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When It Comes To Negotiating, I Treat My Toddler Like The Enemy

flickr / Quinn Dombrowski

The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

How do I improve my patience with my toddler?

Don’t negotiate with terrorists … or toddlers.

The best strategy I have found – with lots of love underpinning it – is to find points of leverage and exploit them ruthlessly.

The single most precious commodity you have that your toddler almost certainly wants is your attention. Dole it out wisely.

If they’re doing what you want them to do, joyously engage with them.

If they’re not doing what you want them to do, pay absolutely no attention to them. Ignore them completely.

If they’re doing want you don’t want them to do, there need to be limits and consequences. This can include the backtalk that’s bothering. To be very clear: consequences do not need to be sternly or angrily administered.

If they snap back “no!” at a request/instruction of yours, then you can say, “Oh… this is so sad. We’re going to have to do something about this back talk later.”

There shouldn’t be multiple warnings, and there shouldn’t be extended reasoning or explanations either.

Later on, when they’re asking for a cookie or ice cream or whatever, you can come back to them with, “Oh … so sad. Remember when I told you to do something earlier and you gave a ‘no.’ Well – and this is unfortunate – I’ve had to carry that ‘no’ around with me for a bit and carrying that around has tired me out. I need to hand that ‘no’ back to you. I hope you understand.” And that’s that.

If they’re messing around with something that they’re not supposed to be messing with, tell them to stop once. If they don’t, walk over and calmly take it away. There shouldn’t be multiple warnings, and there shouldn’t be extended reasoning or explanations either. Just walk over and take the problem item and walk away with it.

If they’re throwing an inconsolable tantrum, don’t try to console them. Make sure that they stay safe, but read a book or put in a pair of headphones or do something else. If you need to tag out with your spouse or another adult, do that. If you need to confine them to their room in order for them to stay safe while the tantrum runs its course, do that.

Ian McCullough is a consumer technology professional, as well as a freelance writer who has been published by Forbes and The Huffington Post. See more of his Quora posts here: