by Paul Jacobson. Dad. Husband. Lawyer. Geek. Blogger. Evangelist. Maven. He blogs at Paul Jacobson and Web. Tech. Law

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a manual that actually worked? The older our little one gets the more I realise that I am grasping in the dark for a way to persuade him to do some of the things I want him to do (bathing, eating a meal, lying still so I can change a full nappy/diaper, that sort of thing).

What I have learned is that he is stubborn, determined and doesn’t respond well to me getting angry. On that note, me getting angry with him just shows who the real child is and it isn’t our 2 year old!

I keep thinking there must be a way to communicate better with him and persuade him to do some of the things we want him to do. A previous girlfriend is a teacher and she often told me that kids crave structure, whether they know it or not, and they tend to thrive when they have a constructive structure to work with (ok, I read in the last bit). I just don’t know how to do that, do you?

I’m starting to see negative effects of me getting angry with him when he doesn’t listen to me. It seems like he gets a little more withdrawn and that really worries me a lot. He wants to be picked up a lot and that suggests insecurity to me. That also bothers me, a lot!

So what works? What lessons have other parents learned? If anything, I am starting to see that my own anger is just an expression of my frustration with a number of factors in my life and that really isn’t fair on our son. There must be a better way.

13 Responses to “Child management 101”

  • Alet says:

    Maybe Aaron is just going through stage, I know I went through a similar situation with my *now* four year old. It does get easier!

    As a parent I think you can only trust that what you are going is the best you can do and that it will be enough!

  • Orenna says:

    My advice is to act with authenticity – we never fool our kids anyway – but keep as constructive as you can. And if you lose your temper or say something you regret, apologise later. Understanding that we all make mistakes or get angry is a good life lesson for a child. The trick is to apologise for the right thing – the anger, for example, rather than for making a reasonable request.

  • Thanks for your comments Alet and Orenna. The more time I spend with Aaron, especially the tough times, the more I learn about my own fears, frustrations, insecurities and issues. My challenge is usually how not to colour my response with those emotions and be more constructive, as Orenna suggests. I am also mindful of what I teach Aaron when I behave badly and that really bothers me because those lessons could last a lifetime.

  • Philippa Clarke says:

    Hi Paul

    I can totally relate to what you are going through – I have a two year old and a seven year old, both extremely stubborn and determined! At least with a seven year old you can negotiate to a certain extent but Sarah, my 2 year old is impossible. Every evening when I get home from work I tell myself I’m not going to shout tonight, but 9 times out of 10 land up shouting…. at Sarah… and I agree with you, the shouting doesn’t help at all, if anything it makes them worse! What I have found that seems to work is to walk away, if she kicks me when I try and dress her after her bath I have started walking away. She soon calls me back and usually then does behave and lets me dress her. Wish I had more advice for you! It’s so nice to hear other parents going through the same thing (although not nice for you!) Hang in there, hopefully we’ll look back at the ‘terrible two stage’ one day and laugh.
    P.S. If you do find that manual please let me know!!

  • ExMi says:

    i’m by no means the expert, but i’ve learnt with my Kid that it’s ALL about R.O.U.T.I.N.E and consistency, both of which seem to give him enough structure that tantrums/getting angry aren’t required that often. and when we (and i mean him/me) do have a tantrum or start to get whiney, then it’s time-out time.

    i put him in his cot with a bottle and he has a breather, and a bit of a sob, and then calls me when he’s done and tells me “i was sad, but i’m better now”.

    as for routine, i cannot emphasise how important it is and how early on i implemented a routine. over two years the routine hasn’t changed much, except to allow for a slightly later bed time (which allows for a slightly later wake-up time) and less day-time naps and to add more toddler activities, as opposed to baby activities.

    and when i say consistency i mean that the routine must be stuck to, in our house. regardless of how tired i am, my Kid must still sit at the table and eat a cooked meal, followed by a bath/shower, followed by a baby massage, put pj’s on and (during the week) go then to bed. He knows on the weekends he can lie on the couch with his dad and watch a movie or watch cartoons.

    if you don’t believe me that kids LOVE routine/structure – whenever I’m out at night and The BF has to do the night time routine, The Kid tells him what to do/what step comes next, because he doesn’t want his dad to get it wrong and ruin the comfort of routine for him.

    So have a think about a sensible routine that’s easy to keep up, and reeeeaaaaallly force yourself to do it. that’s the only way i did it. leave some room for flexibility, but agree with Gina that there be certain basics in the routine that cannot be eliminated.

    make sense?

  • Angel says:

    Dude, I feel your pain!
    1-2-3 Magic worked wonders for me and my son.
    And structure is indeed vital. Set bedtimes, set dinner times, set rewards, and you have got to be consistent…
    Its hell to get it working initially, and it will require sacrifices on mom and dad’s part- but it is so doable!


  • Kojo says:

    I am right in the middle of the same right now. I’m a big believer in routine and always do things the same way. My big battle is that my son is the one who changes the rules. We will do something exactly the same way for months on end then the one day he decides he doesn’t want to do it that way, usually emphasised with a tantrum. I wish you luck. And should you find the manual …. please … please … send a copy my way

  • Mina says:

    Shame Paul…..welcome to the hardest job in the world. the only advise I have is that two year olds have reached an age where they realise they are independant from you and that they can change or influence decisions made by you. So yes routine works but having said that … dinner can be at 5pm every day but if your 2 year old refuses to eat what you put infront of him then routine is pretty useless. Perhaps what you need is the “if he can… he must” technique combined with “that must mean that…..technique”
    Simple really
    1) If your toddler is able to dress himself… he must or if he can eat by himself …he must. That is the “if he can… he must” technique.
    Always ask yourself ” Can he do it???” then follow with up with en ecouraging “I think you can do this by yourself…i can help if you need”. This teaches your child to be independant and you will get less tamtrums.

    2) the 2nd technique is called “that must mean that….” technique. For e.g Your child will not eat dinner. Your response “oh that must mean you are not hungry?” and take the food away. or…. ” oh you don’t want to bath?? that must mean you want to go straight to bed?”
    In other words we don’t say “You MUST bath or you MUST eat”. Essentially we are giving the toddler a choice by saying if you don’t behave properly or if you don’t listen it must mean that you need to sleep or sit in your room for a while or not get a treat….
    Does this make sense. By using this technique …you are not saying NO or YOU MUST… you are sending a message to the toddler that if they won’t listen to you then it must mean they would rather do time-out or go without food or go straight to bed with no story….
    I hope this makes sense. It does work BUT like everything …you need to try this method exclusively.
    GOOD LUCK….whichever way you go.

  • Tracey says:

    There is a brilliant book called “Toddler Taming” written by Dr Christopher Green. I am going through the same terrible two’s with my second child and his advice in his book is humourous and spot on. The book will also give you a good laugh and make you realise how nearly every parent goes through this stage. Good Luck!

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