calm

Does it seem like all your toddler does is fly off the handle? Do you feel overwhelmed by your toddler’s behavior?  Or is your child pretty awesome, but still has these moments where you just don’t know what to do?

Here’s my top 5 tips to help calm your toddler.

Control

Toddlers are learning about their world and asserting their independence and the easiest way for them to assert their independence is to throw a fit.  So to help them navigate their world, you can help them to be in more control by giving your children some control.   When you give control, they don’t need to take it by way of a tantrum.  So give your child little bits of control throughout the day, and they will be more calm.  Let them choose which shoes to wear to the park.  Give them control over how many necklaces they want to wear.  Allow them to choose their snack.  Ask them which pajamas they want to wear.  This will lessen the amount of time that they are battling you and will create calmness in the house.

Get outside

Nature is Therapeutic.  If you are feeling at the end of your rope, or if you child is losing it; head outside!  Nature will raise your spirits, it will help you breathe, it will calm your nerves.  Once you are outside, you will probably get some exercise and if you get some exercise you will sleep better and if you sleep better, you will be more calm.  This works for your kiddos too.

Check sleep routines

On of my mantras to my children is “when I’m tired, I get pretty fussy.”  They see this in action as I can be short with them when I am more tired.  The same is true for my kids.  If they are getting fussy, it probably means that I need to move bedtime sooner or get a nap in.  If tiredness is a constant, then looking at how much sleep kids are getting and how the routines are working is a must.

Teaching calming down techniques

It’s hard to calm down if you don’t know how to do it.  So, what are some techniques? The first technique is taking a deep breath.  Teach this technique all the time and do it when everyone is happy and calm.  When is the best time to do that?  Right before dinner or right before bed or during a bath.  Say, “Smell the roses” as you breath in deeply.  Then say, “Blow out the candles” and release your breath.

Another technique is taking space or taking a break.  When children are very little, just a change of scenery will be enough to calm a child down.  Read a book, look outside or go to a different room.  Sometimes they will need more space and will need to be alone for a little while.  Also known as a “time-out”, if children are taught this technique in a calm way, it can be very effective.

Model behavior

I hear over and over again how parents feel bad when they get upset with their children.  But getting upset isn’t a bad thing.  It is totally normal.  It is also a perfect time to model calming down techniques.  You get upset at something.  You yell.  Then you say out loud “I am really upset right now and I need to find a way to calm down!!” (If you can identify your behavior, your children will learn how to do the same.) Then you say (or yell!) “I’m going to take some deep breaths right now and I hope that helps!!!” or “I’m going to take 5 minutes in the bathroom or my bedroom right now and try to calm myself down!!”.  Your child will be staring at you in disbelief but will be watching and learning about how to calm down.

Once you are calmer, you can talk about what worked and what didn’t.  You can also apologize if you did something that you wish you hadn’t.  That is also a great learning experience for children and better in the long run for children than to have parents that never make any mistakes at all.

 

love

Is your child fussing up a storm right now because you told her that she can’t have the one thing that she wants?  That sounds about right.

And as parents, we need to set limits so we keep telling her no.

And that just makes her fuss more so we want to give in so that the fussing can end.  But here’s what you can say,

You can’t have that one thing that you want, but you can have lots and lots of love.

Tonight was tough because everyone was tired and when papa came to give good night kisses, one of my boys refused.  So we said, that’s ok if you don’t want a kiss and a hug, now it’s time to go to bed.

Ten minutes later, when I was laying with the boys, a quiet voice said, “I want a kiss and hug from papa.”  Who in their right mind would refuse that?  Oh man, how sweet.  So there I was, smack in the middle of every parent’s dilemma.  Do I just give in and let him have this that will help him fall asleep? Or do I hold my ground?

I said,

You can’t have a kiss and hug from papa now, but you can have lots and lots of love from me.

Trust me, this wasn’t the first time that this has happened.

My boys are typical toddlers and they fuss about what they want, then they change their mind and then they fuss some more.  And as parents, we need to set limits but we also want to parent in a positive way.   So as soon as we tell them that they can’t have what they want, they start to fuss.  They start to yell, cry, kick, scream and throw themselves on the ground.  We want to follow through and not let them get whatever they ask for, but we also don’t want to yell, kick and scream back at them.

So we hold our ground, follow through, and still give them all the love that they need.

Let’s say that your child wants the green shirt.  So you give him the green shirt.  Then two seconds later, he spills juice on the green shirt.  This is a recipe for disaster.

I probably don’t have to go into describing the following scene which then gives you three choices:

  1. You can clean the juice off the shirt, run it through the dryer, and move on with your day
  2. You can take the shirt, prepare for the tantrum storm, deal with the tantrum in whatever way you can for that day or
  3. You can take the shirt and give a big hug with lots of kisses and snuggles (which probably won’t be taken) and say:

You can’t have that shirt, but you can have lots of love and hugs from mama.

I’ve been talking a lot lately about positive parenting and time outs and this is where we set limits and clear and consistent boundaries in a positive way.

 

screen free

This is one of those things that just happens.  Before we have kids we really want to be the parents that don’t give their child a screen to calm them down or entertain them, and then real life happens and it is a lot harder than we ever thought it would be.

But here’s the thing, giving our children an unplugged childhood is a gift that only we can give them.  They can’t choose it for themselves and if we think about our childhoods, we remember all the times we were outside, exploring, playing,and we realize that our parents were never in this quandary.  This problem is ours and all ours. It is up to us to do this for our children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain screen free for the first two years of their life.  This is a huge developmental period and should be filled with interactions and hands on activities.  After the first two years, you can start adding in videos or games but the time should still be limited and not during family time.

So here are five things you can do to ultimately make your life easier (yes! it is actually much much easier in the long run to be screen free or screen limited) and to give your children the gift of an unplugged childhood.

