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  Parenting Advice Column
  Subject: Toddler battles mom during dressing and washing

Question:

Whenever my 2 1/2 year old needs to be changed, dressed, bathed, hair washed, or brush teeth--we have a battle!!! Screaming, clawing, running away, etc. continue as I try to get the task done. My nerves are frayed and I dread every changing although I certainly try not to show it. For some reason, my husband does not usually have the fierce battles with my son that I have. I'm hoping for advice, please. MANY THANKS!

Karen


Jan's Reply:

Hi Karen,

Thank you for writing. Without more details, it would be difficult to say with certainty what the trouble is, but there is a clue in your letter: your husband is not experiencing such difficulties. Perhaps if you watch and listen closely when your husband is helping your child during these activities, you may see something helpful. Is he more (or less) verbal with the child than you are? Does he sing to him during these times, while you are silent - or vice versa? Is he more gentle in handling him - or does his "fatherly" handling help your child feel more secure? Is your son more angry with you for any reason, such as recent punishment? (If so, please read my articles on this subject.)

Is your husband able to "keep cool" more easily, so that the battle doesn't escalate? If so, it may not be any reflection on your skills. It may simply be that when your husband is home with you, everyone is more relaxed, because there are now two adults present. Moms who are isolated with young children can easily feel overburdened and stressed. Two things that I found helpful in this situation were: having friends over for a visit, or "splurging" occasionally on housekeeping help, so I didn't feel so fatigued and overstressed.

These considerations might suggest changes in approach that could make things easier for both you and your son. Another suggestion: try not to get caught up in a tight schedule, so that these activities "must" get done at a certain time, such as just before leaving the house for an important appointment. If you can manage to have a looser schedule, you could stay more relaxed, and you could give your child some leeway too. If he feels totally out of control as to the timing of these activities, he will be more likely to resist - simply because of his feeling of helplessness and his frustration at having someone else make all the decisions as to when these things happen.

If, on the other hand, your schedule can be made less pressing, you might then feel relaxed enough to say something like "I see you're not ready for this right now. Tell me when you are ready." This might give him enough sense of having some "say", and some degree of control, that he may well surprise you and come willingly a bit later. (Don't expect this kind of change overnight; be patient while he learns the new arrangement.)

All the best,

Jan

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