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Parenting Toddlers

4 Steps to Handling Your Confrontational Toddler

I’m the adult here. I’m the one with the brain capacity to regulate my emotions. So, how do I end up in power struggles with a pint-sized dictator?

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I saw the writing on the wall with an infant who had a special gleam in her eye. That infant is now a sassy toddler, and Hallie is the confrontational type. Not how you would think, though. Yes, Hallie will smack a kid sometimes and push here and there, but 90% of the time she’s a sweetheart. No, I’m talking about her confrontations with me, and how ridiculous it feels to argue with a two year old.

Hallie loves the challenge. Hallie begs for the fight and wants me riled up. Why? She thinks it’s hilarious. In her little mind, she has gained control, and in a way, she’s not wrong. I’m the adult here. I’m the one with the brain capacity to regulate my emotions. So, how do I end up in power struggles with a pint-sized dictator? It’s so hard, honestly. We want our kids to listen to us. We want to be seen as reasonable people, and what we are asking of our children isn’t insane! Your child shouldn’t be licking that grocery cart and cleaning up a few blocks has never killed anyone.

So, how do you wrangle with a toddler that wants the fight? These 4 steps will help you keep your cool in moments when you feel like you’re going to win the battle but lose the war.

  1. Deep. Breaths.

A single pause will do you a million favors. Even if you’re in the middle of the grocery store aisle with a child screaming at the top of their lungs, a deep breath will give you the second you need to compose yourself. You are not crazy. Your child is not a demon. You are not alone. You have time for one deep breath.

  1. Evaluate the Situation.

What are your options here? Don’t move yet, just consider. If you’re somewhere public, you need to find a private corner or step outside. If you’re at home, it’s easy enough to step away to some sort of neutral territory where you and your toddler can have a conversation. Will they walk with you, or will you have to haul them out kicking and screaming? Do you have more than one child to deal with? Simply put, you need a plan.

  1. Go Neutral.

Once you have a plan, you need to put it into action, but calmly. If you have a toddler that’s anything like mine, they want your anger. That’s their goal here, is to really piss you off. So get neutral with both your tone and your facial expressions. Do not react. No sudden movements. Expect your toddler to escalate to gain a response, but don’t give in. You’re a steel trap. You got this.

  1. No Bluffing.

The problem with a lot of our responses is that they are emotionally charged, just like our toddler. It’s not helpful. Your neutral tone will actually help you keep calm as well and think rationally. You can let your toddler know that a conversation can start as soon as they’re done screaming or hitting or whatever. You also want to connect the consequence to the action. It has to make sense on a toddler level. And if you’ve threatened something (like going home) you better intend to follow through. They can sense weakness, and confrontational toddlers will call your bluff.

Confrontational toddlers are so draining. They make you feel like you’re the worst parent ever, but you’re not. This is one of those things that you have to reign in now and establish good boundaries, but you’ll also be thankful for the little spitfire later. It might take 5 times of leaving the grocery store for the lesson to be learned, but they will learn eventually. And if they don’t get a fight out of it, the confrontation won’t be fun anymore. Soon enough they’ll find a different target and you’ll have to deal with that challenge, but not today. This is between you and your toddler. Sometimes we do lose the fight to our toddlers, but with these steps you can win the war.

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