Holly sent this hack to me with the subject line, "Parenting the Id." I get it, big time. I have a strong-willed child who used to be the strong-willed toddler Holly describes here. Her wise suggestion:
My 16 month-old girl is quite a handful. She's been described to me as "mischievous, jaded and too smart for her own good". Parenting her has made me a more creative person, out of sheer necessity. I've realized the past few months that the constant "Don't throw your food!", "Don't pick up that condom wrapper from the sidewalk!", "Don't dig in the trash can!", "Don't pick the neighbor's tomatoes!" only seem to encourage her to do exactly what I'm forbidding. It's almost as if she translates the "Don't" as "Hey, awesome. Go ahead."
Instead, we've started to tell her what TO DO. For instance, when she's about to pick up a cigarette butt on the ground, we say "Yucky. Step on it." It redirects her action and becomes something she does every time she sees trash on the ground. Same for throwing food on the floor, "Put it on your tray." It sounds so simple, but it has changed our lives.
This concept also extends to taking dangerous objects away from her. When she gets her hands on the nail clippers or the infant Tylenol bottle, I pick her up and take her to where we're going to "put it away". She loves the involvement and never fusses (or realizes) that we're tricking her into putting it down.