My daughter, affectionately known as the Devil Pixie (for reasons which will become clear) is a 3ft version of Jekyll and Hyde. One minute she can be the epitome of the angelic toddler; by which I mean any tears are because in actuality she is still just a baby. And, let’s face it – a knock on the head (not from me!) does hurt.
Yet mere moments later can see an altogether different facade: her little brain whirring to select the best course of action to achieve her immediate objective. All too often that tends to involve having Mummy pick her up and carry her to her desired location.
My Devil Pixie’s current modus operandi is, frustratingly, much the same as her response to sustaining a bang to the crown, ie. she cries. And, of course, Mummy’s instinct dictates that Mummy complies. Those less charitable than I may suggest this constitutes manipulation…
Anyhow, in the hope of reclaiming my sanity, I’ve given some thought to this exasperating – but entirely normal – behaviour. And I’ve reached the conclusion that all toddlers operate on one of two levels, namely: Jekyll, or Hyde.
Here are some examples of my daughter in each mode:
- Looking me in the eye and then very deliberately releasing mummy’s toothbrush directly over the toilet bowl. (Hyde.)
- Trying on mummy’s rings as a special treat, and on being asked to return them calmly twisting away, looking me in the eye – and launching them onto the floor. (Hyde.)
- Nicely drinking the warm lo-lo (milk) she requested (in a cafe, ie. in public) and then randomly deciding to open her mouth and allow it to dribble down her chin; onto her pretty dress…and onto Mummy’s lap. Just because. (Whaddaya know? Hyde again.)
- Being generally grumpy and whiny. All day. Refusing to eat; displaying almost constant defiance; more grumpiness… And then following a hunch whereby Mummy decides to just check toddler’s temperature – getting a free pass because it transpires she has a temperature of 38.6°c. Oops. (Jekyll.)
As Pixie’s mother and primary caregiver, it’s my job to first identify which persona is before me, and then respond accordingly. I’ve devised a little test to help me figure out who I’m dealing with in a given situation, so I know how to handle my toddler:
Can I easily distract Pixie with a pretend elephant in the garden, or the promise of some warm lo-lo (milk)?
Is she crying? Are there actual tears? Okay, but are they accompanied by a frown that would terrify Rambo? (I can’t complain – that’s my frown.)
Is she receptive to tickles? (This one has been known to catastrophically backfire. I recommend only trying this if you suspect Hyde at work.)
Will a biscuit fix the problem? Yes? Hyde. Definitely Hyde.
It’s not an exact science, and it’s a work in progress which I’m regularly refining. But for now, it’s the best way I have for navigating these uncharted water(work)s.
As the parent, it’s our responsibility to bridge the gap between these two characters, and in doing so produce a stable and socially acceptable little person.
It’s a difficult line to tread: humouring your poorly child’s every whim is surely the blueprint of a good parent; whilst indulging bad behaviour is unwise at best.
Because of course, those Hyde traits mentioned above are somewhat less appropriate in a fully-fledged adult; in fact, they’re accepted as psychopathic tendencies. And we all know a couple of people who fit that profile, don’t we? (I’m sure their mothers aren’t proud. #justsaying)
Essentially, if we screw this up we may inadvertently raise little tyrants. No pressure, eh? ?