Pick Your Battles When Disciplining Toddlers

When should you let your toddlers have their own way?

Wrestling with the Man of Steel

When my son A.J. was 2 1/2, he became obsessed with his Superman Halloween costume. He wanted to wear it everywhere -- dinner, bed, play dates, and grocery shopping. But marching down the frozen-foods aisle with a kid in a cape was where I drew the line.

"Why not let him?" said my husband, Tony. "It's not hurting anyone."

"I can't let him out in public dressed as Superman," I said. "It's ridiculous. I'll look like one of those moms who just gave up all control."

So for a while, I fought with A.J. He kicked and screamed as I peeled the Man of Steel suit off and wrestled him into his sweatpants and T-shirts. This was, of course, in addition to all our other battles -- getting buckled into the car seat, eating vegetables before ice cream, holding my hand every time we crossed the street.

One day I realized how tiresome all this fighting was. I gave up. "Leave the Superman suit on," I said. "It's really not a big deal." And suddenly it wasn't. A.J. was ecstatic, and the first time he went out wearing it, I noticed a toddler girl decked out in a pink tutu walking down the other side of the street, her mother looking weary but resigned. And guess what? Within about two weeks, A.J. had forgotten about being Superman and lost interest in the costume. His regular clothes, he decided, were just dandy. It dawned on me that I had learned something important: When you're raising a toddler, you have to learn to pick your battles.

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