My Toddler Never Listens To Me - Disobedience or Independence?
My Toddler Never Listens To Me?
Guess what? You are not alone! Sometimes just knowing that someone else knows exactly what you are going through, it helps!
There is nothing worse then grocery shopping with a defiant child! Trying to navigate the isles while they hang off the side of the cart. Have a mini panic attack every time you pass anything glass because you just KNOW they are going to try and touch it, or run into the whole display! Running, and I do mean Running, past the toy and candy isle is hopes that they won't catch a glimpse (it never works though kids have freaking X-ray vision I swear!).
If you make it through without giving up, and leaving cart full of food in the middle of the store, you then have to deal with checking out, and that's the worse! Trying to put your items up on the counter, juggle your purse and (usually by now screaming) child, all while trying to find your credit card in the bottomless pit of a purse you have to carry, while everyone behind you are tapping their feet impatiently!
Do not even get me started on the looks other people feel the need to give you the entire time, casting shame and guilt upon you with one single glance! Like I am unaware my child is being a Butthead! Like I don't already feel like a giant failure! Yup, a parents worse nightmare, the grocery store!
This is just one example of how a child can seriously impact your sanity when they are acting out, or being unruly. Your whole day is full of examples like this and it feels like it will never end! Guess what, it can be better!
Why Won't My Kid Listen? What Did I Do Wrong?
I spent more then a few moments behind a closed door wiping away tears of frustration, while my daughter was on the other side pounding the door with her tiny fists! "Mama, I want chocolate, chocolate Mommy .... Waaaaa .... I said Now! Mommy......?" And I am not ashamed to admit that I questioned where I had gone wrong as a parent every single time!
Was I too caring because I held her every time she cried? Everyone told me not to go to her all the time, but I couldn't stand my sweet baby holding her arms up to me crying for Mama! Should I have walked away a couple of times to show her she couldn't have everything she wanted, exactly when she wanted it?
Did I spoil her because she had enough toys for a small army of children, and clothes to last a decade? I thought it was fine since I was getting them because I thought they were cute and fun, not because she was asking for them! Should I have been more frugal and limited when it came to material things?
Did I ruin her by somehow teaching her to behave like this? I was pretty sure I had gone out of my way to model manners and kindness, but maybe I was teaching her something else entirely?
Where along the path of parenting did I go so horribly wrong to end up hiding from my three year old daughter and bawling like a blubbering fool?!
Terrible Twos, You Liars!
Okay, first of all anyone who ever utters the words "terrible twos" you are a big fat liar, and I think you know it! Yeah sure, it's fun to say and rolls of the tongue nicely, but it's a freaking lie! Stop lying!
Two was the cutest and easiest age I have even known a child to be, and if your child is bad at two, watch out Mama! Three is where it's at, but "The terrible threes" is not as catchy!
The minute she turned three her horns grew and eyes went pitch black, I think her voice went a bit deeper as well! I'm not kidding, gone was my angel baby, and in its place was something quite scary! An independent three year old! -Shudder-
Her tantrums would end in one of two ways, either I would stick my ground until she gave up, or I would give in out of sheer exhaustion! Either way I never felt like I had accomplished anything!
We would of course do the "do you know why your behavior was not acceptable" speech but it truly fell of deaf ears and I knew it! So what could I do, because I could not keep feeling this way! I wanted to enjoy my baby, not walk on egg shells worried any little thing might set her off!
Now What? Getting To The Bottom Of Things!I
At one point I had considered going to a counselor, more for support then anything else. However, I felt as though a stranger would not be able to tell me anything I didn't already know, and I could read most of it on the internet anyways!
Boy did I read! I read everything I could get my hands on that claimed to help with an disobedient toddler! Quite honestly, while many of them offered some great advice, I felt like I needed to get to the center of the problem to really fix anything! I could play the small mind games with my daughter but what was that actually accomplishing?
So I went rouge and started a journal of my own! Each time she had a tantrum I would write down as much detail about it as I could. What was happening hours prior to this, how was she behaving that day before the blowout, what it was about, what caused it, and things she was saying during her meltdowns. I was looking for anything that was a reoccurring pattern, because I was curious what was causing my normally sweet and shy daughter to freak out!
What I ended up finding changed our lives forever, and truly amazed me!
Little Miss Independent!
Looking through the chronicles of a three year old, I realized there was one thing each page had in common! Most of the power struggles started because she was trying to do something she was not supposed to do, or would not do something I had asked her to do!
Don't get me wrong, some of them were flat out not being able to take no for an answer at bedtime when she wanted a pound of chocolate, or in the store when she wanted a doll she didn't need! However, the majority of them were a clear picture of a young girl struggling to assert her authority over something in her life!
For example, I would ask her to please put on the clothes I had laid out for her. Ten minutes later she is running around naked, rolling on the floor with her feet in the air, pouting and mumbling "No". Or when we were in a hurry and I asked her to get her Minnie Mouse shoes on and she threw a historical fit until I put them on her myself, and when we got into the car she fought being buckled into her seat!
Why would such small and simple things be sending my daughter into a major head fit?
What is making my child act out?
She Wants Independence!
In each one of these instances I tried to remember what she was saying. To really pay attention to her when she was saying no, and how she was saying it. Surprisingly, each of the moments I mentioned above were laced with a quiet frustration and need for independence.
In my frustration, I was ignoring the most obvious issue, she was not getting one of HER needs met because I was too worried about her meeting MY needs! She was not being defiant, she was trying to be independent!
