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April 26, 2013

Parent is singing the baby blues

NORMAN — Q: It seems our 1 year old is showing willful disobedience. We tell him “no” and try to redirect, but he does the same things over and over again.

The things in question include turning over and not being cooperative when I’m trying to change him, slapping us in the face and standing up during bath time. I’m trying to be creative with ways to entertain him and make things fun but am getting weary. Any advice on how I can correct him?

 

A: I’m fairly certain this is your first child because the examples you gave of “willful disobedience” are typical of this age. By thinking of them as acts of defiance that need correction, you’re setting the stage for ongoing, and ever-worsening, power struggles. In other words, the problem here is not his behavior; it’s your perspective, your interpretation of his behavior.

The proper perspective is “so what?” So what if he squirms when you are trying to change him? So what if changing him takes three minutes instead of two? So what if he stands up in the tub? Just steady him with one hand and wash him with the other. Or wash him in the kitchen or laundry room sink so that you are standing up and can exercise more physical control of him while he’s standing.

So what if he slaps you in the face? At this age, this is not purposeful aggression. When it first occurred, it was random. Your reaction — startled? angry? — interested him, and he wants to see it again. The solution is (a) to do your best to not put your face within striking range, (b) to intercept as many slaps as you can, and (c) react nonchalantly when an attempt to intercept isn’t successful.

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