My daughter was two and a half when I realized that she and I were butting heads on a daily basis. I had expectations for her that were high, and wanted her to see and do things my way. It was then that I realized that the problem might not be my toddler, but me instead. Maybe instead of wanting her to do everything my way, I should try to pick and choose my battles. Were there areas where I could let my toddler be the boss? Would this help our relationship? What about her self esteem and overall development? I wanted to raise a well behaved little girl, but more importantly, I wanted to raise a strong, independent woman who could make her own decisions. I quickly found that there were four battles that I was fighting with my toddler on a daily basis that didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things.
My daughter was born with a full head of long beautiful brown hair. By two it was longer and more beautiful. Nothing got under my skin more than hair with oatmeal and boogers in it. I found that we were spending a long time every morning trying to pull her hair back in headbands, barrettes, and ponytails. She was always crying about it, and I was always shouting about it. It was the ultimate power struggle. The solution? It seems obvious, but it just kept escaping me. At the recommendation of a friend, we cut her hair. Suddenly, my toddler loved her cute haircut, and I wasn’t stressed out about making it look cute every morning. Occasionally she would let me do her hair, but if she wasn’t interested, I didn’t push it. Now, at three, she is asking me to do her hair every morning.
I thought my toddler needed to sit down and eat a full meal three times a day. But the truth is, I don’t always sit down at the table and eat three full meals a day. Why would I expect that from my child? Of course, we always offer meals at mealtimes, but if my daughter isn’t interested, I am more willing to let her leave the table and eat when she is hungry. I’ve realized that it isn’t worth an argument about whether or not she sits at the table when I do and it isn’t healthy to make a toddler eat when she isn’t hungry. When she’s hungry, she’ll eat.
Shouldn’t my toddler want to wear a cute matching outfit every day? I thought she should. Of course, I had forgotten that my little toddler is growing up, and has her own ideas about what looks cute. She wants to wear a pink polka dot sun dress with purple argyle tights underneath, black tap shoes, and a brown sweater. Does it matter what she looks like? She’s three! She feels good that she has dressed herself. By letting her pick her own outfit, my toddler’s even becoming more confident and independent. It’s worth it (and it makes for some cute pictures to save for when she’s a grown up).
I wanted my toddler to nap until she was ready for school. I was really sad to give up her nap time because that meant I had to be on my game for a longer portion of the day. I would lose the two hours that I had to do things during the day. However, when I tried to force her to take a nap when she was ready to cut them out, it was stressful for both of us. If she did fall asleep, I found that she was too well rested to sleep at night. I had to change my expectations when nap time went away, but it was better than battling her daily about this issue.
By letting your toddler win these battles, you are allowing yourself to more adequately meet their needs. You are avoiding unnecessary battles, giving them a sense of self and independence, and creating a more peaceful home environment.