Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Magic of Choices vrs. Struggling with Power Play?

7 tips in how to minimize those every day power struggles and enable your independent thinker

Power play between parents and toddlers could be a constant everyday issue. Here are some scenarios we can all relate with:

1) Molly fights with her Mommy when it is time to get dressed in the morning. Mommy is in a hurry, because she doesn’t want to be late for work. Molly gets upset, because she doesn’t want to wear what Mommy picked out for her. 

2) Damian doesn’t want to stay in his own bed and go to sleep. Mommy and Daddy kept finding him sneaking out of bed.

3) Ariana wants a book read before bedtime. It’s not enough to just read two or three books, she wants to continue to read more. Daddy struggles with this. Because if he tells her it’s time for bed, she throws a tantrum and takes a long time to finally settle down and go to sleep. 

4) Adam couldn’t make up his mind on a game to play with, he begs to pull out several games and toys to have out to play. Mommy gives in but gets frustrated when the playroom is a mess. When she attempts to put away the games, she notices some pieces to the game sets are missing. 

5) Lauren is socializing with Ariana. Lauren is having a tough time sharing. She has the habit of holding multiple toys at once, without wanting to share. This creates a tense environment as they’re constantly upsetting each other. 

6) Jason doesn’t like what Mommy made him for dinner. Mommy gave in by making something else that Jason would like to eat. Mommy didn’t want to deal with a tantrum, when she is tired after a long day at work.

7) Kylie refused to have her teeth brushed before bed. Both Kylie and Daddy were tired at the end of the day, so Daddy gave in to prevent a tantrum. He encouraged Kylie to get ready for bed instead.

Does all this sound familiar? I completely understand how it is to be in the parents shoes, when your little one refuses to corporate. It always seems to erupt when you are in a hurry, and you don’t have time to deal with a tantrum, right? This starts happening around the age of 18 months to about the independent age of 2 years old, and of course continues beyond these years.

For the most part, I have found that power struggles could be minimized, when given your toddler limited choices. 

It helps to put yourself in your little one’s shoes. When in his life does he have an opportunity to make his own choices? They want a say in their world. They have a need to express their independence as an individual. This is actually a healthy benefit for him to express his needs. When you allow your little one to make a few choices several times a day, you are encouraging your little one to become a more independent thinker. Don’t we want that for our kids?

What do I mean by limited? By setting boundaries . . . you could set limits without allowing your child to completely take over the day. Choices work wonders for toddlers on almost every situation. If you keep the choices down to two or three for your little one to pick from, you will have less of a battle and your little one won’t feel overwhelmed with too many choices. Also, if you have a child that is older than toddler age, it’s never too late to start this new approach.

Here's how to minimize those every day power struggles and enable your independent thinker:

1) Getting dressed in the morning: Are you in a hurry to get somewhere most mornings? The night before, you alone could pick out three or four outfits for your little one to choose from for the next morning. Hang them up in her closet, or somewhere at her eye level. It might help to store away summer clothes for the winter, or winter clothes for the summer, so that she will only see clothes that fit the season and that are her current size. Same goes for summer shoes and winter shoes. That next morning when it’s time to get dressed for the day, explain to her that she gets to choose from these three or four outfits. More than likely, she will like this new approach. If she doesn’t want to get her shoes on, ask in a way of a choice. Don’t be too concerned if she picks out shoes that don’t match her outfit. In my opinion, as long as their feet are warm in the winter or cool in the summer, right?

2) He doesn’t want to go to bed or stay in bed for bedtime: Allow your little one to have choices before bedtime. There are many opportunities for choices that arise before bedtime. Choices of what to wear to bed, what books to read, choices of which stuffed animals to sleep with, whether to have a night light on or the hall light on, or whether to have soft music on, or for you to sing a lullaby. Your little one will help you find a routine that helps get him into a sleepy mode. 

Sometimes, little ones just do not feel secure when they are sent to bed in a second floor bedroom, while the rest of the family are all hanging out downstairs. Maybe, one of the parents could stay on the same floor (not in the same room but a different room or the hallway) to reassure that he is not left alone. This should only take a few minutes until he falls asleep. If he insists that you stay in the room, give him two choices, Daddy stays upstairs in the hallway/a separate room, or Daddy goes downstairs. Stand firm on the choices offered. If he asked that you stay in his room, explain that is not one of the choices and repeat the choices.

3) Book reading before bed: Limit the choices of books to read each night down to two or three. Change it up a bit and add a couple that you haven’t read before or in a while. There is always the one favorite that your little one loves to listen to every night. Usually, when a little one begs to read more books, this is a way for them to keep you in their room as long as possible. Maybe, read that one favorite book last, and make it a routine that after that book is read, it’s time for night-night.

