– Toddlers when they realize they are humans with free will
Toddlers are a funny bunch. If babies are like drunk adults, then toddlers are like the girl you wish you never started a conversation with at a party. You are constantly confounded trying to understand why they suddenly agree to brush their teeth after 10 minutes of not wanting to. At no other stage of a child’s life is there such a convergence of indignity, creativity, screaming, crying, and desperation (by both parent and child). I have been warned many times about the terrible twos, but as my son turned two he continued his fairly chill ways, being generally agreeable and mostly taking our orders at face value. No worries, nothing to see here. Terrible twos? We got this…
Then came three months ago. The generally agreeable toddler son quickly transformed into an especially disagreeable toddler. His sudden realization of independence triggered an awakening not unlike a brain live tweeting its own development in the form him saying “Dinosaurs eat trees”, trying to drink water by dipping his fingers into his cup and then sucking on them, or knocking over his chair when we asked him to please please please eat his breakfast.
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Typical toddler response to your words
Forget appealing to his shame or sensibilities because toddlers have neither. My son has no memory of what got him into trouble yesterday and just does it again the next day. Imagine Groundhog Day, but instead of seeing Bill Murray finally figure it out after two hours, it’s been months and seemingly no progress has been made. I’ve seen more timeouts in the past three months than I have in 25 years of watching sports.
Here is typical day with my son and how my wife and I get through it without completely losing our minds:
1st Teeth Brushing: “No! I don’t wanna brush teeth.”
Typical resolution: Hold YouTube kids app in front of face for the duration of teeth brushing even after I told myself he had enough screen time
Changing clothes for daycare: “No! I don’t wanna change clothes I wanna wear my jammies (runs away).”
Typical resolution: Tell him how cool his shirt is and how he can show everyone how awesome his Thomas the Train/monster/dinosaur shirt is as I quickly change his clothes
Leaving the house: “No, I don’t wanna go to school. I wanna play legos.”
Typical resolution: Turn off all the lights to flush him out into the light of day and then let him hit the button to open the garage door
Dinnertime: “No. I don’t want dinner. I wanna snack.”
“Let’s go up in the chair.”
(Son promptly goes into limp jellyfish mode to evade being picked up, followed by timeout for not listening)
After first timeout: “I wanna eat dinner!”
“Okay, let’s go up in the chair.”
“No! (Son promptly goes into limp jellyfish mode to evade being picked up, followed by timeout for not listening)
Typical resolution: After enough time passes, his hunger outweighs his crying and he acquiesces to the booster seat, but not before everyone’s food gets cold.
Bathtime: “No, I don’t wanna take a bath anymore.”
Typical resolution: Just pick him up and carry him to the bathroom because I’m over it. I get a good biceps workout from his alternating form between a stiff board and a garbage bag made of jellyfish.
2nd Teeth Brushing: “No! I don’t wanna brush teeth anymore.”
Typical resolution: Develop MMA ground game to hold son down while we brush his teeth
Bedtime after story time: “No, I want another story.”
Typical resolution: Let him turn the lights off because he’s really into that and he’ll get into bed immediately, though I’m afraid the novelty of that will wear off any day now.
There are obviously many alternative resolutions that are likely more effective than these, but alas, I don’t have the skill that produces those Kid-Wouldn’t- Listen-to-Dad-and-Dad-Responded-with-the-Most-Genius-Thing-Ever articles. Whenever I see those articles I groan but still click on them because I need all the help I can get. My wife is very good at coming up with ways to get our son to comply, but my brain no be good at toddler logic.
It’s not because they my son doesn’t want to do things. Once he is actually doing the thing, he is fine, which makes it even more infuriating. It’s the fact that you are asking/demanding/pleading with them to do something. Toddler brains need to be incepted with the idea that these things are worthy of doing. Let me know when science figures out how to incept toddler brains via app.
Also, bribes of ice cream work 100% of the time, but like the nuclear option, you don’t want to use it unless the fate of the free world is at stake.