This morning I went to the playground, placed my 2-year-old daughter on the swing per her request, and pushed it. Pretty run of the mill stuff! But this time she immediately became upset. So I stopped it for her. But to my surprise this didn’t diffuse matters. Instead it resulted in just more kicking and screaming.
ME: “Do you want to swing?”
ME: “Do you want to get down?”
ME: “So…do you want to just sit there?”
ME: (pause) “How about the slides? Do you want to go on the slides?”
ME: “Do you want to ride your bike some more? You did so well earlier.”
ME: (another pause) “The spray park is over there. We could go get your swimsuit and go to the spray park.”
ME: “Do you just want to go home, honey?”
ME: (running out of options) “Sesame Street is on…”
Sigh. Seeing the neighboring swing, I sat down on it. Silently. The silence lasted for seven minutes, each of us sitting in our swings. Such is life with a 2-year-old.
Not having had much experience with other children her age, I can’t speak to how common or unusual this sort of situation is. Maybe all toddlers are like this. But what I do know is that my little Audrey is a very independent girl, and right now she is asserting said independence at every turn. “I do it myself,” is a very common refrain these days. Normally this is fine. This is good. But sometimes it manifests itself in a much darker fashion, as demonstrated in the situation above. Her need to do things her way, combined with her difficulty in expressing herself properly, often leads to a never ending torrent of “No”s. And, as you can see, it is very frustrating to deal with.
So how does one handle the “No”s? After all, as the above example makes clear, no matter what you say, even if it’s what the child wants, it will result in a big, loud “NO”. Raising your voice just escalates things, even if it is the most natural response. Storming off isn’t wise either, even if you’re just at home. You don’t want your child to think she’s abandoned. So what to do?
Silence. I’ve found that just sitting down near her and being quiet is the best medicine. It lets her calm down while you do the same. Eventually, after a few minutes, she’ll speak up and let you know she’s ready to be the same, loving daughter she’s always been.
At least that’s what works for me. And in case you were curious, in the above case I was saved by a bird of all things.
AUDREY: “Let’s go get that bird!”
ME: “You want to get that bird?”
ME: “Let’s do it.”
And off into the bird-filled sunset we went. As if nothing ever happened.