How I Handled Defiance This Time

Little: (opens lunch box) Yuck! I don’t like this cheese.
Me: (pre-empting) Oh, ok… you don’t have to eat it, just leave it there.
Little: Starts to poke cheese to make inedible.
Me: Please don’t poke the cheese. If you don’t want it, you can leave it in your lunch or put it back in the fridge for someone else to eat, so we don’t waste it.
Little: Pokes Cheese.
Me: Takes cheese away.


Well, I’ve been on this rodeo before, but somehow taking the cheese away is still not satisfying. She didn’t want the cheese in the first place. Taking the cheese away is exactly what she wanted me to do because she doesn’t want the cheese. 

She knew. She’s a step ahead. They’re smart and savvy these little ones!

So, what did I do?

Well, I didn’t throw out an empty threat this time or take something away like the iPad for completely doing the opposite of what I asked of her.

I’ve taken things away before and sooner than later it’s like it doesn’t even matter what I take away. She doesn’t care.

But why?


It’s not attached to the action.

When that thing happens, ya know, not listening, doing the opposite of what I say, pushing, hitting, back talk, or throwing food, we have a knee-jerk reaction to stop it and give a consequence right away. 

In the moment I’m often so frustrated and rely on the good ole: “no iPad” or “no phone”

But taking away the iPad is not a natural consequence.


Identify the natural consequence.

Often a natural consequence doesn’t come to me right away. So, I tell my little I’m really mad that she did X and there is a consequence. I need to think about it first.

Better yet… I ask them! (if I’m not steaming)

“What do you think should happen?”

They may say something silly or they may come up with a brilliant idea that makes sense. But this also gives me time to think about what makes sense and opens a conversation about it. 

Now, once I put said consequence into action, there may be more tears shed, but that’s ok. They can be sad about it for a minute, and then the’ll move on.


What’s the consequence?

This time, it is not just about taking the cheese away or not letting her have cheese any more. That’s exactly what she wants. 

The consequence is the cheese itself.

Here’s how.


Make better choices next time.

When I thought about the cheese incident, I thought this was a way to teach… ya know how they say create those “teachable moments”. Well, I found one!

She made a mistake by not listening. So instead of taking something away, we are going to try again.

I told her I want her to make good choices. 

So, tomorrow we will try this again. I’m happy to give her the cheese she likes, but I’m not happy when she throws the one she doesn’t like on the floor or pokes holes in it (especially after I asked her not to). 

So, tomorrow we will try again with the cheese. And if she doesn’t want it again, she doesn’t have to eat it. I believe she will make the right choice about what to do with this cheese tomorrow. (I say all these things to her).

And guess what… the next day, she opened her lunch, and whined about the cheese at first sight.

And then the magic… she just left it there and said look mom, as she pointed to the cheese on the side of her lunch.

Now, that’s not to say this won’t happen again, but I took this win, praised her… not saying great job (that’s a whole other topic), but I tell her how I loved how she put the cheese to the side … cause that is exactly what she did. 

She made a great choice.


It’s ok to make mistakes.

It’s a great idea to teach our littles early on that it’s ok to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn. This is how she learned. She made a mistake and then next time, she made a good choice. I don’t always win the battle, but this one I did, and I’ll take it.


Last but not least…

Every other week I share 5 things on how you and your little can get the most out of their first 5 years of life in my newsletter — The Healthy Little Note.

If you have little ones, I’m sure you’ll love it!

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Susie Menkes