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Fighting With Toddlers

Why a Fight With Your 3-Year-Old Is the Worst One You'll Ever Have

I like to think of myself as a pretty skilled debater. At one point in my life, I actually prided myself on my ability to come out victorious in most of, if not all, my arguments. I employed logic, tried not to get too emotional, and stuck to my guns until I could get my opponent — whether it was a friend, a parent, or a romantic partner — to see it my way. And then I had a kid, and I realized that all of my previous tactics were totally useless. I was suddenly stuck having the worst (and most ridiculous) fights of my life. Why, you might ask? Let me break it down.

  1. Toddlers don't care about logic. I've tried my hardest to use reason when trying to convince my 3-year-old daughter to do something crazy, like say take a bath or eat something besides cookies and fruit snacks. You want to smell clean and feel fresh, honey? That requires bathing. You want to grow big and strong? Then sugar can't be your main source of sustenance. And you know what? She just doesn't give a sh*t. She gets part A; she gets part B; she might even get the connection between the two. But she's still not eating those peas or getting in that lovely, warm tub without an epic battle.
  2. They know how to push your buttons. Nothing makes me lose my mind more than the crazy stunts my daughter pulls while we're trying to get out of the door every morning. Individually, they're annoying; collectively, they make me mental. This morning, as we were trying and failing to get her to school on time, she asked me to put her hair in a "big braid." Cool. Done. Five minutes later, she ran over to the kitchen, where I was frantically throwing Cheerios in her baby brother's mouth (the kid never stops eating), to show me how her hair looked "so beautiful" down and flowing. And she also wanted a ponytail. Couple the hair drama with the continuous shedding of just-secured shoes and just-outfitted clothing, and calm conversation quickly turns to yelling.
  3. Their negotiation skills are insane. "Can I have a sucker, Mommy? No? How about a sucker and an ice cream cone?" Um, try again.
  4. Toddlers think "no" means "find someone else who will say yes." Tell my daughter she can't have candy for breakfast, can't go to the park right now, or can't read a sixth book before bed, and, as long as there's another adult in the house, she's not bothered. She'll just run to the other adult to get the answer she wants, not only undermining any semblance of parental authority I might have left, but also bringing a third party (one who's seemingly on her side) into the argument. She's learned the art of distraction (i.e. make Mommy mad at Daddy, not me) is her friend . . . and my worst enemy.
  5. When all else fails, they just start screaming. Unlike most adults, who tend to want to resolve a conflict peacefully and amicably, a kid will just escalate things. Usually that means screaming, crying, and maybe some kicking. And there you have it: the worst-argument-ever trifecta.
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