Why I'm Okay with My Toddler Being Demanding

by Lauren Matthies


Okay, this title is a little misleading.  I am not okay with my toddler being demanding, however, I am okay with polite bossiness.  What do I mean by that?  Well, do I require my son to say please?  Yes.  But, do I allow him to direct me?  Yes.

Around 18 months we started to get a lot of "here" (e.g, sit here, put this here) and commands to do this or that (e.g., mommy drink this, daddy drink this, put this show on, go out there, give me your hand, come this way).  It can be a lot.  As an autonomous adult having a toddler start dictating what you should do, how you should do it, and when you're allowed to can be frustrating and downright annoying.

Yet, here is why I don't mind it.  Imagine being in a foreign country, or better yet another planet.  You have wants, desires, and needs yet you don't really know how to communicate them. You try and the creatures on that planet do their best to guess what you are saying, but a lot of the time you are out of sync.  Then, one day you start understanding their language.  All of a sudden you say things and they respond in the way you intend.  You feel control for the first time.  You are eager to test out this language to confirm that it's not just a fluke.  You are thrilled that finally you can communicate in a way they understand and reliably respond to.

That's what I imagine it must be like for a toddler who is learning to speak.  After months of engaging in a communication guessing game, he is developing words that accurately express what he's feeling and what he desires.  I imagine it's both thrilling and reassuring.  I imagine it fosters a sense of self-efficacy and confidence.  And, I believe that by responding to his demands (albeit teaching him to request more than demand) I am demonstrating that he has value, worth, and a voice that is both heard and worth hearing.

So, even if it can be exhausting to be told to get up and down ten times, to move a cup left and right half an inch until it is in the exact right spot, or to stop and start a song thirty times, I will cherish it and revel in the joy of our mutual conversation.