You’re Not the Boss of Me
Part 1: Toddlers

I remember my daughter with arms crossed. I might have asked a simple question or made a simple request. It truly did not matter. And, mostly, I could have stepped back from my need to teach or manage or control. Mostly. The toddler has a task which is of greater importance than meeting my need: recognizing she/he is an independent person who can make decisions, while still not recognizing the parent might actually know best…. experience does pay off. Once the toddler has felt secure and cared for by the key parental figures, the child must learn that the world extends beyond that safe place within the arms and reach of a parent. Tis bigger… and hopefully becomes better but not without those fearful responses of tears or tantrums. The toddler is scared and needs to find safety within him/ herself. They cling to magical thinking and those security bunnies or thumbs. The big world is scary and the child is little and with so few suitable responses.

Okay, there are theories: I read them, learned them, quote them. There are books: I have read them, reviewed them, recommended them.  But when that usually-darling little giggly person before you in the grocery store or the living room has boldly announced, “You are not the boss of me,” the smile and the logic are gone. Not there.

Stay calm and accept the challenge that little critter is facing. Be clear in your need and directive. Wait it out a bit (while counting in your head.) Your child wants to please and wants to have some input. And, tis a phase… honest!

But, there is the big stuff:
Jeremy is in a fit of anger, grabs the ball, and throws a hard punch to the chest of his little sister, who falls to the ground in sobs. Some things are not to be tolerated. No exceptions. This would include injuring another person, pet, or property, or risking injury to oneself.

What is the cause, the immediate response, and the lesson to be learned? And then how to do that at the toddler’s level?

“I want it, I need it, and you are standing in my way.” The toddler is not particularly good at (nor interested in) negotiation. And action comes faster than words. And concern for the other…. maybe. Sometimes. Perhaps.

Step back and collect your own response. What was your child trying to say and express? Words and concepts are limited. Be clear, be consistent.

A time out for both of you helps. A good rule is “no more minutes than age (and that is not your age!).” The child has to learn to explore the world, develop language, and develop control. Big tasks.