In a Pickle: How Not to Pick a Fight With a Toddler

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And then he hit me.

In the midst of moving and bureaucracy and holiday madness, I had been carrying Cy around until my arms were about to drop off. I sat down for half a second and he started crying, wanting to be picked up and carried some more.

“No Cy, Mama wants to sit for a minute. Can you go play? How about those rocks? Want to play with those rocks.”

More crying.

“No Cy.” The crying only made me want to dig in my heels. He’s not wrong for wanting more connection when I’ve been so busy and distracted, even if it means I’m also more tired and less patient. And he’s not wrong for being frustrated that I’m not connecting with him as much as usual. However, I didn’t want him to learn that crying would get him what he wanted when I’d already said no.

He got so angry he hit me. Twice. In the face.

“NO, Cy. You do NOT hit Mama. I don’t care how angry you get, you do not hit Mama.” I turned my back on him and walked a few feet away. He cried harder and followed me. I told him to stop it; crying wasn’t going to help.

And then I realized he needed an out. He was in a pickle. He knew he had done wrong but I had not shown him what to do instead. He didn’t know how to do right and he didn’t know how to say sorry.

I was in a pickle too. I didn’t know how to teach him to say “I’m sorry.” So I said to him, “If you stop crying, I will pick you up.” He cried fiercely, but I repeated myself and, bit by bit, he stopped the tide of tears. When he was close enough to having stopped crying, I picked him up, all the while realizing how ridiculous the whole thing was as I was now doing what he wanted in the first place. We could have just skipped the whole drama.

But then again, if we had skipped the whole drama, I might not have learned that if you’re going to tell a child no, you need to have a back up plan. You need to give him an alternative. And if he does wrong, you have to find a way to show him how to make it right.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: He has been remarkably patient and well-mannered considering the crazy upheaval going on his life tonight. I love him AND I really appreciate him right now.

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2 thoughts on “In a Pickle: How Not to Pick a Fight With a Toddler

  1. This is perfect – you taught him that crying won't get him what he wants and throwing a fit is not the solution. I'm sure you'll only have to show him one more time and he'll have it down pat :)

  2. Yes, that's a hard one. But you did it right. It is important for him to learn all these things. Little humans don't come with a lot of built in information and it is amazing (and scary) when you realize just how basic parenting has to be. But you love him and that will help and even make up for times when it doesn't go as well as you will wish in hindsight. Cy is a lucky little guy to have a Mama and Papa who love him.