Thursday, October 17, 2013

"No!"...Parenting a young toddler

13-months (Written in June, 2013)

Recently, our sweet one-year-old picked up the word "no." She says it with attitude, and she says it often, usually right before she runs away from us. We don't use that word for reprimands in our house- we say "Nay nay" instead and save "no" and "no, thank-you" as answers to questions. However, we can't control what other people say and how they react when she says "No" to us. We are not sure exactly how she caught on to the word, but she definitely figured it out. In fact, she was a pro overnight. For the first week, we tried ignoring it, figuring that she would lose interest if she didn't get a reaction from us. Instead, she pushed her attitude more and more. I stopped wording things as questions. Instead of saying, "Is it time to change your diaper?" "Do you need a new diaper?" or "Do you want some lunch?" I tried to word things as statements that didn't give her the option to say, "No." It still didn't work flawlessly, but it was a little better. Using statements, it was clear that she was being disobedient rather than answering a question, when it was really non-negotiable. Here is a classic example:

"It's been a few hours, Chickadee. It's time for a diaper change!"
"No! No! No!" (very distinctly spoken before turning on her heel and running for the kitchen)

It had to be addressed another way. We began to confront the behavior directly. When she said "No" to us, we would take her aside, get down on her level and say very calmly and clearly, "Please don't say "no" to Mumma (or Daddy). "No" is the answer to a question. When Mumma asks you to do something, you need to obey." If she said it again, we would repeat the process, tapping her mouth with my finger gently for emphasis. I would then "help" her obey me, either by carrying her or leading her by the hand. It took nearly a week to break the worst of the "no habit". She still says it inappropriately occasionally, but she knows she is being naughty and usually she uses it appropriately as the answer to a question or as a "no, thank-you."
UPDATE: At 17-months, she is using "no" more appropriately, but she is learning more words that she can use as responses now. Sometimes she is a goof- she tickles me and then says, very seriously, "Don't touch!" when I begin to tickle her back. I am also noticing that when I ask her a question, she sometimes answers with a positive response now.

She has moved on to tantrums recently. My friends that are mothers say that we may be entering the "terrible twos" stage a little early. My daughter will sometimes react to disappointment with screams and crying, especially when she is hungry or tired. She will stomp her feet and the tears run down her sad little cheeks like nothing I have seen before. However, she has complete control over the tantrum. If she gets what she wants, or thinks she is getting what she wants, she can turn the tears and sadness off like a faucet, though she may gasp for a few moments.

To handle the tantrums, we are finding that completely ignoring them works sometimes (especially at home). Distraction also works very well. For example, if I told her that she has had enough raisins, and she wants more and throws a tantrum, I won't give in with more raisins, but I might silently get out a puzzle on the rug across the room, and pique her interest. In public, I usually say, "Crying isn't going to work, Honey. This isn't how we behave." Then, I remove her from the situation, if possible. She loves to help me do things, so I often try to include her in the tasks I am doing.

What do you suggest for handling tantrums?

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