Many an article encouraged me to offer Miss E choices to help her feel like she has some control, and to attempt to avoid the inevitable power struggles. Easy, right?
“Would you like applesauce or raisins for a snack?”
“You may have applesauce or raisins. Those are your choices. Which one would you like?”
At some point during this exchange, one of us will break down in tears and roll around on the floor. It isn’t always her.
Among my favorite advice to parents of toddlers is telling your child what they can do, rather than what they can’t. It made a lot of sense to me. Unfortunately, it does not make sense to my toddler.
“You may use your spoon to eat your yogurt.”
“I use my hand.”
“You may use your spoon to eat your yogurt, not your hand.”
She seems to consider this for a moment, then holds up one finger.
“Just one finger?”
I’m beginning to think that “just” is her favorite word, rather than the more popular “no.” She will splash “just a little bit” in the tub after being asked not do so. The same goes for shaking a toy in her sister’s face, or coloring on something besides the paper I’ve placed in front of her. She will also have “just one more” cookie, please and thank you.
Toddlers are smart, and Miss E has got my number. It’s not enough to know where the boundaries are, or even just to push them. She wants to haggle. She will not be manipulated by my attempts at developmentally appropriate direction and logical consequences. The only success I’ve had following some gentle parenting methods has been to establish a time and place for when she can engage in behaviors I don’t want to deal with all of the time, like screaming. We save all of our screams for outside, which sometimes means I have to remove her from the dinner table and hold her on one hip on the porch, shivering, while she shrieks until she’s hoarse. It doesn’t work all of the time, though, and I worry for when the novelty of screaming outside wears off.
But what else can you do, really? Parenting a toddler is like negotiating with a terrorist. We do what we must to survive until bedtime. Today, juice boxes and unlimited streaming of Peg + Cat. Tomorrow, the world.