toddlerEveryone told me raising a daughter would be totally different from the house full of boys I was used to. While I’m not sure how much of our differences are gender based and how much is purely personality, my daughter has definitely been my most strong-willed child to date. Finding ways to parent her without butting heads has been an interesting experience.

If you’ve dealt with a strong-willed toddler (or are dealing with one now) you’ll certainly feel my pain. My days are a balance between learning to be flexible so we don’t clash and trying to stand my ground enough so my toddler doesn’t walk all over me.

So how do you deal with a strong-willed toddler? Carefully. Very carefully.

Pick your Battles

Not everything is worth a fight. These days my toddler is determined to choose her own clothing every day . . . well, more like several times a day if I’m being honest. I’ve let that one go. She’s learning some independence and practicing her motor skills in the dozens of times she changes her clothes. I draw the line at having chocolate for breakfast though and that has resulted in more than one screaming fit.

Offer Choices

It must be hard being a toddler. They are really trying to figure out who they are as an individual and working to move out of the baby phase and become more independent. It’s an important developmental stage but it can be hard as a toddler. We all know that when toddlers get frustrated that’s when things get hard for everyone. Offer choices as often as you can to prevent meltdowns. Your toddler will feel like she has some control and you’ll be able to offer two good choices that you are happy with.

Do you want carrots or cucumbers for a snack? Would you like to read a story or sing a song before bed? Either way you win.

Set Limits

It’s a sad fact that as a parent, you don’t always get to be the fun one. Kids need limits but enforcing them sometimes makes you the bad guy. Think of it as practice for the teen years. After all, a screaming toddler is still way cuter than a screaming teen. It may be easier to give into your toddler’s demands but she won’t learn that way. You have to set limits and be prepared for the consequences like the inevitable toddler meltdown. On the plus side, toddlers forgive and forget quickly and once they learn where you draw the line they’ll eventually stop fighting you on it . . . probably.

Be Consistent

Consistence may be hard thing to master but it’s important. If you aren’t consistent it can be confusing for your toddler who won’t know what behavior is expected of her. If you don’t want your toddler jumping on the couch (or in our case the kitchen table) don’t let her do it. The first time you laugh because she just looks so dang cute doing it she’ll think that her behavior is okay and she’ll be confused the next time you tell her no. Make it easy on both of you and just stay consistent.


How do you deal with a strong-willed toddler?

2 Responses to How to Deal with a Strong-Willed Toddler

  1. Jenn says:

    Great advice, as a former elementary teacher I use all these strategies. Our now nine year old son was a difficult baby/toddler/preschooler and thanks to all the above listed strategies he is a fantastic well adjusted child. But our two year old daughter is giving us a run for our money. Giving her two choices, having a consistent routine just isn’t working. Our two biggest battles are staying in bed without someone with her (and yes she is tired) and not giving her a bottle of milk before sleep times (she doesn’t go to bed with a bottle).
    Problem1. We do a quiet bedtime routine, story, song, hugs a quick chat about staying in bed for the night. I can literally but her back in bed for over 45 minutes ( no talking, no kisses, just gently laying her back down) the whole time she is screaming blue murder. If she does stop and fall asleep it will be for 10minites and then she is right back at it. She literally will not stop until either dad lays her down or I lay with her or she gets a bottle. At nap time if someone lays with her she will sleep for 2-3hours, on her own 45 minutes (she wakes up screaming and still very tired)

    Do I give in, as it is a faze or stand my ground?
    -has been happening for 2 months
    -no changes in household or routines
    -have tried to ask her why she is upset when she screams at bed

    Thank you for your time,

  2. Lola says:

    I’m sure it’s a stage, but with development and growing awareness of the world around her can be a scary thing sometimes. It’s prob a combo of internal/external stimulation. Maybe she’s scared but doesn’t know how to tell you &/or having bad dreams but can’t remember once she’s awake. It’s hard to say. But, try a session of play about an hour b4 bed, active if she has more energy to spend or quiet if she seems too wound up. It may help to add a night light or a lamp with a lampshade soft color bulb in her room. Some white noise may help in case there are noises waking her from outside. Will she sleep with a stuffed toy or small blanket for comfort? Also, she may be having bad dreams. I say these points because we have twins and while they are a few months younger than your daughter, both are afraid of the dark (starting from twilight), certain shadows (if the lighting is wrong for them) and one wakes crying hysterically at times with heart beating fast, which we realize are nightmares. They barely take naps and won’t sleep anywhere but their beds (which takes about 30 min of winding down). Sometimes they cry until they fall asleep, and unfortunately at times wake each other up.

    As long as your toddler well and doesn’t have a headache or fever, try your best to create a new routine and remain consistent (along with anyone else who cares for her) that will set up the stage for sleep. For example, if she wants her milk, give her less and less and replace with a small amount of water (a sip) until she doesn’t need it. Try a bath as part of the bedtime routine and put a chair near her bed for those times she wants you in her room and don’t lay with her or next to her bed and talk reassuringly to her for a minute or two then stop and wait her out until she falls asleep. From what I understand, it takes at least 2 wks to get into the groove of a new routine. Time & patience & consistency are key! Best of luck!

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