Do something ANNOYING over and over again (asking for “one more book” at bedtime)
Why do they ask for “one more book” over and over again?
It sometimes gets them what they want.
It’s all your fault.
It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
It’s all in the way you look at it.
Your child repeats that annoying thing for the same reason they repeat the fun thing: connection with you.
Last week we talked about a toddler’s delight in repeating a fun action over and over again, and how you can spend most of a day doing pretty boring (for you) but pretty fun (for them) stuff. “Dump and fill” and “build and destroy” are two ways this plays out for toddlers. Another one is just silly back and forth “turn taking games” (like peekaboo).
But what about when your toddler is doing something super annoying? Like whining when you tell them they can’t have something. Or, asking for ‘one more book’ at bedtime and then crying about it if you say no. Or, continuing to mess with something that you just told them not to.
I was a little flippant when I said it’s all your fault. Except that it kind of is. And here’s why.
Children are scientists at heart. They are trying to learn the rules of life on Earth. This means testing ALL assumptions and boundaries and then taking data on what they figure out.
So, let’s take bedtime as an example and go back to the very beginning. If your child is begging for “one more book”, chances are that at some point in the past, you offered that “one more book” as a way of making bedtime smoother that day. You probably don’t even remember doing it. But your child does.
What you didn’t realize at the time is that your child took that data, filed it away in their super-computer, and can retrieve that information whenever they need it. Mainly - when they don’t want to go to bed just yet (even though they need to) and they want you to stay with them a little longer. Because that’s how they’re wired. For connection. With you.
They are NOT actually trying to make you crazy. They are just trying to get their needs and wants met. And they will do it by any means necessary.
Even if it gets them negative attention. Because negative attention from you is better than no attention from you.
Ok, you say, so what am I supposed to do? Just give in to everything my Toddlersaurus Rex wants?
But you already know that the way you’re doing things isn’t working. So you have a couple of options:
Keep doing what you’re doing and shift your perspective. You CAN decide that you are HAPPY to give your child that extra book at night. You can gather all your patience and give in to your child’s desire for your attention. You might even find that when you stop resisting giving your child the attention they crave, that their need for it decreases slightly. This option is about shifting your perception of the situation. If you decide it’s not annoying, then it’s not. It’s as simple as that (but not necessarily easy!).
If option 1 sounds like a slow and painful death, then you’re ready for a change. But it might feel more complicated at first because you’ll need to reprogram your child’s supercomputer by writing some new rules and then sticking to them.
Things will not go smoothly the first time. Or the second. But by the third (or 4th or 5th) time, your child will learn the new system. And even if it feels like they won’t learn, trust that they will.
I can’t tell you which option to choose. YOU get to decide what’s right for your family. It’s about how you want your life to look with these strange little aliens in it.
But, if you want a little guidance and some practical tips on how to deal with bedtimes, tantrums and other toddler moments, my Toddler Talk Online Program for Parents is one way to do that. I walk you through strategies and frameworks for how to make your parenting life look more the way you want it to. I hope you’ll check out my Toddler Talk Online Program at ... www.speechkids.com/toddlertalk.
All my best,