How Far Can I Push YOU, Mom?

 

Have you ever told your two or three year old that they can't do something, like run in the road or throw food or pull the cat's tail, only to have them look at you, smile, and do it anyway, over and over again? Take heart, moms, you're not alone. Acting defiantly is not only normal developmental behavior for your toddler, it is in fact important. Yes, that's right. It's maddening, stressful, exasperating, dangerous even. Sometimes, there are no words for how this makes me feel, personally. But believe me, I've researched it well, and it's true: Your kids need to learn to test their own limits. They NEED to take risks. They NEED to learn from experience (and no, as nice as it would be, they CANNOT just listen. They cannot learn everything only from your words.) Kids need to test YOU too. (If they don't apparently, you are being too strict and you should ease up a bit, according to developmental experts like Dr. Brazelton, author of Touchpoints)

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Why, you wonder? Simply because toddlers need to learn what conflict is, and how to deal with it, and like everything else, they learn this from trial and error. Conflict with a friend or stranger is much more dangerous. Conflict with Mommy, who loves you and cares for you no matter what, and protects you all day long, is of course super safe. Makes sense, right?

When your child exhibits defiant behavior, try to take a deep breath, and remember the important things which are: a) that they are OK and safe even though they did not listen (and hopefully this is ALWAYS the case...); b) they cannot always listen; it's just not possible; c) aren't you glad they tried this with YOU, and not with great-grandma, or little brother, or on the school bus, in two years. Remember also that testing limits is healthy and necessary to building independence, self-understanding and self-esteem, and for developing appropriate personal and social boundaries. Remember too that our job as Moms is NOT to make our kids listen to us all the time, but instead to make sure they hear us explain what is safe and what is not, and to be there for them when they fall down and get hurt, despite all our warnings, to comfort them, to love them, and to encourage them to find their own strengths and also to recognize their own weaknesses. This is hard, and it's a life-long learning process for everyone that starts, like everything else in your child's life, with Mommy. (Lucky you!)

What do you do when your child is defiant?

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