Children, particularly the toddlers and early preschoolers, are full of energy and curiosity. They are trying to master many skills, like walking, talking, and climbing. One of the biggest challenges that they face is to develop their sense of independence. With independence, there comes wanting separation from parents, wishing to do some things on their own , with the child’s message “I can do it myself, and my way!”, most parents interpreted it as a difficult to tolerate and a challenging task for them to deal with.
Parents can take comfort in knowing… that
Each child has a unique timetable for this burst of “negativism”, but many parents will notice an increase in this difficult behavior around 18 months and again around 30 months.
Negativism is characterized by refusal to obey requests and has the tendency to resist direction to older individuals, like their parents.
For instance, a parent would request his child to return home from the playground and the child will demonstrate active negativism by running away.
Normally, negativism diminishes as we grow older. However, if this behavior fails to diminish, it tends to become a characteristic of a personality disorder. Oppositional defiant disorder is a behavior from unresolved negativism behavior during one’s childhood years, characterized by a behavior that is negativistic, defiant and hostile towards authority figures. Counseling and behavioral therapies are offered for those people having this disorder.
Negativism among young children is always accompanied with temper tantrums. Toddlers begin to use the word ‘NO’ freely on their own. Parents tend to be annoyed when they hear the word repeatedly. This must not be a reason for giving your children a lesson because on this stage, they are developing their sense of being a separate individual and they begin to realize that they have their own want and abilities.
Parents may recognize the new skills that their child is developing, making them start to set limits. However, these limits tend to go against the will of these children causing a frustration and might end up in chaos.
Tips for parents…
- Lighten up the mood of your child’s environment. If you sense that your child starts to become frustrated and starting to throw “no” as an answer, deal with your child with a touch of sense of humor. Humor and silliness might get her attention to do what you need to do, say: “I think we should put these cute, giggly toys inside this willy, silly basket,” instead of “Put these toys away. They are mess!”
- Offer choices. As you might get a “no” answer from your child, think of several choices that the child might choose. This could also help the child developsense of being independent.
- Don’t ask questions that will require a “yes” or “no” answer. The toddlers will undoubtedly say “NO!” For example, instead of “Would you like oatmeal for breakfast?” say, “Would you like hot or cold cereal?”
- Keep a firm, yet reasonable limits. Setting limits to your child is important for their safe and security’s sake. If you plan to go to the mall and he doesn’t want to wear his shoes, you may pretend not to go to the mall anymore unless he will wear the shoes; or refuse to start the car when your child refuses to wear seatbelt for safety.
- Prepare your child for the adjustment. Children sometimes don’t like to stop on what they are doing. When your child is playing outside, warn your child that it is almost time to go home. They may tend to become fussy about it or may even respond with “no” as an answer, but when this is often practiced, your child will eventually adapt.
- Try to be patient with your child. You may hate it when you become frustrated; it is also the way the child feels when they become upset. Therefore, let your child know that you understand what he/she feels. Respond to him calmly, encourage your child in a caring manner. This will surely result in less stressful moments at the end.
- These are the things that the parents must consider use when they are having difficulties dealing with their child’s negativism. The key is to pay as little attention as possible to your toddler's protests. Ignoring the behaviors you want to eliminate is the fastest way to be rid of them. (The only exception to this rule is if your child is being physically hurtful—hitting, slapping, punching, and so on—in which case you calmly but firmly stop the behavior and explain that he can feel mad but he cannot hit.)
Think about your own behaviors: Could you be sending mixed messages to your child? Sometimes our own choices and behavior as parents can influence our children's behaviors
- Avoid the “Okay?” pitfall.
“Let's go to bed now, okay? Time to get dressed, okay?” Although this is a very common way that adults communicate, it is confusing for young children. They take your question at face value and think they have a choice to say, “No, I really would rather not go to bed right now.” This can create unnecessary power struggles. Be sure to communicate what is and isn’t a choice very clearly. “It is time to put on pajamas and get ready for bed. Do you want to wear the green or the red PJs?”
- Think in advance about the limit you are going to set so that you can avoid changing your mind mid-stream.
Avoid giving in. If you give in to tantrums, your child learns that if he pushes hard enough, he’ll get what he wants. This will also make it more difficult for you the next time you try to enforce a limit.
Stay focused on the positive behaviors your toddler exhibits, as she explores her world and learns new skills.
Continue to remind yourself that toddlers won’t learn all the “right” skills for being independent people for a very long time.
Flexibility is helpful when parenting toddlers! Parents need to be able to switch gears when a situation isn’t going well and the toddler is getting upset. This may seem to some that the child is “in control”; however, what is really happening is the parent is assessing the situation and making a choice to change for everyone’s benefit.
For example, you ask your child to put the toys away and he says “No” and begins to whine. Instead of “sticking to your guns” and making him do it by himself you could say “Let me help so you can go outside and play”.
Stay focused on teaching the behavior you want, rather than on calling attention to the behavior you don’t want. For example, say, “I like it when you walk in the grocery store,” rather than “Stop running!”
Remember “Difficult” behavior during the toddler years will not last a lifetime. When parents allow their toddler to assert his independence in acceptable ways, the toddler can pass through this stage and move to the more cooperative, reasonable preschool stage. Older toddlers can be taught, with patience and understanding, the basics of appropriate social behavior.
Reference: Touchpoints, by T.Berry Brazelton, M.D.