4) The playroom is a mess and you can’t find anything: When it comes to games with individual pieces, it’s my suggestion to store these in a cupboard (separate from the everyday toys in the toy box). Your little one could make the choice of which game he would like to pull out and play with for the time being. If he wants another game, encourage him to pick up the first game and trade out for another game of his choice. If he wants more than one, give him a choice of which one he wants to play with first. He can exchange for the second one, as soon as he is done with the first. More on this topic under the article titled: Separate Play Space or Playroom Setup for Little Ones

5) Lauren and Ariana were fighting over toys while one holds onto multiple toys: If Ariana wants to play with some of Lauren’s pile of toys, I would ask Lauren which toy can Ariana play with? Usually they will point at or pick up a toy. Then, I would ask Lauren to hand it to Ariana. I would encourage Ariana to say thank you in return (optional). This works better than demanding Lauren to share with Ariana, or picking out a toy from the pile for Ariana to have. Toddlers like the idea that they have a choice in the matter. If she’s not willing to choose, or not sure what toy to give away, help narrow down the choices by asking, “Can Ariana have the basket or the purse?” Usually, she will pick one that you pointed at, or another one in the pile.

6) Not liking what’s served for dinner: Go ahead and make what you had planned for dinner; however, encourage him to help you make it. Give him something easy to do. If there are choices in what ingredients can be added to the meal, let him make a couple of those choices. He will feel better about the meal that he helped make. If he decides he doesn’t like what is on his plate, ask him, “Which would you like to try first, the noodles or the carrots?” This usually gets them thinking about the choice he gets to make. Here are some helpful tips that I have tried in the past . . . See if they like to dip their food in condiments of their choice like mayonnaise, ketchup, or ranch dressing. Don’t insist that he eats everything on his plate, encourage to take a bite just to try it. 

My suggestion is to not bring out more foods, just because he is not eating the foods you offered. This sends the message that if he just sits there, then he will get his favorite foods in a little while. If you are consistent with serving what is on the menu, he will soon understand that you only serve certain nutritious foods. Surprisingly, little ones eventually give in and start liking the nutritious foods served.

7) Teeth brushing before bed: If your little one is struggling with the issue of teeth brushing, maybe it’s time to make a special trip to the store. She would love to pick out her own tooth brush. You could pull down a few choices from the store rack that you feel would work for her. If she has a special tooth brush that she picked out on her own, she would more than likely want to try it out at home. Or, maybe it’s the toothpaste. Maybe, she would like to pick out her own toothpaste. You could do the same by pulling down a few choices that you feel would be appropriate for her age. Even better, you could buy a couple of flavors, and she could have the option to choose every morning/night which flavor she would like to use. Then, allow her to try to brush her teeth herself. When she says she’s done, you could explain that it’s your turn as you help finish the areas she might have missed.

Read more below, if your little one is struggling with these new approaches.

Not liking the new approach? You might witness some sort of protesting, rebelling or tantrums when first introducing this new approach to your little one. It may take several tries with different scenarios, before everyone involved gets the hang of it. He has probably grown accustom to the way it’s been, up until now. If you do have a situation in which your little one doesn’t like the choices you have given him, explain to him that a choice will be made for him if he doesn’t choose by the time you count to let’s say five. Stand firm and stick to what you said. If he doesn’t choose, go ahead and choose for him. I promise you, the next time you give him a limited choice, as soon as you start counting, he will more than likely make a choice. At this point, he has learned that you mean what you say. The more you stand firm with this new approach, the fewer tantrums you will witness. 

He picked something outside of the limited choices? If you gave him three choices, but he wants something that is not one of those choices, if it’s something you are willing to live with, allow him that choice. If it’s not something you are willing to go along with, explain to him that he is given these three choices, and what he wants isn’t of those choices offered. Stand firm and repeat what his choices are. Start the counting idea, if he’s unwilling to go along with your boundary.

He keeps changing his mind? Another scenario when toddlers like to play the game of quickly changing their minds once they made a choice. Stand firm and explain that a choice has already been made, and that next time he will have another opportunity to choose again. Give your little one many opportunities to make choices throughout the day. I promise you, the battles will minimize down to an occasional tantrum, rather than a daily issue. 

The main point of offering the limited choices, is to help your little one feel gratified about himself, as he eventually learns that he does have some control in his world. In addition, the parents don’t feel they have to let their child take over every situation, and could rest easier knowing the tantrums have been minimized.

Refer to Iva’s book Precious Years Leaps & Bounds on related topics of this article:

Feeding and Transitioning for Toddlers

Toddlers Social Skills and Sharing
Napping for Toddlers


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing wonderful information, it is really nice information.


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