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The Toddler Power Struggle

Babies and toddlers live in a world run for adults, by adults. They are constantly told not to touch things, items that look enticing disappear before their very eyes, and they get little say in what they do, wear, eat or even how they play. So, it’s no wonder they have such extreme reactions when told “no”. Of course, part of that this because they have difficulty regulating their emotions, so anger, upset or frustration are often explosions of feelings they cannot control. But could part of it also be the desire for some sort of control over their own lives? I think so and I also believe there are ways of giving back some of that control, so these tantrums happen less often, and with less severity.


1. Establish honest and open communication from birth; I’ve said this a million times and it’s probably the most important element to Hands Off Parenting. Telling your baby before you pick them up, sportscasting, and involving babies in care giving; bedtime, baths, nappy changes, feeds. All of this makes your baby feel like an active participant in their own life.


2. Safety is paramount but how do you keep you baby safe and remain respectful of their needs. First off, we need to create a yes space where babies are free to roam and play without restrictions. Next, if you do encounter something that is unsafe, perhaps a cable your baby spots and races towards. Instead of intercepting and making the item disappear by hiding it without explanation, simply pick the object up and explain to your baby why they cannot play with it “this cable is dangerous so I’m going to put it up high so no one can reach it.”


3. Offering choices where you can is a great way to give toddlers power they can handle. Allowing them to pick an outfit to wear is a perfect example. You could ask if they’d like their nappy changed lying down or standing up. There are so many opportunities to give choices but always limit what you offer (hold out two pairs of leggings and ask them to pick) so children don’t get overwhelmed. Meals are also a great time for choice – you decide when and what they eat and let your child decide how much (or whether they want to eat the food at all).


4. Really thinking about why we set the rules we do, and whether we really need to hold a boundary helps also. Sometimes we make needless work for ourselves by creating boundaries that are unrealistic or just unnecessary. Like forcing children to tidy up; which can create HUGE power struggles. I like to initiate tidy up time and if my daughter joins in, happy days, but I never force her. I know in time it is something she will be happy to help me with so long as it is her choice to do so.


Where do you find you have the most power struggles? Do you give your toddlers choice over what happens in their day to day lives? Is this something you struggle with? Please comment below 😊

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Tel: 0896000338

Hazel Cassidy

The Hands Off Parent

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Swords, Co Dublin