3 times your toddler isn’t actually out to get you (despite how it might feel)

Posted in Learning and Development.

It’s true, toddlers can’t keep their hands to themselves, they hate to sit still and will struggle to keep quiet at the best of times – but they aren’t out to get you!

Underground toddler army

There will be days when your little one pushes all of your buttons, but toddler expert Anthony Semann assures us, it’s not personal.

“I truly don’t think there’s this underground army of toddlers,” Anthony said at Babyology’s recent parenting workshop,  Tackling The Toddler Years. “There’s like a social network of toddlers going, ‘How do we piss off the adults this week?’”

Here’s what’s really going on with your toddler when life feels a bit like a battlefield:

1. There’s a good reason why toddlers like stories read over and over

Like listening to a song on repeat, reading the same story again and again can do your head in – but don’t even think about changing the words or skipping pages. Your toddler will be onto you faster than (insert something really fast).

“Children know when we’re not really listening to them, just like they know when you skip pages while reading their favourite picture book,” says Anthony. “They punish you and they go ‘read it again’. And you’re thinking, ‘I thought I could get away with it.’”

Repetition, aka, reading Pig the Pug 158 times a day is just one of the ways your child learns, strengthening neural connections in his growing brain. It also helps him to focus on different elements of the story with every telling.

Read more about toddler behaviour:

2. Saying no to everything is actually a good thing (bear with us)

Sure it’s annoying, but like everything else, toddlers need to learn how to use the word ‘no’. And controversially, Anthony says toddlers do actually have the right to say no to you.

“You don’t like it, but they have a right to [say no]. And you may not like it, because it challenges who you are but one day when you’re not around and that young human is a teenager … [They might] need to exercise the word ‘no’ when they find themselves in an unfavourable situation.”

That said, just because your toddler says no, it doesn’t mean you have to say agree with him. Acknowledge that he’s discovering his autonomy, but stay strong! Shooting back, “because I said so”, is tempting, but another option is to let him know you’ve heard him and offer a choice. For example, you could ask if he wants Vegemite or peanut butter on his sandwich, instead of telling him it’s time to come inside for lunch. Explaining why can also help a toddler understand why your seemingly ridiculous request is important. 

toddler obsession

3. Repeating yourself is all part of the process

“I’ve told you once!” How many times have you uttered these words in frustration after having to repeat yourself to your toddler?

To this, Anthony asks: “Can I just ask, has anybody ever only sped once, parked illegally only once. Maybe ate a little bit too much [once.] Only ever once in your life, totally exercise self-regulation, like walked past the chocolate and went, ‘No, I’m stronger’ and just kept walking.” And he has a point. 

As parents, we expect toddlers to hear something once and master the task. The reality is, they will need to be asked to do things many times over, especially boys. As Maggie Dent points out in her new book, Mothering Our Boys, boys generally hear less and get information overload quickly, especially when given long directions and explanations.

Push the button

So next time you feel like your toddler is testing your patience, he probably is – but it’s a totally normal part of his development. Instead of focusing on the negative, Anthony says, “As parents working with toddlers, you don’t need to focus on what’s wrong, just focus on what’s going really well and what’s strong …”


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