When you and your toddler don’t see eye-to-eye

“I hate you, mommy!”

For parents, the very idea that their tiny tots are capable of such a negatively intense feeling is surprising, even heartbreaking.

“How can my baby whom I love so dearly be so furious at me?”

Know the reason why

Why does this happen? First of all, toddlers at this age are intensely focused on being independent. They want to do things on their own as much as possible, even when this means doing more than they’re capable of. For many toddlers, the most common sentence becomes, “No, I do it!”

It makes them feel proud and important knowing that they are capable of doing things, especially the ones that they see grown-ups do, or are used to having grown-ups do for them.

Secondly, exploration is another big toddler priority at this stage, and they want to explore their worlds without any interference from you! That’s not always possible, of course, but letting your toddler experiment with their environment whenever it’s safe for them to do so can help them feel confident and independent.

On the other hand, it isn’t always safe or possible to let a toddler have their way, and eventually, most parents end up having to set some limits on exploration, or needing to step in on a task an independent tot would prefer to complete alone. Uh oh! This is where the trouble comes in. When parents assert their authority, toddlers tend to want to challenge them. Luckily, there are ways to respond to the challenge that can help keep the anger to a minimum.

Choose your battles

Not everything should be controlled. Toddlers should be given the wiggle room to make their own decisions in situations where they won’t be in any danger, like wandering around a specific area of the mall when you’re there, for example. Close supervision is important, but in order to let your child feel a sense of independence, you can let them start to explore without holding their hand – as long as they have the physical strength and coordination to do explore, and they have plenty to investigate within your line of sight. Just make sure that you’re a step away from them at all times.

Rule breaker

Setting limits is important at this age, and staying consistent about those limits is even more so. Any reprimands or reminders of limits should happen right away, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, so that the child will make the connection between what they did and what you’re saying to them.

Limit your questions

It is better to tell the toddler what you want her to do than to ask her to do it. If you ask, there is a 99% chance that the answer would be a resounding no, just because she’s in the stage where negativism is the norm. Insisting will just lead to resisting. Instead of saying, “do you want to go to the grocery store with me?” you’ll get better results by just saying, “We’re going to the grocery store in a while.”

It’s always hard when you and your toddler don’t see eye-to-eye, but as a parent, dealing with differences of opinion in a calm and positive way (Even when your toddler gets mad. Even when they get really really mad.) will help the two of you get through it together.

  • Nancy L. McElwain, et al. “Child-Child Similarity of Attachment and Temperament as Predictors of Positive Interaction During Acquaintanceship at Age 3.” Developmental Psychology. 52(9): 1394-1408. 2106. Retrieved November 3 2017. http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/dev-dev0000190.pdf.
  • “Aggressive Behavior.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved November 3 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Aggressive-Behavior.aspx.
  • “The Active Toddler.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved November 3 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/fitness/Pages/The-Active-Toddler.aspx. 
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