How to win an argument with your toddler

The best way to win an argument is to never have one, but over the coming days and months and years, you’ll surely have to do a bit of debating. You might be able to trick your friends with clever logic, but Baby just won’t care. For her, arguments are about emotions, not rational thinking.

Games prevent arguments

When you were a child, did you ever play the Quiet Game? It’s a competition to see who can stay quiet the longest. It’s brilliant! Because you see, the Quiet Game isn’t a game at all: it’s just quiet time that you tell a child will be fun.

You can make a lot of activities into games like this, and avoid arguments completely. This isn’t lying to Baby – it’s making normal activities a lot more enjoyable. Think about it this way: games are just a set of rules you follow, so why not make games from your everyday rules?

Here are a few examples of games that could help prevent an argument:

  • See how quickly Baby can get dressed
  • Pick three last activities to do before leaving somewhere fun, like a park or indoor playground
  • Figure out which piece of broccoli tastes the worst – hint, you have to eat all of it to find out
  • Play “Red Light, Green Light” with teeth brushing. Baby has to stop brushing when you look, and keep brushing when your back is turned

De-escalate

Anger is the enemy of reason. When Baby doesn’t do what you ask, it can be easy to get frustrated, which can be tricky when you’re leading by example – which you always are with Baby. If you can keep your cool, then maybe Baby will too. Act how you want her to act.

One way to do this is to try to figure out why Baby is arguing with you. You can’t put a stop to an argument if you don’t know what it’s about. Baby‘s arguments won’t always be logical though – this is, of course, because she is a toddler. There are two parts to identifying the motive behind the argument. The first is recognizing the problem, even if it’s not exactly what Baby says it is. The second, though, is to figure out the best way to use that knowledge. You may be able to work out the fact that a meltdown has more to do with a missed nap than the wrong color of sippy cup, but that doesn’t mean sending Baby a told-you-so is the way to go.

Instead, knowing the root of the problem can help you keep your cool as you help Baby work through the problem. Use a calm tone and avoid sarcasm, which can make it seem like Baby’s problems don’t matter. What Baby is mad about might seem silly to you, but it matters a whole lot to her.

Teach negotiation 

If you use “yes” and “no” a lot, Baby might not see much room for middle ground when it comes to her requests. Every little disagreement could start to feel like a battle instead of a discussion.

If you can help Baby think critically about her choices, you will be doing both of you a favor. She might be a little young for this technique, but since every child develops at a different rate, it could definitely be worth a try. Find out why she wants to do something, and explain your thinking about why it’s a bad idea.

Should Baby brush her teeth? Obviously. Does she understand why it’s so important? Probably not. Most adults don’t understand why brushing their teeth is so important, so why should a toddler? If you think talking it through might help the two of you come to an understanding, it might be worth sitting down to discuss plaque build-up with your little one.

Non-negotiable 

On the other hand, teaching negotiation also means you can label things as non-negotiable. If you aren’t always putting your foot down and saying “no,” it will make it a lot more significant when you finally do.

The most important part of “non-negotiable” rules is that they are consistent. Don’t make a rule about bedtime if it isn’t worth enforcing. Every rule you break makes the others weaker. Weak rules lead to push-back. Push-back leads to arguments. Arguments lead to anger. Anger leads to the dark side.

Get the Ovia Parenting app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store