🤱"Why Won't My Toddler Just Listen??"

(5 Minutes) A perspective shift from defiance to healthy individuation

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So here’s the scenario…I was trying to leave the house with my two kids (aged 3 and 6), and I was met with gasp toddler defiance!! When I assertively stated that it was time to put their shoes and coat on, all I heard was “NOOOO!” as my son ran away and continued racing his truck. I had already given them a warning that they would need to end their activity five minutes prior and let them know what the plan was for the morning. But still...they resist. 

I felt my body begin to tense, my chest growing tight, anger rising, as I began to feel my sense of control in the situation slipping through my fingertips. And if you’re a parent, you know this is not a place you want to be! But, I was able to pause and get curious about this anger, realizing that it wasn’t anything about my children’s actual behavior but something deeper being triggered within me. Something that felt intensely threatening, in this case, the loss of power, which is a HUGE trigger point for me!

rage GIF

Gif by lifetimetelly on Giphy

Have you ever felt this anger bubbling up when your kids don’t listen, or worse ignore you? Possibly exposing anger that you never even knew you had? That has you thinking, “But wait…I’m normally peaceful and calm, I swear!”

Even though going into parenthood I knew that I would be adopting a gentle, authoritative parenting approach (much different from what I was raised with), what I didn’t realize was the amount of inner work I’d have to do to move past these internalized belief systems. Until I learned a few strategies that really changed things for me. But before we continue this conversation, go support the sponsor we love today, here’s a quick ad for them.

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I started to notice certain thoughts pinging through my mind in times like these, “Why don’t my kids ever just LISTEN?” or “Kids are supposed to do what their parents tell them to!” And if I looked even deeper…there were feelings of insecurity and fear underneath these proclamations of injustice; “What kind of parent am I if I can’t even get my kid to put their shoes on?” or “If I can’t get my child to listen to me now, I’ll never be able to get them to listen.” 

Beneath our anger/frustration/irritability is typically fear. So here’s something that I’ve come to know; a toddler’s behavior is NOT manipulative, it is an attempt to individuate. At this particular age (about 2-4), they are learning who they are, what their preferences are, and how to assert this out into the world around them. Many times, what we see as their “counter will” is actually a defense mechanism for their budding internal will, meant to thwart any and all directives that do not originate from within themselves (cue image of a tiny ninja fighting off an army of attackers) 🥷. In other words, if it's not their idea they won’t want to do it! 

A primary strategy I use is to adopt a playful approach. If I can stop expecting that my child “should” listen to everything I say, I can approach them differently and meet them where they’re at. Such as by incorporating my request into a game/imaginative play, like asking them what animal they’d like to be while we get our shoes on. And if you join in the fun, let them suggest what animal you should be to. Well, game over, you may have just won the morning!

*Please give a gentle round of applause too…*

This is Parenting

By: Leslie Hannans

This is Parenting: Demystifying parenthood is a fresh, new take on an old tradition, Parenting! For centuries, parents have engaged in a long tradition of parenting, based on how we learned. But, have we questioned our parenting techniques? Have we thought critically about what our actions can do to harm our children? This is exactly what This Is Parenting explores. We will dive into behavior modification, origins of modern parenting, skill acquisition, and more!

But here’s the key, it is a GOOD and developmentally appropriate thing for your toddler to say NO to you. For them to resist and persist in having things contrary to what you decide. The reason they do this is not because they are “strong-willed” or “defiant;” it is because their will is fragile and needs to be nurtured. For me, it is so helpful to remember that this is a stage, and it will pass. It acts as a reminder that I am not failing as a parent because my child has a tantrum or doesn’t follow my directives. My anger cools when my system realizes that my parenting is not in fact under fire. I can take a breath, relax my own defense mechanisms, and choose another approach. 

This perspective shift is what allows us to be receptive to trying other suggestions or approaches. When we’re feeling triggered our ego will yell, “But I shouldn’t HAVE to try so hard to get them to listen!!” But now, you’ve upped your game and you know that’s not true! Just another false parenting narrative rearing its head. 

It’s all in the approach and having age-appropriate expectations. It’s not necessarily about modifying our requests or bending on non-negotiables, but about how can I work with my child. How can I protect and nurture my child’s budding will rather than break it (or get run over by it!)? It’s a balance, but one that comes much more naturally with practice. 

If you’re feeling the inkling inside that there’s a better way, one where you can feel confident and grounded and where your child can feel safe, supported, and respected - I’m here for you! This parenting journey is challenging, but we are all deserving of support if we desire it. Click the link below to learn how we can work together further. I’d love to support you!

*P.S. Mention Gentle Parenting for a special discount! 🙂 

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