37 answers

Help with a Contrary Child

My wonderful 3 year old daughter is the apple of my eye, but she has this one behavior that is driving me absolutely batty. She lives to be contrary. Example: she says, "Mommy, I'm hungry." I say, "OK, how about an apple." "No, I don't want an apple." I say OK and put the apple away, ready to offer her another choice. She screams, "No! I want the apple!" I say, "OK, fine, here's the apple." She screams, "NO! I don't want the apple." and on and on. We instituted the "first answer" rule, in which the ONLY answer we will accept to any question is the first answer. We've been doing this for months and she is still pulling this nonsense. She's just not getting it. If I don't figure out how to get her to stop this behavior soon, I'm going to go mental.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I would try to offer up choices. "Do you want an apple, or a banana?" "Do you want to wear the pink shirt or the yellow one?" and see if it makes any difference. Most children will pick the second choice, or the last one they hear. So, keep this in mind when you're offering and say what you prefer as the last choice.

1 mom found this helpful

Dear T.,

Sit her at the table or in her high chair, give her a couple of slices of an apple, and sit there and talk to her like she was a dear friend and you are having a 'coffee' time. then, if she refuses, you take a slice and nibble at it. Say, are you finished ? Do you want to play now? When she demands again say no. and let her cry. O.K.? C. N.

While I agree with previous suggestions of limiting the number of choices, not being drawn into protracted battles, etc, here's another possible way to look at the situation. When my spirited daughter acts this way, especially when she was younger, ie 2-3.5, sometimes she means "I want the apple, but I don't like the way it's being presented." When she was that young, sometimes she didn't know how to communicate the details of her request. So, sometimes it is a matter of teaching them the language they need to express themselves more fully - "I want it peeled" or "I want it in slices" or "I want a green one, not a red one".

That being calmly said, going deeper into how to prepare the apple will sometimes lead to the exact same behavior over preparation choices. :-)

Good luck!

More Answers

Sorry, this is normal behavior for toddlers. Some are worse than others. Pick your battles and don't lose your sense of humor. Safety is the priority, after that you can play the game or ignore her depending on your tolerance level at the moment. My worst times were when i was either tired or busy or mad about something else. I raised seven, number two and number five were high-need toddlers and I now have six grandchildren and one is an intense toddler. You might consider food allergies, my daughter swears her child's behavior is affected by them. The test to get is the Igg Elisa for DELAYED allergies. Or, you can try the pulse test. Determine your child's resting pulse. Take it before giving one ingredient (wheat or milk are good to start with), then 30, 60, and 90 minutes following. A rise of more than 10 beats per minute indicates an allergy. Also, Check out Feingold Association regarding the removal of all dyes and chemicals from your child's diet. It can't hurt to experiment, you may get a miracle and prevent later problems, just try not to make yourself or your child crazy over it.

1 mom found this helpful

Instead of asking her if an apple is ok you can say, here is an apple. Or give her a choice between 2 things - wuld you lie an apple or a orange? If she says no, you do the record method "I know you are hungry, (that shows her you heard her, and validates her need) so you can choose the apple or the orange. That's it. These are your choices, or you can have nothing" She will not starve. It is setting boundaries, showing her you are in control. Also, little ones get overwhelmed. They want to make choices, however a choice between two things, outfits, shoes, etc, is about right for their development I am a mom of 6 girls

1 mom found this helpful

It's not really her is "isn't getting it", it's you, I think! :-)

By suggesting answers, you are playing the first gambit in this game. I think most parents do too little asking and listening of their children, and the situation you describe is a perfect example. Either offering her a choice between two acceptable options, or asking her to describe what she's hungry for would be simple ways of side-stepping the conflict.

And (I can't say this too strongly), I believe that side-stepping conflicts is An Extremely Important Technique!

It is unrealistic to imagine a life with your child (or with _any_ other human, for that matter!) that does not contain conflict, and, while it is important to develop good and effective conflict resolution techniques, this little game doesn't need even that.

Learn to misdirect unimportant, fleeting motivations like this one rather than trying to fight them. For one thing, she's three! Let her grow up a little before trying to interact with her as though she's an adult. Roll with it a little. Figure out a way to turn it into a silly game between the two of you rather than a point of head-butting.

Being "driven batty" by your child is YOUR attitude, NOT her behavior. Changing that attitude right there is something that will benefit you more than anything else.

1 mom found this helpful

My sister was the same way. Offer her two things, like an apple and cheese, but only two things. that is my best advise. I looks like my daughter will be the same way. Remember(though it is hard), they are not trying to push your buttons,they just don't know what they want... Good luck

1 mom found this helpful

I would try to offer up choices. "Do you want an apple, or a banana?" "Do you want to wear the pink shirt or the yellow one?" and see if it makes any difference. Most children will pick the second choice, or the last one they hear. So, keep this in mind when you're offering and say what you prefer as the last choice.

1 mom found this helpful

Hey, I have a 4 year old that went through the same thing. What worked for me was that I woudl give him 2 choices. If he said no to them I would just tell him those were the two choices and that was it. If he would cry or whine I would leave the choices at his reach and walk way. The first couple of times he cried for a bit and threw a tantrum. However, if he realized that I wasn't coming back he would pick his choice and calm down. The first times are hard but after that he knows there's no other way. Hope this helps!

First, tell her what you're going to do, and say it hte same way each time..for example she's hungry:
"OK, you're hungry? you can pick something to eat, but if you change your mind and cry, you will go to time out"

I would try giving her only 2 choices (when it pertains to the situation) and if she pulls her schtick, immediately and calmly put her in time out... if she flips out, plop her in her bed and close the door. Be as consistent and swift as possible. It took just a few days with my son...She HAS to know you mean business. And if she says,"Oh good I love time out or I like to go to my room" stick with it! It will sink in eventually but only if you are consistent....Best of Luck!!! I'm still slightly sane:)

HI Tracy
I have two little boys an 8 year old and a 6 year old and my six year old did exactly the same thing. They do grow out of it. I think my guy was 4 when he was behaving like that. I do not think there is an answer. They are just testing the boundaries. I think you should stick to your guns but as it is so exhausting maybe offer 2 choices all the time. and leave them on the table for her to choose and walk away a little distance. Then let her make her decision. I am not sure if this will help you it helped me to a small degree. I feel your mentalness( if that's a word)
good luck >

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