I read this great phrase in a book once, it said: the British Empire have nothing on toddlers. The sun rises and sets on them. Truer words have never been written. To a toddler, the world belongs to them and it’s theirs for the taking. Everyone belongs to them and everyone is there for them.
This can make your toddler a tyrant at times and it’s important to understand that while your toddler believes the world revolves around them – it’s important to teach them that they cannot make decisions for other people. One of the greatest gifts you can give your toddler is the gift of understanding that other people have the right to make the decisions for themselves.
And how, exactly, does a parent do that?
Well, if you’re thinking very carefully, then you’re right. The problem exists because as parents, we put the needs of our children before our own. That’s how it goes. We’re supposed to do that. In fact, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. What you need to understand though is there is a vast difference between need and want.
It can be easy to confuse the two initially because infants are hardly going to separate the two different conditions and you’re not likely to either. But as they grow and become more independent through walking, talking and more, you need to learn to balance their needs and their wants with your needs and your wants.
What they want is not always what they need
Your toddler cannot possibly distinguish between these two different types of desires, so it’s up to you to draw the lines. If your little one has their way, you’ll be at their beck and call and entertaining them 24 hours a day. They will sleep with you, eat your food, drink your drinks and you’ll have absolutely no other forms of entertainment or interest outside of them.
So, it’s important that you teach them to recognize that you have needs too. While they are not responsible for fulfilling those needs, they do have to respect them. Teaching respect takes time and patience. You have to let your little one know certain rules and guidelines. For example:
- “Mommy enjoys having her quiet with her morning cup of coffee, just like you enjoy having mommy cuddle you at night before bed. So let mommy have her quiet fun with her coffee and you play with these toys, all right?”
- “Mommy has to make a few phone calls, but let’s find you something to do while I do that. That way we both have something to do.”
- “Your cousin likes to play that game and you like to play with your animals, let your cousin play with his game while you play with your animals.”
- “It’s quiet in here because all these other people are looking at books, reading or doing some work – you can talk, but not shout.”
Still, you can phrase your requests as gently as you like – but toddlers may not always listen. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. Be firm, but always kind with your requests and rules. You can also set a good example for them by behaving well yourself. If you snap at other people, trod over them in conversation and behave altogether badly – just remember – your toddler is going to get the message that it’s okay to do those things because the most important person in their world does it.
What ideas can you offer to help parents teach their toddlers respect?