Q: My almost-three-year-old, when I begin to do something, will yell, “I WILL DO IT!” When it’s something he can do, fine, but if it’s not, then I just say, “No, Mommy will do it,” and that’s the end of it. He also tells me, probably 10 times a day, “No nap, Mommy! No nap!” When it’s naptime, however, he goes upstairs and gets in his little bed without a fight. Finally, when I tell him to do something, he’ll say, “Ummmm, no.” But then he turns right around and obeys. Should I make an issue of any of this?
A: Not unless you want to begin creating a problem where one does not currently exist. Concerning your son’s harmless little displays of chutzpah, your great-grandmother would have said, “Leave well enough alone,” and when it comes to children, your great-grandmother is my role model.
Older twos and threes are very imaginative and experimental. I think your son is simply experimenting with being oppositional and (at times) insolent, but in your most blessed case, it seems experimenting is as far as it’s going to go. If you respond to these declarations with consequences, you stand a good chance of making a mountain out of a molehill, in which case you may end up with a power struggle on your hands.
You’ve done a great job of responding very matter-of-factly to his pretend rebellion and preventing it from going further than pretend. Keep up the good work.
Q: My 14-month-old was taking baths just fine until about a month ago when he became enraged because I wouldn’t let him stand up in the sink (which is where I’ve bathed him until now). Ever since then, he has become hysterical when I take him to the sink or the tub. I’ve tried putting him in without water (with toys) in order to help him re-form a positive association, but no luck. We’ve gone to the local indoor pool twice now, and he began to relax and splash around a little by the end of the second trip. I would love not to have to rely solely on sponge baths and showers with Mom to get him clean. Should I cater to his fears and rest bath time for now, or should I push the issue?
A: Although it may look like it, this is not rebellion. Your son freaked when you wouldn’t let him out of the sink. This may have been the biggest emotional reaction he’s had to anything thus far in his short life, so it made a big impression, one that’s going to take time and patience to undo. In the meantime, it’s sponge baths and showers and baths with Mommy. When he’s comfortable going into the tub and being held in your arms (don’t turn on the water until you’re in there, and even then, turn it just past trickle), try getting out without him and seeing how he does. But give it at least a month before you make that attempt. Bottom line: this, too, will pass.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.