Have you ever battled a toddler over the television remote? Some say it’s easier to pull a steak from the jaws of a hungry pit bull than to get a toddler to give up that remote.
Is it the shiny buttons that light up when pressed? Is it the nice sound the remote makes when slammed over and over again on the coffee table? I have a feeling the main attraction is none of the above. Instead, I’m going to guess that my toddler son is motivated to possess the remote primarily because he wants to be like the adults he sees using it.
A year ago, this situation could have easily been resolved by a quick tickle followed by a belly laugh … followed by his inevitable release of the remote. Not so today.
As Louie’s 2nd birthday approaches and he enters the toddler stage, I’m reminded this Father’s Day that being a father is about to get a lot more complicated. Recently, whenever Louie does something that would qualify him as a rascal, he will immediately look to me or his mother to judge our response. And when he doesn’t get what he wants, he engages in mini-tantrums that involve screaming, crying and executing surprisingly graceful left-right swing combos.
These are all natural reactions to his toddler frustrations, which include a lack of spoken communication skills. As a father, my natural reaction seems to be to lay down the law and set limits. The trick is to do this in a patient and gentle way when my toddler has just changed the channel in the middle of my favorite show and refuses to give up the remote.
I remind myself that everything he does is an exploring and learning experience, and his parents are his main teachers. When we have these exchanges, I find myself exploring my own capabilities of patience, communication and self-control, and I realize that it’s not just a one-way street. Both of us can learn something from each other.