I have a 2.5-year-old son. It happens mostly when tired but I'll ask him if he wants something and he will say no. Then when I go to put it away or do something else, he freaks out that he wants it. Then when I take it out again, he'll shout that he doesn't want it. And this continues until I stop. I realize that like most everything it's probably a phase but I'm just not sure of the best way to react to it. I'm looking for anyone who might have had experience with an indecisive toddler. Do you have creative ideas of ways to handle it without making us both crazy - suggestions?
Young children often are overwhelmed with options, especially when tired. When you allow him to change his mind, you are actually creating more options for him. I would suggest that you allow him to choose and make that decision final. He does not have to accept it, but his options are limited to take it as you selected, or do without.
Initially, he will likely "lose it", but if you remain consistent, this phase will pass more quickly. The challenge will be to not reward the protesting behavior. Be matter of fact and follow through with his decision. He will learn to value his choices and your limits and both of you will be happier!
Would you be concerned with the mind changing if he wasn't shouting and/or misbehaving?
Don't be concerned with the indecisiveness ... be concerned with the acting out and inappropriate behavior. If he changes his mind, but expresses it calmly and doesn't throw a tantrum, good for him.
Apply consequences for the shouting and the persistent lack of compliance. Don't worry about the decision making for another year or two.
It sounds like he is looking for control. This is not unusual at this age and very frustrating for parents. One way to look at it is ... great his development is right on track! Now it is time to keep it moving in the right direction. If he says "no" he doesn't want it, then fusses when you put it away, give him one more chance. If he again ignores it, put it away again. This time ignore the fussing (I know it is hard) and say "you can play/hold/do something else now." Try to find a distraction, another toy, a song, anything that interests him. Once he sees that he can have your attention and control in other ways this will stop. And congratulations, he seems to be right on target!
We use a 'double check'. Sometimes he doesn't understand what it actually means when he says yes/no, so I confirm what he meant by explaining what will happen next.
Me: Are you done with your dinner?
Me: Ok, then I am going to take your food away (or even better: Can I eat your food? This really drives home that he is not having more food)
Toddler: No! Not done!
In the latter case I allow him to 'change his mind'. I don't really think he does, I just don't think he fully understands what I mean by my first question. Asking a two-part question in one sentence ('Are you done with your food, can I take it away') tend to be too complex.
You may have a different issue, but I do run into this mostly when he is tired.
As Marie has said you need to follow through on his initial choice so he learns the decision has a repercussion. The best thing after that is to redirect him to something else nice - like a story on your knee. I would also try and discourage the "freaking out" behaviour and ask him to calm down (nicely) and to say please. This way he'll learn to manage his emotions and express himself.