It isn’t called the “terrible-twos” for nothing.

Anyone who has raised a toddler knows how strong-willed they can be. Their desire for independence outraces their growing abilities to do things by themselves. Frustration or hilarity ensues, depending on your state of mind. Christina Clemer offers 5 phrases that she thinks might help avoid unnecessary battles and tantrums:

“May I show you a trick?”

You may see your toddler struggling with something, but know that if you offer help they will freak out. Some toddlers are very sensitive about their newly forming independence and want to do everything themselves — this is great! When you think about it, independence is a wonderful quality in a child. But it can make things difficult when they clearly need help.

Try offering help a little more indirectly, saying, “May I show you a trick?” Then show him how and let him have a turn to try. Tricks sound fun and this also gives them a way to accept help without admitting that they need it — key in many toddler minds.


Challenging a toddler to accomplish something on his own will work if you remain patient and kind, especially if all you are asking for is a little cooperation:

“I wonder if you know how to…”

If time is not of the essence, try musing aloud and see if it incites action in your little one without you even having to ask. “I wonder if you know how to put on your own pants.” They will often race to do it themselves.

Similarly, try “I wonder if you know where your shoes are” instead of “go get your shoes”. They will be eager to show you all of the things they know.


Allowing a young child to make choices for themselves fosters independence and confidence. Make sure the choices are reasonable: “Do you want to wear the red socks or the black socks?” is much better than asking “What socks do you want to wear today?” Especially when you don’t want them choosing the blue socks:

“Would you prefer this or that?”

Toddlers very much want to have a say. They’ve just found their little voices and they want to use them. Help celebrate this desire by offering them choice, whenever possible. Too many choices overwhelm, though, so stick to two or three.

Think about when in the day the power struggles and “no’s” are the most difficult. Then consider that situation and think about how you could offer some choice.

Is it diaper changes? Get two patterns of diapers and let him choose which to wear.

Is it going to get in the car? Ask if he’d prefer to skip or hop to the car today…and do it with him.

Is it cleaning up toys? Ask if he’d rather put away the blue or the red blocks first.

The truth is, toddlers often don’t have much choice. They’re too young to be the deciders and sometimes things just need to get done. Offering them these small choices though shows them that you respect their opinions, and keeps them from feeling like they’re being bossed around all of the time.


This one is brilliant:

“The clock says…”

We all know the phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Except for toddlers. They always blame the messenger and the messenger is often us parents. Create a “third point,” something else to place the blame on…


Read the rest of this excellent article on Motherly here.


(Back pat: Redrock Pediatrics)


(Image: Pexels)