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Tackling toddlers takes nerves of steel

"I don't like you any more. I'm going to live with Granny."

To my surprise I saw my son standing at the bedroom door with a defiant look on his face. In his hand he held his little yellow Bumble Bee suitcase. I could see Blue Teddy's head sticking out of the top of the suitcase. Obviously, Blue Teddy was going to be emigrating to Granny's too.

"Okay, that's fine," I said turning back to my computer and ignoring him. I will not succumb to threats, I thought determinedly. We'd just had an argument about something so silly that I can't even remember what it was.

But my three-year old is wilful and there is no chance of him ever backing down.

Our arguments are usually short but repetitive. Here's an example:

"Go to bed."


"You need to go to bed."

"I will NOT!"


"But it's not night-time, it's morning time."

And on it goes. Honestly, it's enough to try the patience of a saint.


A friend of mine with more experience (she has three tots under the age of six) told me the other day that I'm doing it all wrong. "Never take a toddler head on," she advised me. "You will never win. They are trying to assert their independence so always give them a choice."

"How do you mean?" I asked. "If you want to put them to bed, ask them nicely whether they would like to put on their pyjamas first or wash their teeth first before bed. Then they have to think about what option they would like. They think they're in control now."

I took it all in. Anything was worth a try. The next morning when I got up I went into Gary's room where he was already watching television.

I was in a hurry to go into town. "Come on, you need to get dressed," I said, momentarily forgetting about my friend's words of wisdom.

"I do not," he yelled. I went out of the room and took a deep breath. Time wasn't on my side and I didn't need to go into battle. When I felt more composed I tried again. "Gary, would you like to wear your blue trousers or your jeans today?"


He turned to look at me and then tilted his head as if giving the matter considerable thought. "I think I will wear the jeans," he said decisively.

I couldn't believe my luck. This new strategy was really working. Later that day when I was making lunch I said, "Would you like pasta or potatoes with sausages for your lunch?"

Instead of the usual fuss about not wanting any lunch, Gary told me that he would like pasta and also some cheese.

"No problem," I said, delighted with myself. Toddlers like most of us, do not like being told what to do. They have minds of their own and like to use them. And as for us mums? Well, we are multi-taskers. If we weren't, nothing would ever get done. We are minders, cooks, cleaners, nurses and chauffeurs. Oh, and chief negotiators!