The other day I was chatting away with another mama when I shared that my toddler had entered the boss phase. I went on to tell her about dinner a few nights before when he demanded, “You sit here, mommy.” I shared that I half-smiled and then sat “there.” Her reaction caught me off guard. She said, “Ooh, you let him boss you?!’ I don’t remember what I said exactly but I’m sure I probably offered up some cobbled defense.
The truth though: Yes, I do let my toddler boss me.
Now, this isn’t an “I do this so you should too” type of post, but that conversation got me thinking. I do let that little tyrant boss me. Intentionally. I won’t ever claim to be a perfect parent and I try hard not to judge others for their parenting styles. I’m new to this whole talking, learning, growing, developing at lightening speeds toddler thing and while I may screw it up I encourage you to hear me out.
I let my toddler boss me and here’s why:
1. It encourages confidence.
I’m not a psychologist, but I would argue strongly that bossy children are wildly confident. They’re barking orders in their own 2-year-old speak based on independent thinking about the world around them. They’re calling it like it is and taking charge based on what they know. They’re leading at the most fundamental level. Right now they aren’t jaded by a world of “no” or “it just won’t work” and they’re so gosh darn passionate.
Personally, I don’t want to be the one responsible for bursting that bubble. Every time I follow a bossy order, I see my son’s confidence and self-esteem grow. I let him take the lead from time and time and live by a “pick my battles” philosophy. If he wants me to sit by him at dinner, wear his rain boots to daycare, or push the little kid grocery cart through every aisle whilst knocking down multiple displays, because he’s a big boy and he “can do it, mommy” when all I really need are stamps – cool. If he wants to run with the scissors – I draw a hard line and then wait for his counter … because at two, there’s always a counter.
2. It’s an opportunity to teach manners (and other stuff).
I know, it seems ridiculous and contradicting but, for reals, it’s an opportunity for learning. When a bossed demand or instruction doesn’t work the way he envisions, he learns consequences. He also learns to listen and obey when he sees that I follow his direction or mirror how to politely say no when I don’t.
Maybe it’s here that I should caveat this whole bossing thing — I think it’s different than sass. If he’s back-talking or being super fussy and giving me unnecessary attitude, I tell him why that particular behavior is rude or unwelcome and then refocus or walk away. I encourage him to use “please” and “thank you” before and after doing what he asks. And you know what? It works — for us, for the most part.
3. It’s age appropriate.
The reality is toddlers lack the social acumen to know what bossy behavior is, but they do know what it means to be heard. They recognize when we, the parent, obey and follow through with action. They know what it means to ask for what they want even if they haven’t figured out tone or why making incessant demands, especially those unreasonable – get me the waffle, but not that waffle – demands, drive us bonkers. It’s not about power, y’all. You are the parent and your toddler is still a toddler. It’s about modeling behaviors we want mimicked. Even when I’m frustrated and at my weakest, I’m-so-not-proud-of-myself mom moments, I’m trying hard to demonstrate the behavior I want him to mirror (and then curse that little stinker under my breath).
Before kids, I thought bossy babes were rotten, entitled children whose parents had lost their resolve to raise decent human beings. Before kids, did I sit on my judgmental high horse and shake my head at a parent who seemed to let their toddler rule the roost and boast about how I would never be that parent? You bet I did!
Before kids, I didn’t understand just how dang hard it is to parent and have been humbled beyond your wildest imagination.