How Offering Your Toddler Choices Can Work for You

Image via Mindi Stavish
Image via Mindi Stavish

It's 8:30 pm and you have had one. long. day.  Your overtired toddler is running around in circles.  Every time you attempt to catch him to put his pajamas he seems to get another burst of energy.  After another failed attempt you feel tears of frustration in your eyes.

Since toddlers are constantly testing their boundaries, it's important to give them structure and routine. 

“Why won't you just listen and get your pajamas on?”  you ask your crazed toddler for what seems like the millionth time.  

Does this sound familiar?  It's what has been occurring in my house almost every night and it's getting old.  Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to implement a few strategies that will decrease the nightly bedtime battles.  One of those strategies has been giving my strong willed toddler choices.  Here is how they have played out.

Image via Nicole Hempeck
Image via Nicole Hempeck

Problematic Behavior #1 Running away from me when I declare that it is time to go upstairs to get ready for bed.

Solution:  Give him a choice of doing the wheelbarrow walk to the stairs or hoping on one foot.  

Outcome:  There are some nights that I am completely worn out and don't feel like doing anything other than crawling into my own bed.  Putting on a happy face and doing the wheelbarrow walk or hopping takes the rest of my energy, but surprisingly it gets my little boy up the stairs.  

MORE: Setting Toddler Bedtime Routines }

Image via Nicole Hempeck
Image via Nicole Hempeck

Problematic Behavior #2:  Refusal to sit still to get his clothes on and pajamas on, resulting in me having to wrestle him to the ground.  After wrestling my strong toddler to the ground, he resists getting undressed and squirms around.  Eventually he breaks free and we repeat the same cycle over again. 

Solution:   I rarely give the same choice two nights in a row and when I do it typically does not work.  Toddlers are smart and don't usually fall for the same trickery twice.  Some nights I may give my son two choices of pajamas to pick from.  Other nights I give him the choice to get dressed on the floor or in the big bed (our bed).  

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Outcome:  Some nights offering a choice really helps my guy become invested in putting on pajamas.  Other nights he could care less that I gave him a choice.  Those nights are hard, but I fight though.  In the end mommy always wins.   

MORE: Discipline a Toddler }

Image via Flickr/mettamatt
Image via Flickr/mettamatt

Problematic Behavior #3:  My little guy loves bathtime and usually stays in the tub until the water turns cold.  I'm sure he would stay in longer if I let him.  He kicks and screams all the way out of the tub.    

Solution:  I set a “bathtime over” timer on my phone and let him chose what sound effect he wants the phone to make.  I also let him choose how many minutes left we have in the bath.  Since he is just learning about numbers and time, he loves to choose a number.  I only suggest reasonable time frames (1, 2, or 3 minutes) and stick to the number he chooses.  

Outcome: Setting a timer has made a huge difference in reducing bathtime battles.  I honestly can't believe how well it has been working for me!  I think the fun sound effects really help.  If you don't have the option of a phone timer, pick up a fun timer like the Timer Bot pictured here and allow them to twist the top to set their remaining time in the tub.

Since toddlers are constantly testing their boundaries, it's important to give them structure and routine.

I find that adding in a couple of choices into a routine helps them feel as if they have some control in the situation.  It also helps to build their self-confidence.  As a parent, there is nothing that makes me happier than seeing my child feel proud of himself.  Well, except for maybe a clean toddler who helps get himself dressed and into bed without any battles.  A mom can dream, right?  

What toddler battles do you find most challenging?  Do you offer choices during these situations and do they help?

 

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What do you think?

How Offering Your Toddler Choices Can Work for You

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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2 comments

  1. Heather says:

    One of our battles is eating. I don’t want to force her to eat, because I know she’ll eat when she’s hungry, but when all she’s eaten the entire day is some goldfish crackers, some milk, and maybe some dry cereal… and it’s dinner time, I have no clue what to do. She loves M&Ms, so I tell her that she can have some (small handful if it’s at least an hour or more until bedtime) if she eats well. We try to get her to eat whatever I made for dinner, but most nights all she wants to eat is a vegetable. I think that’s healthier than her not eating at all, so we offer a choice of the veggie that she wants. Usually her favorite is corn 🙂

  2. Phammom says:

    Choices work most of the time fore me and when they don’t you stay strong and say ” you will do…. You can do this or that to get there. “

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