There are some struggles that a parent has little likelihood of winning.
You can't make them eat; you can't make them go to sleep; and you can't make them control their bladder and bowel. Nor can you control their attitude, thinking or emotions.
You can influence but, once you buy a fight in any of these areas, life gets tough for you, your child and the household.
Later, there's homework, smoking, religious beliefs, clothing and the like. By adolescence, if life's been one long power struggle between you and your youngster, it tends to turn into all out war.
You can bet that, having successfully held out against you in their younger years, they're not going to give away their power once they hit their teens.
Toddlers love to say "no" and one very effective way of asserting themselves is to refuse to eat. Another is to fall to the ground and refuse to move. They're small enough that you can pick them up and carry them away when they refuse to move but eating is a different story.
Even though they're very young, in fact can't even talk, they can still recognise your urgency, your fear of them starving and your frustration because you are failing to get them to do what you want. Oh, the power!
Let's start with eating. If you provide a variety of well-balanced, nutritional interesting-looking food, they will eat. Not today maybe, but tomorrow. If there's no fuss on your part, then there's no battleground. If they can't get the full focus of your attention by waging a food war, then there's no point to not eating. Eat with them, making eating a relaxed and pleasant time together and you're halfway there just by doing that.
It's the same with bedtime. A pleasantly calm routine with clear, basic instructions that are given only once and then implemented without further speaking about them. If they lie awake chatting to themselves, no big deal, they're not tired yet. If they get up, it's a case of putting them back without a word from you. They know the routine and if you're not riled then there's no battleground here either. They may try it on from time to time, but it takes two to have a war.
A stressed child can't be toilet trained. What's more, while you could push food into their mouth and maybe force a swallow, you can't do much here. Quiet encouragement, their interested involvement and, with all the right clothing and equipment to hand, they'll come to it when they're ready and can be very pleased with themselves when they get it right. Turn it into a battle and they have you every time.
© Ian Munro 2011. All rights reserved.
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