In our group, we always appointed the same friend, single at the time, as our kids' playmate / teacher by default. She had a way with them and knew exactly how to get the little ones to do as she says. So, at a recent gathering, we were surprised to hear her 3-year-old daughter yell at her, "Get me food."
No "please," no "Mom, could you" — just an order followed by a frown. The expression on our friend's face told us it wasn't the first time her daughter talked to her this way. But more than anything we could see how embarrassed she was that we all witnessed this exchange.
The truth is, it might happen to anyone who has toddlers. At this age, kids behave like the world revolves around them, but only because their brains are wired that way. Thus, they demand your presence and expect undivided attention at all times.
And the line could vary from "Get me ___" or "Buy me ___" to "I want to go to ___," but they all boil down to the same thing: a demand.
The moment it happens, a parent's first reaction might be to save face and reprimand the child with a stern voice. But as we know, yelling back might just trigger a tantrum-in-the-making.
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Maybe you can let that pass (breathe in, breathe out), and might even enjoy how cute it sounds for a while, yes? But you also don't want to raise a child who grows up barking orders at everyone, do you?
Fortunately, it's not too late. You can coax your child into learning how to express himself without the entitlement. Here are some ways:
You are not condoning the misbehavior, but to understand what your child really needs at the moment. Help her identify what the demand is for, and from there you can teach her to express it properly next time.
Thus, when he says, "Get me food," she might really mean that she's hungry. Or when she says, "Go away," it might mean she needs space. Acknowledge that you understand the unerlying meanings behind her words so she knows how to say it in a more appropriate manner in the fuure.
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2. Reply objectively.
If the reason for the demand is food, then tell her where he could find food. It is advisable to teach preschoolers to become self-sufficient rather than always being there to rescue them.
The more your child thinks, becomes frustrated and tries out different ways of doing things, the more they become able at problem solving. Instead of giving in to their demands, challenge them. Ask, "What do you think can be done?" or "Do you have any ideas?"
Brainstorm with your child on possible solutions to problems, advises child psychologist Ma. Araceli Balajadia-Alcala, and don't shoot down their suggestions without testing them or discussing cause and effect.
4. Give them support
While you resist the urge to rescue them as they try and solve problems on their own, it doesn't mean that you can't support them as they struggle.
Sometimes, all your kids need is a little empathy. So, you can meet the demand for now, but it doesn't mean that you are 'giving in.' You are also nurturing your children's emotional intelligence this way, helping them recognize and label their feelings, learning self-control, and understanding themselves as well as other people around them.
"It is often said that having just one person in your life who believes in you can make a huge difference in how you turn out," says Balajadia-Alcala.
At the end of the day, a demanding child doesn't mean that you have failed as a parent. It just means that at that moment, your child is unable to communicate herself well. The key is to have patience — teach her and she will get there.