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Get Ready to Rumble

So Madeleine’s hit this stage that I
can only pray is early-onset Terrible Twos. She’s discovered
she has a will of her own, and her choice does not always coincide
with Mommy’s choice. This makes for some very very very long
days. See, the more Madeleine understands what I’m saying,
the more I try to explain what we’re doing and why; I’m
making an effort to include her in our day rather than throw her
around like a parcel from place to place. The good side is that she
understands pretty much everything I’m saying; the bad side
is that she now feels free to disagree.

We’ve just come out of a hard couple
of weeks going through what I call the Great Stroller Battle, which
luckily enough (I say sarcastically) coincided with the target="_blank"
Great Mitten Battle. Every morning, we get ready for the
playground in the exact same way: Maddie spends half an hour
looking longingly at the door and saying things like, “Shoes!
Outside!” in case I’m not getting the message.
Meanwhile, I’m packing her snack, getting out the stroller,
picking a toy to take to the park, and so on. Very last on our
to-do list is putting on our outdoor gear – shoes and a coat,
plus mittens and a hat if it’s really cold. Every morning,
Maddie happily climbs in my lap to get her shoes on, sticks out her
arms for the coat, and kicks her legs excitedly at the thought of
going to the park.

Then I try to put her in the stroller.

Up until two days ago, Maddie would scream, cry, stiffen up like a
board, and say, “No no no!” She only wanted to go
outside if she could walk by herself. Unfortunately, morning walks
to the park have to be in the stroller since I run multiple errands
on the way – I simply can’t carry a tired toddler, push
an empty stroller, and grocery shop for fresh fruit at the same
time. So the stroller is non-negotiable.

The first day this happened, I sat down with a tearful Maddie and
explained that if she wanted to go outside, she had to get in the
stroller. She shook her head, said no, and said
“Outside!” again. “Do you want to go
outside?” I asked. “Yes!” “Then you have to
get in the stroller.” “No!” “Maddie, you
don’t have to get in the stroller if you don’t want to.
But you do have to get in the stroller if you want to go to the

This went on for quite some time. Finally, I took off our shoes and
coats and settled in for a day of not going outside. A few minutes
later, Maddie asked to go outside again. We got re-dressed and went
through the same thing, with the same results. Once more removing
our outerwear, we realized it was snack time and sat down for an
indoor munch. Forty-five minutes after we originally tried to go to
the park, Maddie came up to me quietly and said,
“Outside?” I asked her, “Are you going to sit in
the stroller?” “Yes,” she said, and nodded. We
once more bundled up and she quietly allowed herself to be strapped

Honestly, I came the closest I ever have to yelling at my child.
She drove me to the edge of a screaming fit in those forty-five
minutes. At the same time, breaking her will almost drove me to
tears. I want so much to give her what she wants, when she wants
it! But I knew I had to be consistent and patient. I never made her
feel bad, and always spoke in an understanding, sympathetic way
while making it clear the choice was hers whether or not we went to
the park.

I wish I could say that was the only time, but we repeated that
scene every day for almost two weeks. Fortunately, we never took as
long – it tightened up to a five or ten minute discussion.
Every single time, I wanted to raise my voice and shake her with my
impatience. But I stayed eye level and calmly gave her options, and
every time the conversation went a little faster.

We’ve had these negotiations in other areas of life at the
same time: refusing to sit in her booster seat for a meal, wanting
to walk around with her drink (a no-no in our house), refusing to
get back in her stroller to come home for the day – these
have all been skirmishes in the Great War. And as I said,
they’ve just started tapering down over the past couple days.
I believe that Maddie now understands choices and understands Mommy
is going to follow through on those choices: no giving in because
I’m tired of the conversation.

If you’re in the middle of this same sort of power struggle
with your child, I encourage you to stick it out. Maddie’s
happier and more secure now that she knows boundaries and that
I’ll follow through on what I say. Honestly, it is exhausting
to spend three hours a day negotiating with a 17-month-old. And I
truly don’t know how you’d do it with more than one
child; I’ve got the whole day with nothing that really has to
get done except help Maddie grow. How you do it on a tight time
schedule and with siblings is beyond me. But I’m sticking it

If you’re entering a similar phase, here’s a couple
books to check out – href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FShepherding-Childs-Heart-Tedd-Tripp%2Fdp%2F0966378601%2Fsr%3D8-1%2Fqid%3D1163647605%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks&tag=1mother2anoth-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325">
Shepherding A Child’s Heart
and target="_blank"
Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles. They’re
both excellent, and help you to figure out the heart of the
behavior – the underlying motivation- rather than simply
treat the symptoms – the tantrums and heel-digging.

And if you’re a been-there-done-that mom, I’d love to
hear any tricks you’ve got up your sleeves. I’ve won
the battle, but I’m guessing the war is far from over.


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