Here is a partial list of rules my daughter (3) doesn’t follow:

We ask for things nicely and say please.

We color on paper, not the walls.

We don’t sneak spice bottles from the kitchen and empty them onto the floor.

We don’t pull makeup out of Mommy’s purse and paint our face.

We only take toys into bed with us at night if they don’t light up or make noise.

We don’t pull strawberries off the strawberry plant until they’re ripe.

We play with play-doh, slime, and markers at the dining room table, not the couch.


Has A forgotten these rules? Not at all. She can recite them by heart.

Is she trying to drive us nuts? Not at all. She wants to please us.

We’ve reminded her of the rules countless times, but she doesn’t need a reminder. She just doesn’t care about the rule as much as she WANTS TO DO THE FORBIDDEN THING. Her brain isn’t developed enough for impulse control and she can’t consistently choose following the rule over breaking the rule.

It isn’t toddler defiance, although it looks a lot like it, especially when she doesn’t show any remorse. She has an incompletely formed brain. And like all 3 year olds, A is brimming with narcissistic grandiosity, omnipotence, egocentric thought, and self-centeredness. These are the very qualities that make her so hilarious.

When she breaks these rules, her dad and I don’t punish her. And we’re not being indulgent, although it might looks like it. I’m aware of how our parenting style looks to some other other adults; it seems we’re enabling A to pick and choose which rules she wants to follow. But judgment from other adults is no concern of mine. I know that asking my toddler to control her behavior with a 100% success rate is about as reasonable as asking her to complete a Sudoku puzzle with a 100% success rate. I can’t even do that most of the time.