Is My Toddler Manipulative or Innocent?
I hope I'm not the only one who has wondered this. Seriously. At what point does a baby or toddler know how to manipulate? How do you know if your toddler needs discipline or patience and understanding?
The hard part is being able to recognise when your innocent little baby has matured enough to start being 'naughty'.
The modern parenting 'experts' (blogs, Pinterest and Google) pretty much say that "it's great if your toddler tests boundaries by saying 'no' and having tantrums, and you should be more patient/understanding/kinder and don't ever get angry".
Conversely, the older generation (around me, at least) seem to judge kids and parents with the assumption that every toddler is manipulative and every parent is naïve.
While the modern experts are advising us not to use the word 'no', smack or raise our voices, the older 'experienced' parents are advising us to absolutely say 'no' and not try to negotiate or communicate with a toddler.
It's my first time parenting a toddler. I'm learning as I go. So far what has worked has been doing my best to really understand my toddler's emotional/physical needs, her personality, how she learns and expresses things, and also my own tolerance for different things.
For example, maybe it's not a bad thing if my toddler is noisy at the dinner table, but it drives me insane, so she has to learn to be mindful of other family members' needs, even if she isn't being naughty as such.
So what about the times when she cries and seems terrified of getting in the bath tub? Is she being naughty and manipulative, or is she genuinely going through something?
Or, most recently, when she cried all through her swimming lesson and just wanted to 'stay with mummy'. What's that about?
Parents of toddlers ultimately have to ask themselves a few questions:
- What balance do I want between my child being obedient or being independent?
- Do I want my kid to be able to say 'no'?
- What do I have the energy to be consistent in?
- What sort of discipline am I comfortable with for my child?
When another (supervisory) adult disciplined my toddler different to how I would do it, at first I was taken aback, and then I was sort of just interested to see if it would work. It wasn't an approach I'd used, or one that I would feel comfortable using. It got me thinking about whether or not I was 'too soft' with my toddler. But I saw that my toddler didn't respond well to the teacher's way, and it probably made the situation worse. Perhaps I am being naïve and manipulated, but at least when I do it my way, it usually works instead of getting worse.
I know one day my toddler will be older and have to do as she is told in places like schools and sporting groups. There will be many people in her life who teach her and discipline her differently. Perhaps she will have an angry teacher who yells and throws things, or a pushover teacher who lets her do whatever she wants. Maybe her coach will make her run laps if she is talking instead of listening, or maybe he will assign her to the substitute bench. I don't really know what's ahead, but she will have to learn to cope emotionally with how others make and enforce rules.
So, all that to say, parenting a toddler is really a big mind game where you are constantly questioning yourself. In fact, that's pretty much parenting from the day you're pregnant (or start trying) - you're constantly questioning yourself. The difference is, when your baby gets to be a toddler, you have a very keen audience watching and learning from your every move.
"Is mum going to give in this time?"
"How does mum make her decisions about this?"
"What will mum do if I do this?"
"When I cry/tantrum will I get what I want?"
Oh the joys. Happy parenting!