When Toddler Advice Doesn't Work on Your Toddler


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I used to believe there was such thing as good, sound behavioral advice about toddlers. When I had just one child. A child on whom such advice worked.

And then I had Leo.

Leo, who will fight to the death, rather than undergo the application of any such thing that appears to be good, sound parenting advice.


I recently read a great essay by writer and father Tim Grieve in Sactown magazine. In the piece, Grieve talks about the phenomenon of MAKING a toddler do anything. He talks specifically about advice he read in The Everything Toddler Book by Linda Sonna. Say, for instance, your toddler hits his sibling... Ms. Sonna suggests the appropriate response is to say, "I know you're angry because you want to play with that, but you aren't allowed to hit. Take a time-out until you're ready to apologize."

Grieve's hilariously truthful response:

"I imagine saying these words to Jack, who's now 9 but was a toddler once. While it's conceivable that I could have carried him into his bedroom and closed the door, then stood in the hallway for some period of time using every inch of my strength to hold the door closed as he tried to smash it open, there is, in fact, no universe in which young Jack—or any of our kids—would have 'taken a time-out.'

And in that universe that doesn't exist—the one in which Jack would have said, 'Sure, Dad, let me go and take that time-out until I'm ready to apologize'—well, let's just say that he'd still be on that time-out today. Because just as there's no universe in which Jack would have voluntarily taken a time-out, there's no universe—short of the one in which I have been granted wireless remote-control power over his voicebox—in which Jack would apologize to his sister.

For anything."

I laughed aloud reading Grieve's column. Because I know this to be true.

In regard to Leo's unrelenting stubbornness and will of steel, I've gotten lots of advice—from "you gotta break him" to "just keep trying; sooner or later, it'll stick." My husband tends to give up. I tend to try to break him. Somewhere in the middle, I hope we'll somehow end up with a well-adjusted kid.

What do you do when toddler advice doesn't work on your kid?

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