To any parent of a child in the 2 to 4 age group, the words "negotiate" and "toddler" seem mutually exclusive. But learning how to negotiate with your toddler when they're being unruly and unreasonable — i.e. all of the time — is one of the most helpful tools you can have as a parent. Toddlers are known for their fiercely independent and strong wills and, although each child has their own temperament, there's no denying that the toddler years can be frustrating if parents aren't extra conscious about the way they parent.
With two of my own girls between the ages of 2 and 4, I'm well aware of the challenges that parenting a toddler brings. But despite the patience-testing moments, toddlerhood is filled with sweet moments of growth, endless fun, and lots of exploration. Learning to harness your child's "wild side" instead of fight against it is an essential tool for any parent to learn and can greatly lessen the amount of stress both of you feel, especially during a meltdown.
As tricky as it can be to "negotiate" with a toddler who is mid-tantrum in the cereal aisle of the supermarket, having the proper parenting style for your child's unruly moments can mean the difference between a child who chooses to listen and respond and a child who continues to terrorize the grocery store.
1. Break Your "Terms" Into Bite Size Pieces
It's obvious that toddlers don't respond well to solid reason or logic. What you see as a reasonable rule might just not float their boat. So, when your equally strong wills seem to go head-to-head, Scary Mommy suggested breaking your terms into parts that your toddler can more easily obey. Instead of asking your toddler to eat their entire plate of lovingly crafted dinner when they refuse to touch a single bite, ask them to eat it a portion at a time, with small rewards thrown in for good measure. Bribery will get you far.
2. Remember That You're The Adult
A temper tantrum is never a pretty sight, and it can be difficult to remain calm. However, Baby Center cautioned parents against caving to their toddler's demands just to stop the fit. Instead, take your child somewhere they can calm down, explain to them why they're there, and then try to re-approach whatever set them off in a collected way.
3. Offer Positive Reinforcement Instead Of Punishment
We have been trying to stop my 3 year old from sucking her thumb for months. We've tried everything from time-outs to telling her that her teeth will fall out if she doesn't stop. But after trying a method of positive reinforcement (sticker charts, in our case) she's willing to stop and has gone much longer without fighting us on the issue than previously. What To Expect stated that positive reinforcement gives children a sense of control and for many toddlers (although not all) it can work wonders with their behavior.
4. Empathize With Their Feelings
Aha! Parenting called empathy a parent's number one tool for a reason. When a child feels understood, they're more likely to comply to your wishes and less likely to put up a fight. Next time your child is frustrated, take a minute to understand why they feel that way. Instead of demanding that they "stop crying and listen," admit to them that you "understand that they're very angry right now." Although empathy may not stop your kid's tantrum, it will build a relationship where your child feels understood and not controlled, ultimately leading to fewer tantrums in the future.
5. Set Boundaries And Negotiate Within Them
Parents suggested that instead of being too flexible with your rules, stick to your guns when it comes to the non-negotiables. Changing the rules teaches kids to continue to push the line to figure out where the breaking point is, the article stated. Instead, create your rules and give them choices within them. For example, if your kiddo insists on watching more TV when you've already told them no, offer them other activities and let them choose from there. With a little bit of choice, you child might just change their behavior for the better.