Motherhood, Olive

Parenting into the abyss


Olive likes to assert her superior intelligence at every possible opportunity,  especially when she senses that I’ve been reading parenting books.

It’s like she can feel me strengthening my patience and resolve, and immediately doubles down on her efforts to destroy me.


One role playing game at a time.

I knew myself well enough to anticipate that the toddler years would be challenging for me,  but I was completely unprepared for the sheer illogical madness of it all.

Toddlers ask you for water, but it MUST be in the little cup you brought back from Mexico. Then they dissolve into teary fits of rage when you place that precise little cup from Mexico,  filled with water,  in front of them a moment later.


Reasons, idiot. That’s why.

During the summer,  frustrated by our constant power struggles, I decided to take my mom’s advice and employ a strategy that would feed her tyrannical lust for control as much as possible. 

The idea was that instead of me issuing edicts like,  “Get dressed”, which she might feel compelled by the demon inside to refuse, I’d say something like, “It’s time to get dressed.  Would you like to wear your green shirt or your white shirt?”.  Then of course,  buoyed by this newfound independence and control over her life  she’d happily pick one,  hug me,  and be on her way.

That did not happen.

This did:

Me: OK,  Olive. It’s time to get dressed!
Olive: *Eying me with suspicion *
Me: *brightly* Would you like to wear your green shirt or your white shirt?
Olive: No.

Well,  shit.

The books never cover this. I took a deep breath and decide to try again.

Me: *Even more extra extremely upbeat* Would you like to wear pants today? Or a dress?
Olive: Anything!

If you think I’ve won at this point,  you’re wrong. Olive confuses anything and nothing,  so when it sounds like she’s being super complacent, she’s actually being extra obstinate.

Again with the mind games.

I eventually developed strategies to deal with these little conflict points,  mostly through trial and error.  In this situation I simply made it a requirement that she be fully dressed before she was allowed to eat breakfast in the morning,  rather than trying to dress her after,  as I had been.

It turns out even that even the most powerful dictators can be quite cooperative when scrambled eggs and kale + pear smoothies are on the line.

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  • Reply Kirstie December 18, 2015 at 12:43 AM

    My daughter is 3.5 and we are going through the same sort of thing…. She loves to have her independence but totally mucks around (and around and around!) until I lose my rag. So now I give a warning “2 minutes and then you’re getting dressed!” then it’s time to get dressed, I let her pick her clothes out of selection and I will help her get dressed. If she starts mucking around, instead of getting frustrated, I just say, “ok I’m leaving, see ya!” And Walk out of the room. She freaked out at the beginning, I did it about 5 times before she got the message, now when she’s being silly, I ask if she wants me to leave and she (usually) says no and starts to do what I’ve asked her.

    It’s working so far! And it is making for much less stress (and tears!) for both of us in the morning when I was trying to get out the door!

  • Reply Ashley December 18, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    Ha I love all the parenting books/articles that suggest that giving choices is the golden ticket in toddler parenting. I give my toddler a choice and 50% of the time he looks at me like “fuck if I know mom – gotta go destroy something!” I gave up on clothing choices because he always chose to stay in his PJ top no matter how many breakfast stains it accumulated. The only thing that works for us when it really matters to get shit done is to just announce we are doing something straight away. “Time to change your shirt” “time to go potty” “time to put on shoes” Otherwise he takes the idea that I’ve given a choice and turns it into “well she must be willing to negotiate on anything then…” ha!

  • Reply Cathy December 18, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    I have also attempted the “choice” strategy with little to no success. Most frequently, my exchanges with my almost 3 year old go something like this:

    Me: Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt? You get to choose.

    Leo: My choice is nothing.

    After which he resumes chewing on the lamp or building a tower of books on his baby sister.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine January 3, 2016 at 9:45 AM

      These jerks are running circles around us! I will pray for your soul.

  • Reply rebeccacatterall December 20, 2015 at 6:02 PM

    Oh dear you beautiful lady – you do make me giggle. If it makes you feel better I have a 16 year old boy and it’s pretty much the same conversation. Seriously. *passes the Sherry*.

    • Reply heidi ruckriegel December 27, 2015 at 6:26 PM

      With the addition of “but Muuuuum!” … gets to do whatever it is you’d rather he didn’t, therefore he should be allowed to do the same. Been there, but they do grow out of it. Mine’s now a beautiful young man of 25 and about to become a Dad, so he will cop his own turn, haha!

      • Reply Rebecca Catterall December 29, 2015 at 10:19 PM

        My eldest is 22 and when I was having my Moaning Myrtle moment with him about his younger siblings behaviour he tried reminding me that he had been an absolute nightmare when he was that age and I just can’t recall it. I’ve obviously just decided to block out the bad bits. Possibly why I don’t recall the utter stubborn mulish nightmare I was as a child. 😉 blocking it out is my long term advice. Sherry is my go to short term advice. Or Spicy Rum. Or you know… Just alcohol. I can’t wait for mine to have children. Vengeance will be Mine! Bwahh ahh ahh. *and lots of noisy presents that need no batteries – maracas anybody 😀 *

    • Reply sweetmadeleine January 3, 2016 at 9:44 AM

      Cheers, lol

  • Reply How to Parent From Bed - Sweet Madeleine February 20, 2017 at 5:10 PM

    […] Parenting Into the Abyss […]

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