In the early toddler years, I use a lot of distraction and redirection. I wrote about distraction and that it’s not really distraction. Really, you are satisfying the need of the child who wants to play by doing something silly or fun with them while you put their diaper on (or any other task that they are defiant to do). Distraction works when you need a young toddler to do something. Redirection works when you want them to stop doing something.
An example of redirection is if your child is banging on something you value and might break. With redirection you take the valued item away and give them something they can bang on, say a wooden hammer toy. It satisfies your interest to keep your items safe and keeps their creative play going. Absolutely, banging on objects is creative and intelligent play. Further, in some of my documentation on child development, I am finding that there are some transitional phases where a child must purposely play with toys in a “wrong” way before creativity bursts. My take on all child development is that what they are doing is right–even if we don’t fully understand it, it is right for them based on their own internal guide–we just need to softly guide it to protect people during these wild times and wait and see what new amazing skills are in store. (It’s a radical idea, I know. Just wait until they are older!)
Keep the creativity going!!
I like this because it doesn’t try to change the child. The child is doing what they are designed to do: explore and play. You work around them as best as possible. Mostly you are saving your sanity and items as you get through what can be tumultuous years. Trying to correct a child, who still as of yet has no means of even knowing right from wrong (“Budding Morality” is Toddler Milestone 11 at 2 years, 10 months) can, on a deep level, send them the message “you are bad.” My entire paradigm for dealing with children seeks to avoid this. The rewards of letting them play and not trying to overtly correct them are well worth it.
I found that trying to get my child to follow verbal directions was pretty spotty from 18 months until 20 months. Redirection and distraction are my main go-to tools in this time frame. Even trying to give a child choices is not likely to go well at this very young age. In a few short months, such tools will become possible! This is just how fast children develop. At my toddler summary, I match tools to ages.