How to Really Tick off a Toddler


On Saturday morning the toddler was dying to go to Home Depot with his dad. He was so excited. Being new potty-trained, I overheard my husband tell him,“you can’t go with me unless you go potty first”.

This made him melt. He ran around in circles screaming toddler-appropriate obscenities about how he was not going to the potty. I heard my husband calmly repeat:

“If you don’t go to the potty, you stay here with Mama while I go to Home Depot.”

This really ticked him off. Meanwhile in the other room I was overhearing the continued chaos. I was starting to feel equally as volatile because I really wanted him out of the house.

I try very hard not to undermine my husband’s authority with our kids. But on this day I stepped in to repeat what he had said. But I said it differently.

I got down to toddler height and said,

First you go potty, and then you go to Home Depot with Papa”

Within 10 seconds the kid was peeing.

What did I do different that made all the difference? I flipped it.

I turned an empty threat into motivation. Instead of telling him what he couldn’t do, I emphasized what he could do. Just like that—the trip to Home Depot was now a reward he was working towards.

Tiny adjustments in our language make all the difference. We are talking about this and more in the mini-course on cooperation. It’s 5 days, with a one-minute video each day sent to your inbox. It’s free. Get it now!

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.