In the comments for the Clarification post, Catharina, someone who certainly sounds to me like super-mom, asks a discipline question. You can read the whole thing there.
She says, essentially,
Dear Auntie Leila [she doesn't call me this, but she could have],
I asked M [two-year old] to take her shoes off (easy, slip-on, no-hands-required shoes). Her response: "I don't want to."
...Another time this situation happens is (as I'm sure you've guessed) while we're setting the table for supper--hands are washed, plates are dished up, baby's in her high chair, and the big girls are doing their before-dinner chore of helping Mama set the table (napkins, utensils, salt & pepper)... and a girl will appear at the door to the kitchen and then refuse to take the napkin from my hand to walk five feet over to the table and put it at Daddy's place.
...This isn't an every-single-day situation--I am usually good about keeping meals on the early side, and before-nap times on the low-key side--but sometimes the Fates just conspire against me and give me one cranky, petulant two-year-old who's acting like she needs a spanking... only, she's usually so good, so well-behaved, so sweet, so compliant, so willing to help out, so willing to sing sweetly and play with her sisters.
How would you handle this?
First, let me commend you on having what certainly sounds like an orderly, happy household, which is no mean feat with three children under three. My hat is off to you.
Your situation is exactly the one I mean when I ask "Do you know what to expect of a 2 year old?"
This answer is for you, because you are immersed in their world, and they are responsive and good, your perspective might be a tiny bit off, even though you are doing a great job -- a job so good that most moms would envy you!
(It's not advice for someone who isn't providing structure, training in habits, and clear direction. It's not for you if your child is habitually defying you.)
I remember feeling this way. At every stage of his life I felt that my eldest, Nick, was just as old as he could be! I look back and wish I had been a bit... kinder.
And you are expecting a lot. And usually getting it.
But you are forgetting that children are made to be naughty. They will never be good all the time, and if they are it's trouble.
So I would handle it by trying not to get myself into a "sure-no" situation with a two-year old. This takes practice to do while not letting them sense that you will "not go there" with them. You have to be smart and use your common sense.
It's not good to give in, but it's okay to be wiser than a two-year old -- to know when a power struggle is not helping anything.
You are building good habits with your children, little by little. It takes time. You are no where near the stage where this child can have reliable self-control to overcome physical issues to obey you.
And since you actually don't have a three-year old, you don't really know what the terrible twos are, do you? ;)
News flash! You're there! Taking into consideration that you seem to be blessed with well behaved children :)
It's when something seems so reasonable to you and they just won't do it!
Reason is not a two-year old thing.
So in the shoe situation, I would scoop her up, take the shoes off, and say, "Oh, yes, Mommy, those shoes go here!" and put them where you want them to be (direct her attention to the next step in the process, not the one you are both stuck on).
When you find yourself saying to yourself, "Oops, that was asking too much," then, be as gracious as you would to your husband or your best friend and try to help her out of the situation. You could even say, "Oops, that was too much, right?"
Next time when they wake up early and it's nap time, do a lot for them, because they can be babied a little more, it sounds like to me. When they are rested they are pretty independent, right?
In the napkin scenario, you could do one -- and only one -- of a bunch of things. Not all. Don't make a big thing of every little issue.
1. You could make a joke (if you are sure it won't frustrate) -- "Oh, too hungry to carry a heavy napkin!" -- not in a mocking way, but in a giggly way.
2. Just say "take it" with a little warning swat on the diaper and then get your attention off of her.
3. You could get the baby to do it.
4. You could scoop her AND the napkin up and carry both over to Daddy (or his place).
5. You could wink at your husband (if he's there) to ask for the napkin in a quiet, deep voice. (This is actually the best, because Mom gets tired of always disciplining.)
6. You could ignore her for a bit and see what happens...sometimes a little child knows he can push a button, and if nothing happens, he sees what would happen if he did it after all. And then you can be quietly approving.
7. If nothing happened, you could just skip it. In a few minutes you could just put the napkin in its place yourself and carry on.
Of course you wouldn't be giving in. You would be choosing not to enter into the two-year old world. You become a bit remote, very high up. Not down there at her level, duking it out.
Not everything is a confrontation, and you are not raising an automaton. There will be other opportunities. And a little naughtiness is to be expected. I'm glad you have a sense of humor! It will serve you well.
It doesn't matter, I think, because if she's obeying most of the time, you are on the right track. I wouldn't say this for a five year old necessarily, but two is...very young :)
God bless you, you are doing a great job!