How to Discipline a Stubborn Toddler
Often, the immediate focus of the power struggle is not even the real issue at hand, because a power struggle with a toddler is really a struggle for control.
Toddlers typically do not have much control over their lives; food, clothes, friends, school, and play are all coordinated by adults. At around age two, most children try to gain more control, and this is a natural part of development. Even children who are very mild-tempered exhibit defiant behaviors as they try to figure out the world and their place in it. Many times, hunger, stress, or exhaustion can ignite these power struggles. Try to consider these factors before responding to or disciplining your toddler.
Whenever possible, try to offer your child a choice. For example, when your child wants to wear a tutu to school in December, you might say, "Let's step outside and see how cold it is, and then you can decide whether you'd like to wear your tutu or a sweater and pants." Chances are, once she feels the cold outside, she will ask for the warmer clothes. It's also helpful to limit the options so that the child makes a decision that both of you can live with. ("Do you want yogurt or milk with breakfast?") In the end, some battles are not worth fighting, especially if the issue is not one of safety or health.
Typically, your options for toddler discipline include backing down, standing firm, or attempting to negotiate, but if you can at least diffuse the emotional intensity that occurs during these struggles for control, you'll already have made significant progress. And whether you feel like you've won or have not, you will be showing your child strategies for problem-solving—which, after all, is more important.