I think we've just hit the hardest-to-deal-with (to date) stage of raising children. The "I don't want to" stage. For a few days I would venture to say that 90% of Judah's responses to us started with "I don't want to..."
We have by no means eliminated the "I don't want to" response, but we have seen a drastic decrease in the amount he says it and a huge change in his attitude over the last few days by changing a few things. We're not sure what specifically caused the change, so for now we're going to keep all of these things in play:
1. Paul (if he is home) or I sit down with him first thing in the morning and tell him that we don't want him saying "I not" or "I don't want to" today. We tell him what is punishment will be each time he says it (more on that in a minute) and we then pray with him and ask God to help him honor God by obeying without arguing. This is literally the first thing we do with him - it comes before changing his diaper even.
2. Even though Judah is only 2.5 and probably too young to grasp this concept we reinforce to him throughout the day that it doesn't matter if you want to do something or not - you still need to do it and you need to be joyful.
For example, Paul has casually brought up to Judah that he doesn't want to go to work and leave us at home because he misses us while he is gone but that he has to because it is his job to provide for us. Judah's response to that was "Oh ok. That's cool daddy."
I don't think he understands, but we want him to grow up with the understanding that we don't always get to do what we want to do but we need to always do what God has asked us to do - and for Judah that would be obeying his parents.
3. Because of the frequency of Judah's "I don't want to..." comments we had to get creative with a punishment - he would say it at home, in the store, at church - anywhere and everywhere. We tried many different things and the one we have found most efficient (we saw a HUGE difference within hours of doing this!) and have stuck with is making him do push ups. Each time he back talks and says "I don't want to..." I ask him to do 2-10 push ups depending on the situation. He has been doing push ups for several months now as a fun "lets be like daddy" type activity and so I wasn't sure at first how he would respond to it being used as a form of discipline.
I'm not kidding when I say that within a couple hours of using push ups the amount of arguing decreased noticeably.
What is really odd about it is that he doesn't mind doing the push ups - he would rather do push ups then be sent to his room, and yet push ups are a more efficient form of punishment than being sent to his room! I thought that was interesting.
4. On top of those things we have also completely eliminated all movies from his viewing - just prior to this "I don't want to" attitude he started to watch Bob the Builder or Curious George or a similar type shows once a day/every two days - we aren't convinced that his attitude is connected to the shows, but we decided to eliminate them completely just to see.
Like I said at the beginning, we haven't eliminated this attitude but it has decreased. We are finding ourselves ever more in need of God's wisdom and grace in knowing what to do and how to respond to our boys.
If you've been through this "I don't want to" stage I would love to hear your creative ideas for dealing with it! :) We're open to all ideas!