what to do if the toddler says the opposite of what he wants

If you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head as your toddler says one thing but means another, or maybe they change their mind as quickly as you blink your eyes, welcome to the club! 

I’m here to share my experiences and insights on the puzzling world of toddler communication. 

Brace yourself for adorable contradictions and a whole lot of “no” when they actually mean “yes.”

a toddler throwing tantrum

Here’s why your toddler says one thing and wants the other:

Now, let me spill the beans.

They are still learning:

Picture this: your little one looks up at you with those innocent eyes and declares, “No more cookies!” Yet, a few moments later, there they are, reaching for the cookie jar. 

What’s the deal with toddlers saying the opposite of what they want?

It turns out, it’s not just about them being cheeky. 

Toddlers are in the midst of a linguistic adventure, trying to figure out this whole talking thing. They are still learning to understand and express themselves.

Imagine having a shiny new toy but not knowing how to play with it – that’s the toddler’s struggle with language.

Not being able to decide

Toddlers are usually wrestling with their thoughts and desires. 

When they say the opposite of what they want, it might be a case of cognitive dissonance – their thoughts and actions not quite aligning yet. 

(what is cognitive dissonance? – the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change)

It’s not intentional mischief; it’s their developing minds at work.

They are still learning to decide on one thing. And to be honest, they need your help to do so. 

Just the terrible twos or the horrible threes

Let me tell you about the “terrible twos” and the “horrible threes.” It’s like a wild rollercoaster ride through toddlerhood, and I’ve been on it more times than I can count.

My girl, when she was a toddler, absolutely insisted on wearing her red shirt. She pointed to it with excitement, and I thought, “Great choice, kiddo!” But oh, the moment I slipped that vibrant red shirt over her tiny arms, it was like I unleashed a storm.

She started fussing, squirming, and, well, throwing a bit of a fit. You know, the classic toddler meltdown.

I think toddlers have this secret mission to keep us on our toes.

Why did she suddenly reject the red shirt she was so keen on just minutes before? That’s the mystery of toddler logic. 

Maybe the fabric felt different, or she decided that blue was the color of the day. The reasons can be as unpredictable as their taste in snacks.

You see, during the “terrible twos” and the “horrible threes,” kiddos are learning to express themselves. 

They’re testing boundaries, asserting their independence, and figuring out what they like and don’t like. 

Maybe this is a crash course in growing up, and sometimes, that involves a wardrobe change mid-tantrum.

Inconsistency in parenting

Maybe we are not consistent? Maybe we are doing the same thing? Saying one thing but doing the other?

For example, you set a rule – “Finish your meal for screen time.” But they don’t and oops, you break it and hand over the screen anyway. 

Now, here’s the twist. 

Your little one thinks, “Hmm, Mom or Dad sometimes says one thing, and does another – interesting! Why don’t I try this?” 

Simple tips to overcome (or just pass) this situation:

Want some mommy tips? Tried and tested? Here they are:

It’s all about embracing the contradictions with a smile.

Here’s the secret – your little one isn’t on a mission to make you crazy. Nope, not at all. They’re just navigating this curious phase of contradictions, and trust me, it’s completely normal.

The key to keeping your sanity intact? Realistic expectations and a heart full of patience.

If you can keep your cool, it works wonders. Your positive energy becomes a little toddler magnet, and the meltdown? It becomes a short-lived drama, fading away in just a few minutes. Yep, you heard it right – a few minutes.

If you let frustration take the wheel and lose your temper, it’s like adding fuel to the toddler drama fire. Drama, drama, and more drama. Nobody wants that, right?

Give them some time to decide:

Alright, imagine your little one is stuck choosing between a red or yellow shirt. Here’s the game-changer: “I’ll count to 10 then ask you to pick – red or yellow. Once you decide, that’s it, no changes!”

Why is this cool? Kids can be a bit wishy-washy. Giving them a time limit helps them decide without going back and forth forever. They get time to understand what’s going on.

But here’s the big rule: Once the 10 seconds are up, stick to it like glue. It’s like making a cool decision world where choices are final and there’s no turning back.

This trick helps them learn how to decide and adds some order to the toddler chaos. Plus, it keeps you sane because you’ve got a solid plan.

The same strategy should work if your toddler suddenly wants something. “Do you want this cookie? Sure? Count to 5 then you can have it.”

This way you can make them a little more distracted from throwing a tantrum because they actually get the time to decide. 

Be Consistent (There’s That Word Again!):

Consistency is the unsung hero. Stick to your rules. If you said no screen without finishing the veggies, mean it. It sets clear expectations and avoids the “wait, Mom said what?” confusion.

Change your question:

Try changing your questions. Do not make them solve a 100-piece puzzle. Give them a 10-piece puzzle so they can actually solve it. 

Instead of a big question like, “Are you coming to me or not?” try this: “Are you walking or running to me?” It’s like offering smaller choices, so it’s easier for your little one to decide. You become the decision helper, and everything becomes a bit simpler!

Celebrate Small Wins:

Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Praise them when they express themselves well or handle a situation without a meltdown. Little victories deserve a little applause.

Create Routine and Predictability:

Toddlers thrive on routine. Knowing what to expect can minimize surprises and make them feel more secure. It’s like giving them a toddler roadmap.

Decode the Toddler Lingo:

Sometimes, it’s not about the shirt; it might be the texture, the mood, or just a toddler whimsy.

This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

There’s something more I wanna share:

Let me share a gem with you, The Happiest Toddler on the Block” book is a game-changer! 

As an experienced parent, I’ve found Dr. Harvey Karp’s insights invaluable. This book is like your secret weapon against tantrums, offering practical tips to raise a patient, respectful, and cooperative little one.

A must-read for any parent navigating the delightful chaos of the toddler years!

Final words:

Remember that this is a very normal phase of your little one’s life. The things that are driving you crazy and feel horrible, trust me, you’re gonna miss them a lot.

It’s hard to decode the toddler’s language but they are with you now. The time will fly before you blink your eye. So, try to keep yourself positive and enjoy every moment of this.

Read more:

35+ Weird Things Toddlers Do (Funny But Normal)

Here’s Why Your Toddler Wants To Take Toys Everywhere (Stop Toy Toting)

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