It’s a good thing she is cute because sometimes two really IS terrible.
“I not listening!” Oh yes. That’s what she told me tonight as she climbed back down the stairs after I told her it was bed-time.
As though it was a joke.
She had been testing me all night, and this was the icing on the cake. Wordlessly, I scooped her up — over-tired and thrashing her chubby hands and legs — and got her ready for bed … sans story. Oh yes, I went there. I kissed her and tucked her in, turned off the light and walked out.
I try not to let her belligerence (read as: testing-her-mama’s-patience-out) bother me … but it totally does. It makes me feel like a failure of a parent … especially because she was so good for the first 22 months or so! And I’ve noticed (to no surprise of anyone’s, I’m sure) that when I do react, she gets more obstinate. It’s like she knows she is playing me; she’s smarter than I am in that moment and can outwit me.
I know, I know … all you veteran parents probably are rolling your eyes — either remembering this stage or thinking I’m going about this parenting business all wrong … and all of you without kids might be passing judgment, too. Go ahead … I know I judged parents before I was one myself. Because it’s so easy to do. You think you’ll do it one way, but then reality sets in and you realize you’re not only raising another human being — but shaping someone who has opinions of his/her own. Who wants to test limits. Push boundaries. See how many buttons can be pressed in one meal.
I learned that lesson the moment I became a mom. All judgment is withheld to a corner in my brain. OK, I lie. All judgment is reserved for sharing with Luis, my mom, and my best girlfriends. 😉
But in all seriousness, the further along I am on this journey, the more I see that parenthood is akin to walking a puppy. The puppy is on your “leash” but will try to guide you in every direction … except where you want them to go (think nap, bed time, leave the park, eat a meal). He’ll pull and dart out when he sees a bird. He’ll stop to sniff every.kernel.of.popcorn.left.on.the.sidewalk. But in the end, as the dog’s owner (read as: kid’s parent) you do have more control than you think and can rein him in. It’s your job to guide the puppy … not the other way around.
What I’m finding to be tricky is that — while I do lead her most of the time — sometimes I feel like I’m in that reverse situation where she has me on a leash … and that’s not OK. This “bossy” stage she’s in right now is one of self-expression is actually good for her, developmentally. While I don’t love when she tells me not to brush her hair, I do like when she asks Rocco to “You come shopping with me” — it’s cute. Harmless. [And, yes, like a fool, Rocco follows ;)]
But I don’t want her to think it’s OK to tell me “NO” (even if it’s “NO THANK YOU”) because she doesn’t want to oblige with something I am asking … to the point where she is taking advantage of me.
I’m no expert, but two things that have worked for stubborn times like that have been 1) offering a realistic incentive of sorts and 2) explaining ‘what’s next.’
Exhibit A: Offering an incentive to listen to Mommy
“If you put on your socks and shoes like a big girl, then we can play outside.”
This seems to work because we both get what we want. I don’t want a fight about getting ready and she doesn’t want to stay indoors. So the win-win solution is, instead of telling me “NO!” … she puts on her socks and shoes and we all go outside.
Exhibit B: Explaining what’s Next
“After we go to Sam’s Club and Target, then we will go to the park.”
This seems to work because kids like knowing what’s coming next. While she might not be thrilled about the errands, knowing the park is on the other side might be incentive enough to behave. *Might* being the operative word 😉
Of course, there is no right or wrong … just what works for you. And I am definitely curious to hear what other parents did/do to curb their toddlers’ stubbornness/belligerence.
Above all, I don’t want to raise a spoiled brat who gets her way all the time. The trick is how to balance her own independence with realistic, age-appropriate expectations … while still making her feel loved and adored (as she very much is!).
How about you? What are some of your best tips for the Terrible Twos? Or did you just ride it out, recognizing it’s a phase?