Unsolicited Parenting Advice: How to Turn Your Suddenly Rude Tod-lar Back Into the Polite Little Boy He Once Was


(This post comes from the archives, circa 2007, from a mommy blog I abandoned long ago in a far, far away internet galaxy.)

It is likely that one day you will wake up to find that your very polite Tod-lar has been replaced with a demanding and rude little boy.  Don’t be alarmed.  If your Tod-lar attends the incubator-of-unknown-viruses-and-unseemly-behavior, otherwise known as “preschool,” then, sadly, this is to be expected.

Now, let me forewarn you that while rude Tod-lar behavior can strike at any moment, this clever creature will usually opt to do it when your reflexes are low and your synapses are not fully firing: before your morning coffee.  That is when you are likely to hear, “I want milk.  Get me my milk!”   When this occurs remain calm.  Obviously, he has momentarily confused you with one of his bitches.

When you do not respond to his demand because you are not his bitch and his fetch-me-a-chicken-pot-pie” tone is completely unacceptable, he will repeat his demand more loudly.

“I want milk!  GET me my MILK!”

At this point, though you may want to either a) scream at him for acting like a total ass, or b) pour Drano in your ears so you never have to hear this horrible tone bellowing from the lips of your sweet son again, it is best to remain calm and step away from the Drano.  To help you remain calm, remind yourself not to take his rudeness personally.  Remember that he is trying  a new behavior on for size, and your job is simply to show him it does not fit, nor will it ever fit.  EVER.  To help you step away from the Drano, be sure to store it in a hard-to-reach area before the Tod-lar even begins exhibiting this most annoying rudeness.

Next, get down to the Tod-lar’s level but, rather than facing him, try to situate yourself so that you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with him.  This promotes, according to sociological research, a far less combative situation than the face-to-face position.

Then, check to ensure you are emotionally distanced from the situation.  Remember, you are not engaging him in a power struggle.  Rather, you are simply following-through on a logical consequence.  If he wants milk, then he needs to ask politely.  It doesn’t matter if he’s asking the waiter at your local family-friendly restaurant, his teacher, or you.  Thus, it is as if you are merely the milk messenger, and it is the higher powers of politeness who have determined the proper way to request it.  So if Tod-lar is engaging in any sort of power struggle, it is with those higher powers, not you.

Once you’ve gained your necessary emotional distance, you are prepared to speak to the Tod-lar.  In a genuinely calm and quiet tone, ask him, “Bud, is that how we ask for milk?”

If he responds with a sheepish, “No,” then say, “Well, show me how do we ask for milk.”

If his next words are, “I don’t know,” (even though you know he does) or, “I don’twant to!” or “I can’t,” then in the same calm and quiet tone say, “I can’t give you your milk until you ask for it properly.”  Again, your attitude here should be “I’d really like to give you your milk, but some higher power says I can’t until you’ve asked nicely.”  Then resume making your morning coffee.

Given that the Tod-lar is fairly stubborn and willful, he will most likely begin to whine and cry — loudly.  Do not reach for the Drano.  Instead, resume your shoulder-to-shoulder position with him and ask, “Are you upset because you want your milk?”  When he replies with a sheepish, “Yes,” say, “I will gladly give it to you when you ask politely.  If you don’t ask politely, I can’t give it to you.  Do you want to try again?”

If he still refuses and, instead, resumes whining and crying, say, “If you need to whine and cry about it, then please go to your room, where you can sit with Cow and calm yourself down.”

At this point, he may miraculously calm himself down and ask for the milk properly.  Be sure to give it to him with a big smile, and say cheerfully, “Here you are!”  But don’t thank him for doing what he was supposed to do in the first place.  (And, again, don’t thank him when later that day he says, “Mama, I not calling you ‘poopy-pants.'”  Just say, “I should hope not!”)

Keep in mind that the Tod-lar will attempt this same rude behavior over and over again throughout the day, and may even continue it into the following day.  This means there will most likely be instances when the Tod-lar does go without milk and may need to calm himself down on Cow.  Don’t worry.  In either case, he will not die, though he will act as if he might.

With the same consistent response as described above, however, this rude behavior should fully stop by the end of the second day.

Good luck.

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