Parenting In Focus: No, no no!

A study in the academic journal Child Development showed that 2- and 3-year-olds argue with their parents up to 20-25 times an hour. Actually, arguing is a way your child gains confidence.

Saying “no” is a healthy way for him to feel he has some control. While this might help a young child, it does not help parents feel in control.

Conflicts are difficult for everyone. Giving in sets a bad precedent and being too strict can make your child scared, angry or more defiant. So what should you do? The thing you need to most work on is how to compromise.

• Tell him what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want. The chances are he hears lots of no’s and don’ts. Whenever you can, try to be more positive. He needs it, but so do you.

• Give him reasons why you are disagreeing with him. Most toddlers understand simple explanations. Try this; it can make a difference.

• Give him small choices to give him a sense of having some control. Try not to be the one who makes all the choices for him.

• Do as you say. If you want him to wear a hat, put one on yourself. If you want him to eat a bowl of fruit, join him. This is an age of imitating adults in his life. Take advantage of this happening in your home.

• Make him laugh. Laughing is very powerful. Turn your request into a game, like suggesting he guess how many brushes it takes to brush all his teeth. He is more likely to brush his teeth at this suggestion than to ignore your request.

• Listen to your child. Listening to our children shows our respect for them and builds their self-esteem. This is true even for two and three-year-olds.

• Help him change directions when things are not going well. Suggest he play a different game or give him a choice of different toys to play with when his friend has the toy he wants.

• Make sure you are consistent. If the rules change it is far more difficult for him to learn exactly what he should do and what he is expected to do. When he is expected to put on his seat belt when he gets into the car every time, he learns to do exactly that. Do not skip a time.

• Talk about what is going to happen. Let him know when you will be leaving in 10 more minutes or when his sister gets to play on the tricycle he is riding.

• Give him choices. Let him pick the book you read tonight. Encourage him to pick out the clothes he will wear. Give him as many choices as possible. This is just the beginning of him learning to be self-motivated.

Make sure you value your child. Be excited about his interests, the things he is enthusiastic about, his preference, his temperament, and abilities. These are the starting points that help you tap into his blossoming personality.

When he sees you share his interest and excitement, it gives him a sense of self-worth. That in turn increases his confidence.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to or call 360-681-2250.