Your toddler obeys Dad, but not Mom. Should Mom step aside?
There were times when our boys wouldn’t behave, and the “OK, I’m telling your father” line worked every time, much to my wife’s frustration because we fought against all those gender-based clichés. But when a kid is in that daddy-focused stage, you roll with it. What’s important is that dad uses his temporarily elevated influence to emphasize that he and mom are a team, and that disobeying mom is the same as disobeying dad. And don’t worry, mom; you’ll be the boss again before you know it.
– Phil Vettel
No, mom should not step aside. The tot needs to realize both parents need to be obeyed. At the same time, each parent has to make sure they aren’t cutting in on, or overruling, the other’s authority.
– Bill Daley
“First of all, this is incredibly common,” said Tovah P. Klein, director of the Barnard Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2 to 5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success” (Touchstone). “This is the stage in a child’s life when they’re trying to figure out how much power they have, and they feel like they don’t have much.”
So they decide to listen to one parent and tune the other out. (Hey, it’s something.)
“One way for a child to stake control is to say, ‘I’ll decide who’s going to put my shoes on or fix me dinner,’ ” Klein said. “The most important thing is for parents not to get caught up in the whirlwind.”
Parents who have different discipline styles – one is looser, one is stricter – often find their child responding more quickly and more willingly to the style they best understand. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s good for a child to learn how to negotiate with two separate people,” Klein said. “But nobody should have a child who’s running circles around them.”
Remember that it’s not personal, and keep yourself in the game, Klein said.
“Parents should give the message that they’re a united front,” she said. “They can say to the child, ‘I understand you want dad right now, but we’re in this together.’
“They’re still learning what all these relationships mean, and it’s important for them to understand that you’re on a team together,” Klein said. “They want control, but they don’t want too much control. They’re looking for limits.”
If possible, help each other see the humor in being bossed around by a toddler.
“The more you can use humor and keep it light, the better,” Klein said.
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