘can you show me how big you are by…’
- Don’t make a big deal out of things such as resisting hugs and kisses — especially if these are coming from someone they don’t see often.
When it really matters: When your defiant toddler puts himself in danger
There are times when toddlers will want to ‘do it myself’ — not realizing the dangers that lie ahead if they are allowed to proceed. Parking lots, shopping malls and other public places can be dangerous for a little one, so it’s best to be cautious.
When your toddler says ‘no’ and pulls away from you as you hold his hand, it is important that you use a firm hand (literally and figuratively) to keep him safe. If necessary, take him into your arms and carry him off to a safer place.
Tantrums and continued defiance
If your child continues to be defiant once they have grown and matured to the point of knowing what is and is not acceptable, further steps need to be taken. This is probably when you can truly say that you’re dealing with a defiant toddler.
Still, before you decide how to discipline him, you need to discern the reason behind his behaviour.
- Is your child not feeling well? A sick child may act out when he isn’t feeling 100% OK.
- Is your child afraid of something? Repeatedly defying you when it’s time to go to daycare, take a bath, go to bed or other such things may be an indication that they are afraid of something. Try to pinpoint when these episodes occur and take it from there.
- Is your child eating right? A child whose diet consists of junk food, sugary snacks or mainly carbohydrates will have blood sugar levels that are all over the place. Research has shown that food can affect one’s mood, so it’s no wonder you have a toddler who is irritable and uncooperative.
- Is your child bored or tired? Again, these things affect our mood and how we respond to situations.
Use ‘no’ when necessary but not too much
Finally, don’t overuse the word ‘no.’
Babies and children learn by repetition and they mimic our behavior. This means if all they ever hear from you is ‘no’, it will seem only natural to them to return the favor, so to speak.
Alternatively, replace ‘no’ with more positive-sounding statements.
For example, instead of saying, “No, you can’t have any more candy,” try saying, “We’ll save the rest of the candy for another day.” This sounds so much nicer, and gives your child something to look forward to.
The word ‘no’ may not be something you like hearing a lot of now, but it is definitely a word you don’t want your kids to forget, especially as they get older and are faced with peer pressure.
So remember, deal with your defiant toddler in a gentle, firm and positive manner, and pretty soon you may not have anything to argue about.
Do you think you have a defiant toddler? Why (or why not)? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below!