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Do You Let Your Toddler Boss You Around? Why It's Not an Expression of Love
  • Each phase of childhood brings with it its own set of surprises. An infant will grow in length and weight in ways you would not imagine within his first year of life. During toddlerhood, as your child discovers that he can do many things on his own, such as walk, speak one-syllable words (why did the word "No" have to be so short?), and get things for himself with his hands, he will begin to assert his independence. He will also exhibit an attitude of defiance at times, and he wants to resist or oppose you.  

    Clinical child psychologist Mark Goldstein says that a toddler's refusal to cooperate is "a necessary part of learning to separate from parents. It's a good thing."

    But what if the "No" is followed by an order, such as, "No, I want to eat my snack" right before mealtime, or "No, give me my toy back!" Now that's not just an assertion of independence — that's your kid bossing you around.

    The first few instances you hear your child being so firm on what she wants may actually make you feel proud — a feisty 2-year-old acting like an adult can be adorably funny — but if you see it happen often enough, the novelty will soon wear off.

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    Why our kids boss us around

    As parents, we all want our kids to feel loved and attended to, and it's easy to think that letting them order us around is an expression of love. We may think that by not opposing them and allowing them to have their way, we make them feel special. Well, the opposite is true.


    Writes Elaine Rose Glickman in Parents, "While she may appear to be having an awesome time running the show...she's actually freaking out. Rather than learning that she can depend on you, she is wondering if anyone is ever going to step up and take control." 

    How to let your child know who's the boss at home

    1. Repeat to yourself: "I'm in charge."

    It is natural for toddlers to test and challenge authority just to see how far they could go, so it's up to the parent to set a cap. "Toddlers need limits, and they look to us to be the authority and let them know when to stop," writes child psychologist Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D. in his book How Toddlers Thrive

    "Some are afraid of having their children get upset with them, and they do anything to try to keep it from happening. But children cannot learn to handle being upset if they are not allowed even to get upset. By allowing your child her anger, she will learn (over time) to handle this emotion," he adds in an article on Huffpost.com.

    2. Be firm. 

    When replying to an order from your toddler, use the listen-evaluate-respond template, says Glickman. Say, your toddler insists on sitting on the chair you are using when there are other vacant chairs in the room (just one of the many reasons living with a toddler can be crazy), you can reply by saying: "I hear that you want to sit in the chair, but I'm sitting here. You can sit on my lap or on the couch." It gives your child the assurance that she's been heard and that you value her interest, but reason has to prevail.

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    3. Be consistent.

    Don't even think about setting a rule or limit if you don't believe you can enforce it consistently. According to Dr. Victoria Ang-Nolasco, a developmental pediatrician at Cardinal Santos Medical Center, “It won't help your child if sometimes you allow it and sometimes you don't, or sometimes, the rules change depending on who is the caregiver." This creates confusion, and "What may end up happening is that the child [will] throw a tantrum to get what he wants,” she explains.  

    This is not to say that your bossy child will magically change overnight if you follow these tips — expect him to try to wrestle you in different ways — but rest in the knowledge that by sticking to your guns, you are doing your job as a parent. In the long run, it will all be for his benefit. 

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