When it stops being cute: How to handle a smart alec toddler
By Zan Azlee
“Can we go to the playground at McDonald’s?” asks Athena as soon as we’re done with buka puasa.
“Not now Athena. We have to go buy some groceries first,” I reply.
“Do you have a lot to buy? Don’t buy so many things. I want to go and play!”
“You can go and play once we’re done and only when we’re done. Anyway, to play at the playground, you need to be eating there.”
“Pops, I’m hungry! I want to eat.”
“We just ate!”
“But I’m hungry now! Let’s go to the playground!”
Okay so, my daughter Athena isn’t really a habitual smart alec whenever she talks to us, or anybody else, for that matter. But there are occasions when she is.
She pretty clever at stringing sentences together that can be quite amusing. Amusing is one thing, but once it starts becoming sarcastic and rude, we have to nip it in the bud.
But I also want her to develop a sense of humour and to learn to be witty in her conversations. So it can be quite tricky to want to discipline her but also nurture her.
These are five things you can do to handle a child or toddler who seems to have potential becoming a smart alec. It might not all work, but give it a try anyway.
1. Be patient and explain
The first thing to do is to never lose your temper. If you counter stubbornness with anger, it could boil up into a screaming match. Be calm and explain to your child why what she is doing is wrong and rude. Tell her it’s not nice if someone spoke to her the way she did to you.
2. Be firm
If your child starts giving you smart remarks, set the tone to let her know there are boundaries and you won’t accept it it she crosses it. Tell her off firmly and don’t back off so she knows that you can’t be pushed around.
3. Show consequences
Once you show that you are firm, you also need to show that for every wrongdoing, there are consequences, especially if she’s stubborn and doesn’t want to listen. For Athena, it’s a time-out in her room. If I say I’m sending her there, I really do.
4. Pick your battles
You don’t want to turn into a nag. That just defeats the purpose of disciplining. So determine a degree of rude behaviour and only address it when it crosses the line. Remember, although I don’t want Athena to be a smart-mouth, I do want her to learn to be witty!
5. Always be a good example
The best way to teach a child how to behave and act is by showing her the right way of doing it. And the person that she comes in contact with the most is you. So make sure you set a good example for how you behave.