When I had asked her to get dressed, she was not saying "No way looser Mom"! She was saying, I don't want to wear this shirt because I would really like to wear my purple Dora shirt. I was not listening to her and that caused her anger that she did not know how to express or deal with, so she dropped to the floor and refused to move!
When I told her to get her shoes, I made the mistake of saying Minnie Mouse Shoes, because she wanted to wear her rubber boots! I didn't want her to look foolish so I told her to get her shoes. This frustrated her because if I am telling her she is too big to pee in her pants now, why can't she choose which shoes she wants to wear?
Also, struggling against the buckle was not a show of defiance, she wanted to buckle herself, but in my rush to get going I had ignored her completely and robbed her of the chance to show me something she was pretty Dang proud of!
In none of these instances was she being a defiant child, she was being robbed of a human beings basic need for freedom and independence, and it was me who was taking it away!
Helping Your Child Grow!
I felt like a giant pile of trash when this realization hit me square in the middle of my forehead! How could I have missed this? I tried so hard to be a good Mom, and to do everything right, yet here I was being the one causing her anger, frustration, and pain!
I had been thinking about this as if she was doing something to me, when all along I was the one causing these blowouts because I was not listening! How can I justify preaching to her about the importance of listening to Mommy, when Mommy couldn't be bothered to listen to her?
All these books that talked about discipline techniques to enforce when your child acted badly, never once had a chapter about listening to your child! The millions of "how to deal with your defiant child's behavior" posts and not one of the ones I read said, just listen to her you Dummy! Yet here it was, right in front of me the entire time!
Mommy always saying, time to be a big girl, you need to act like a big girl, that's not how a big girl behaves, and I was not allowing her to be a big girl! What a frustrating message to send to anyone, especially a three year old child!
Fixing The Problem ..
I had been trying to work on her behavior, to change the way she was acting, but I really should have been changing my own actions! So I started my mental journey through how to fix this land and came up with a few ideas!
- Stop telling and start asking more often! Now if your kid is in the middle of WalMarts parking lot running in front of cars you better be TELLING them to stop! That's not what I mean! However, if your telling your little one to put on the blue shirt and she is refusing, maybe ask her to get the shirt she wants and put it on please!yuu
- Try to be less demanding. Listen, no one likes a miss bossy me u an pants, okay! Why should your child be any different? Yes, we are parents and kids are supposed to listen, but do we always have to be in charge of everything?
- Put on YOUR listening ears! You want your Little's to listen to you, but they deserve the same respect from you!
- Respect some of their wants and desires! Again, your not going to give your kid a candy bar at midnight, but you can let them choose which shoes they want to wear, or how they want their hair done!
- Pay attention to why and give them a chance to explain. If they get their feelings hurt it is going to escalate, quickly! Like stomping up the stairs yelling something that your pretty sure sounds like " You said no, but I wanted to blah with cheese and blah" ???
- Try to catch what is going on BEFORE it turns upside down! You know your kid and you have a pretty good idea when things are going bad! The minute you spot signs of trouble stop and talk to them! Once they go full blown crazy there is absolutely no reasoning with a toddler during a tantrum!
- Allow them to express their frustrations and instead of getting mad and telling them to behave and get up off the floor, lay down on the floor with them! Stomp your feet if you have too, but show them it is okay to have feelings but talking about them is a less foolish way to express emotions. Once your kiddo realizes they can talk to you, they will!
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment because of your child behavior in public?
Life Would Be A Dream ......
Look, I understand that being a parent is not easy and kids don't come with a handbook! I also understand that if raising a toddler was as easy as listening to them a lot of people would have figured it out by now and none of us would be dealing with temper tantrums!
However, if simply doing something as easy as stopping to listen to your child a little more can describe the tantrums at all, then why not do it? I know once I changed my attitude, she changed hers! Maybe it is respect, if I respect her as a growing young adult, then she respect me as a wise adult full of infinite wisdom and knowledge .... well okay maybe I am dreaming but hey .... don't we all dream a little?
When I woke her up and went into the closet, looked at her and said "grab the clothes you want to wear today" she didn't throw a fit like usual, she SMILED! Then tore my entire closet apart! What used to take twenty minutes took two, and even though she will still stall once in a while, it is not out of anger and frustration anymore!
Back To Life ..... Back To Reality!
Listen, I am not saying that treating your child as an independent person is going to change things over night. I am simply sharing my opinion and my experience with a three year old who never listens! I know it's enough to drive a person insane, and no one likes hearing themselves repeating something one hundred times!
What I am trying to express is the minor changed I made to try and be more aware of my daughters independence made a HUGE impact in our lives! Does she still throw temper tantrums? Absolutely, but not nearly as many! She still hears the word no on a daily basis, but she takes being told no a lot better now that she is winning half the battles!
Three year olds are stuck in an awkward transition, not quite a young adult, but no longer a baby! They are trying to navigate some pretty tricky terrain and always being told "you can't do that" is going to make them feel like they have no say, no control, in any part of their lives! That is just going to make them fight you for control!
There are good days and bad days but at least I can lay my head down at night and sleep well knowing my daughter is not feeling shut down, she is happier, and she is growing every single day into an Independent young lady, not a disobedient child. I rest easy knowing that I am helping her learn the skills to make safe choices instead of bad ones, and I am doing this by allowing her to make SOME choices in her life!
At the end of the day you still have a three year old, and that is just never going to be peaches and cream! However, how you handle these young fragile years will make a big difference! Remember, treat others the way you want to be treated, and pass that onto your children because there our future!