Why does he refuse to obey? It is normal for a toddler to disobey from time to time because his developing brain makes it difficult to control his gestures, emotions, and thoughts. In addition, the young child is motivated by pleasure, which is why he does what he wants to do rather than what is asked of him. Therefore he needs monitoring and helps to comply with the rules.
Before 2 years
The toddler may refuse to end an activity even if asked because he wants to repeat it over and over again in order to develop new skills. He exercises himself with perseverance. He may also refuse to obey because he needs to feel that he has some power over his life or because he still does not understand the instructions.
2 years to 3 years
The child starts to remember the simple instructions (eg, “Put away your toys”), but he needs the presence of an adult to respect them. The toddler also disobeys sometimes because he wants to check if his behavior is the one that is expected. He can also disobey to see if he is really being watched.
In addition, the toddler needs to assert himself to make his place and be autonomous. This is a normal step in its development.
Despite this need for affirmation and autonomy, the child needs clear boundaries. During this “little adolescence”, he tests daily the rules and limits of his parents. And above all, it checks if they apply the consequences announced.
3 years to 5 years
The child understands most of the simple instructions and more and more double instructions (eg “Put your coat on the hook and bring me your bag”). However, it is still normal to have to repeat the requests more than once, because the toddler is guided by his urges and his pleasure.
Since the imagination is very important at this age, it may also be necessary to repeat the instructions if they are spoken when the child is focused on inventing an adventure or dreaming.
What can be done to promote obedience in your child?
Your child stubbornly refuses to listen? You are not alone. Papa Guillaume testifies.
Make sure you have your toddler’s attention before giving instructions. To achieve this, you can use the senses of hearing, touch, and sight to help your child listen. For example, you can stand at eye level and make eye contact with your hand or shoulder when talking to them.
You can have your toddler rehearse or ask questions to see if he understands. It is a way of making him feel responsible for hearing, understanding and respecting what is asked of him.
When possible, give your child a choice, as his opposition often expresses his desire to decide for himself. Letting him make small decisions also promotes his collaboration. For example, instead of saying, “Put your cubes in the box,” ask him instead: “Do you want to start by storing red cubes or blue cubes? If he refuses to put on his shoes, you can also ask him by what foot he wants to start. So, your child feels that he has power over his actions.
Be determined. Your child responds to the instructions you give him, but also to the way you formulate them. This explains why two parents can apply the same rules, but obtain different results. The secret: to look determined, announce the order, and then stick to it.
Empathize by recognizing your child’s desire. For example, if he refuses to take a bath because he plays, tell him, “I know you like to play with the blocks, but now it’s bath time. You can play blocks tomorrow. As he feels understood, your child will collaborate better.
During the “no phase”, between 2 and 3 years, be firm, but understanding. Frame your child and set limits while giving him control over certain aspects of his life. Concentrate on a few important rules to avoid being always in confrontation with him. For example, it is you who set the bedtime, and it is non-negotiable. However, you can agree to let him put the blue pajamas he asks for, even if you have already released the red.
Try the “1-2-3” formula. It works well with toddlers.
- Formulate the instruction and the associated consequence.
- Tell your child that you will count to 3 before applying the consequence if the instruction is not respected.
- Count to 3.
- If your child did not do what was asked, apply the consequence.
Be consistent in the application of the rules. Consistency in the application of rules is essential because a toddler is more likely to disobey when rules are not always enforced. In this case, your child may even oppose further to understand what the real limits are. To learn more about applying the rules, see Box 5 “C” of Good Discipline below.
When your child does not obey, instead of repeating and impatiently, act. Your child always adjusts his reaction time to your degree of tolerance. If you always repeat something 10 times before acting, he sets his mental clock to 10. If he does not do what you asked him to do, you can do it for him, but with a logical consequence. For example, the toy he refuses to put away is confiscated.
Do not give him what he wants when he has a crisis. If you do, he will understand that crises are a good way to get what he wants.
Spanking and physical punishment
Experts agree that spanking and other forms of physical punishment are not helpful or effective. They should not be used. In addition, physical punishment does not allow learning and instead brings a sense of humiliation and a loss of confidence of the child towards the parent. In addition, as children learn by imitating their parents, physical punishment can develop a habit of violence in the child rather than healthy behavior.
How to prevent disobedience?
- Reduce the number of rules and insist only on those that are absolutely necessary.
- Praise your child when he obeys you and does things right. Over time, he will realize that when he follows the instructions, he gets positive attention, which is more pleasant to receive than negative attention.
- Apply the “grandma’s rule”, which uses the illusion of a reward, for example: “When you pick up your books, we can take out that other toy” or “When you wash your hands, we can to sit down to dinner.
The 5 “Cs” of good discipline
To be respected, a rule must be:
- Claire: The rules and consequences must be clear and known. Use words that your child understands.
- Concrete: Formulate the rules by indicating the expected behavior, not the one you do not want your child to adopt.
- Constant: The same rules must always be applied, regardless of the adult present (dad, mom, grandparents, guardian, etc.). When you have established a consequence, do not change your mind and apply it, otherwise, your child will not believe you anymore.
- Coherent: Before establishing a rule, make sure that you will be able to apply it. As you are an important role model for your child, you must respect the rules he has to follow.
- Cons: Ideally, the rules should, when they are not respected, have a consequence that is directly related to your child’s behavior. Thus, he can understand his mistake, correct himself and learn new behaviors.
When to worry?
Some toddlers are more opposed to the rules than the average child. In any case, consult a doctor if, for several months, you feel that your child:
- Regularly resists your authority (he does not do what you ask him);
- Frequently opposes (argues, provokes, shouts)
- very often demonstrates aggressive behavior towards requests (pushing, hitting or throwing objects).
If your child’s opposition is not related to the normal affirmation period of a toddler, the doctor can guide you to the appropriate professionals (eg psychologist, psychoeducator, social worker, special education worker ). These will help you put in place strategies that will establish a more harmonious relationship with your child.
The toddler is motivated by pleasure. therefore, it is more difficult for him to respect certain rules.
You can help your child by being clear, concise and concrete in your requests.
The consequences that are consistent with the actions taken make the child better understand the consequences of his actions.