If you’ve ever tried to stuff a toddler into a car seat as she alternates between her best wet noodle impression and screaming like an air-raid siren, you know the struggle of dealing with children’s stubbornness. Usually starting around toddlerhood, children begin to realize they are separate people from their parents and begin asserting their opinions, sometimes very loudly, and usually in crowded restaurants and grocery stores. Sometimes you may feel like a hostage negotiator trying to get your children to cooperate, especially when you’re trying to get them to go with the flow while you’re out in public. “You want 10,000 chocolate chip cookies in a duffle bag and a helicopter to Disney World? You’ve got it! Just please get in the shopping cart!”

Sound familiar? When your child is being stubborn, he or she is usually looking to exert control over a situation. These strategies can help you give your children a sense of control and help you guide their behaviors.

  • Make cooperating feel like a privilege, rather than a chore. Ask your child to be your special helper to get him or her to pitch in with household duties like picking up toys, setting the table or taking care of a pet.
  • Turn everyday tasks into games. Set a timer and do a toy pick-up challenge. See who can pick up the most toys in 5 minutes.
  • Use positive language. Instead of combatting your child’s stubbornness with negativity, use positive words and say what’s in it for him or her. For example, if eating veggies always turns into an argument, instead of saying, “You won’t get any dessert if you don’t finish your broccoli,” say, “As soon as your broccoli is gone, we can enjoy some yummy dessert!” If you are met with a retort like, “But I really want my dessert now,” you can say something like, “Me too, and you can have that as soon as you’re done with that broccoli.”
  • Use the power of music. If you have bedtime struggles, you can put your children in relaxation mode without ever saying a word. When you begin your children’s bedtime routine, put on soft music during bath time and pair it with a story to help them wind down.
  • Get your children out of “no” mode. Ask your children questions that you know they will answer yes to. For example, “Wow, you’re having a good time playing with that balloon, aren’t you? Do you think we should have lots of balloons at your next birthday party? Can you show me how you bop the balloon up into the air?” Once your children have answered yes at least three times in a row, they may feel like they are being heard.
  • Give your children simple choices when you can to distract from something you know they will fuss about. If your child fusses at bedtime, you can give him or her a choice: “Do you want to wear your frog pajamas or your puppy pajamas tonight?” or, “Do you want to read this story or that story tonight?” If your child protests with, “But I don’t want to go to bed!” you can calmly repeat the choice a few times. If he or she still refuses to make the choice, you can say, “Ok, I guess you are going to wear the puppy pajamas tonight, and since you did not choose a story, we will have to try again tomorrow. Goodnight!” Make sure that you remain calm and positive and stick to what you’ve said. Things will get easier when your children realize you mean what you say.

At Sparkles! we are aware that children want to exert their independence and control at times. Want to know what we do? You can get insight from your child’s teacher or a staff member. Feel free to ask questions if you have them!

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