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Toddler Management for Take-Charge Dads

 

When you think of a father, the image you form is shaped by the model of your own father. If he was the leader of the family, chances are that you will think you need to be the leader of yours. But leader can mean many things. For a start, since you’re part of a different generation than your father’s, you’re probably aiming to share the title with your partner. And instead of a model of leadership that’s all about blind following, you and your mate are best served by adopting a kind of co-teacher model - a partnership that also includes your child, the student.

While your child is tiny, being the teacher is relatively simple. But the role changes when she becomes a raucous, rambling toddler who demands her own way. In the face of this fierce toddler who’s constantly testing you, how do you maintain order? 

There’s no such thing as one right decision

The first thing to understand is that every choice you make as a parent teaches your child a lesson. For example, you’ve decided that her bedtime needs to be consistent, even on nights when you have dinner guests, so she feels the security that having boundaries and routines provides. Therefore, you may choose to ask her to tell your guests goodnight, and then excuse yourself from your company to go through your child’s bedtime routine with her. Or you may want to change her bedtime routine for this special night, thereby teaching her how to cope with change and be flexible. Either choice is right, because it teaches your child a positive lesson.

So, who’s in charge?

As the example above illustrates, you can decide what you teach your child, how you do it, and when you do it - but remember one simple fact: Your toddler controls you! You'll regain some control over your life someday, but for the time being, she will decide when you sit down; when the TV comes on and what you'll watch; and when you'll get to read that magazine you've been trying to finish for days. You have responsibilities other than taking care of your child, but your first role as her primary co-caregiver revolves around her needs and the lessons she needs to learn each day.

Any attempt to control your toddler will provide further evidence that you can't control her; in fact, you can't really control any other person. (After all, it's hard enough to have self-control.) So instead of thinking about “controlling” your child, set limits to teach her how to navigate her world safely. Give him consequences for positive and negative behaviors as he tests the limits you set. We call this guidance teaching discipline - that is, how to help children learn to replace inappropriate behaviors with appropriate ones.

We know it’s not easy. Just remember, you are not alone. You do have a partner who is a part of your family's teaching team. Together you can establish rules and routines, teach positive lessons and have an occasional moment of peace even when a busy toddler wants to be in charge of everyone and everything in her world.

 

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