1) Make a plan

Without a plan, you won’t be able to keep your children screen free or screen limited.  Talk with your spouse ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself in a situation where you have to give your child a screen.  

2) Carry stickers and fruit chews with you everywhere

Having an arsenal of non-screen distractions will help you keep the screen from appearing in front of your child.  Buy some cheap stickers online or at a craft store and bring them with you everywhere.  When a situation comes up where your child is bored, give them some stickers instead of a screen.

The time that I was most wanting to use a screen to reign in my children was when they were screaming.  Either because they were hurt, tired, hungry or just screaming because they were kids, I didn’t know what to do.  Turns out, fruit chews worked really well.  If they were sucking on something sweet (that isn’t a choking hazard and is mildly healthy) then they couldn’t cry.  Worked like a charm.

3) Have the option to leave

This one is super important.  We often don’t get out of the house enough, or we are so excited to see our friends, that we don’t leave open the possibility to leave the situation.  If we can’t leave, then we have to give the child something to do for distraction.

If you can leave when your child can’t sit still or stop screaming, then you are dealing with the situation without giving them a screen.  This may sound drastic, but it isn’t every time that you have to leave.  

Two situations where you might not be able to leave are when you are in a car or on an airplane.  For the car situation, I try to find places where we can get out and walk and get some fresh air, food and exercise and that takes care of that problem.  And for an airplane, I use the old-fashioned techniques that our parent’s used: lots of interesting toys, stickers, games and just walking up and down the aisle.

4) Have a “no-devices-at-the-table” rule

This one is also super important.  If you carve out part of your day where there aren’t screens, then you won’t fall into the trap of giving your child a screen for distraction.  Dinner time is one of the most important times of the day for a family to get together and even if your little one isn’t a part of the conversation, they are watching, observing, learning and listening.  They see how adults interact and they hear stories about the world.  Eventually, they will sit and converse with you (if you don’t give them a screen) so the hard part is now- the benefit (which is huge) comes later. 

5) Go outside at least once per day

This last one doesn’t seem at all related but it really is.  One of the reasons that we turn the screen on is because we are all tapped out of energy and we can’t muster anything else.  But if we open the door and get outside for even a couple of minutes (I know how hard that it when it is 3 degrees below zero, but those are the most important days to get outside) you will feel refreshed and refueled without turning to a screen.

wrong answer

I know, this sounds completely counter-intuitive, but it works and here is why:

Children want to find limits.  They want to know what is right and what is wrong.  So at some point in raising a child, you are going to say, “If you throw your food one more time, I will take your food away”.  Instinctively, you want the child to stop throwing food, but for discipline’s sake start chanting in your head, “Throw the food!  Throw the food!”

If your child throws the food- then they learn that there is a consequence.  The food gets taken away.

If they don’t ever throw the food, then they haven’t learned anything.  They don’t know what actually happens when food is thrown and so they will be more likely to throw it in the future to find out how we react.

Here’s another example:

Situation 1:

My son doesn’t want to get out of the bath.  I totally understood that.  I say, “If you want time for a story before bed, you’ll need to get out of the bath now.”  Perfect, that should get him out.  It didn’t.   I say, “OK, I’m going to give you one more chance to get out…”  Then 30 seconds later say, “This is your last chance.”  I start to walk away saying, “OK, no story then…” and my son puts down his bath toys just in the nick of time and gets out of the bath.  Hooray!  He gets a story!!

But he didn’t learn anything except that he can probably get away with about 4 more minutes of playing once I say it’s time to stop.  He will continue this behavior for the next 100 baths.  And I will be asking myself why my children never listen to me.

Situation 2:

My son doesn’t want to get out of the bath.  I totally understood that.  I say, “If you want time for a story before bed, you’ll need to get out of the bath now.”  Perfect, that should get him out.  It didn’t.   I say, “OK, I’m going to give you one more chance to get out…”

This moment in time is the perfect moment in discipline time.  I then chant in my head while getting the toothbrushes ready,Don’t get out!  Don’t get out!  Don’t get out!”.

I take one look back at the bath and then walk out the door. If you have other children, you can then start their bedtime routine up until the story part, and tell your child, “Sorry, you don’t get a story tonight because you used up your story time in the bath.”  If this is your only child, then wait about 5 minutes (or however long story time is) and then do your bedtime routine then skip the story part with the same explanation.

Your child will get upset, because it is difficult not to get your way.  We want our bath and our story too! But your child has also learned something.  That your words have meaning.  That choices have consequences.  That there are limits.

All of this is done in an empathetic and calm way.  There was no yelling.  I was never angry.  And I truly felt sorry.  I really did want him to get the story, but more than that, I wanted him to feel comfortable in that there are limits and that my words are meaningful.

This article could also be titled, “Follow Through”, but I think as parents we know that we need to follow through, it is just hard.  But when we think, “Make the wrong choice!  Make the wrong choice!  Make the choice that will facilitate learning!!”  then we are more likely to follow through and instead of getting frustrated, we will actually enjoy it because we know that we are teaching our children.

tantrum1

I talk a lot about tantrums, mostly because they are the center of toddler-hood, but also because they cause a lot of unwanted stress.

So here are two things to never do during a tantrum:

1) Give in.


2) Get mad.


Most likely in your journey as a parent, you are going to do both, but you should do differently starting tomorrow and here is why:

1) Don’t give in.  You child is looking to see where the wall is.  Where the limit is.  As soon as you give in, he has to keep looking.   This is very hard on children and very hard on parents.

For example, your toddler wants the crusts off his sandwich.  In the midst of cutting off the crusts, you cut the sandwich in half which is what he usually likes.  You give him the sandwich.

Toddler: “NOOO!!” Tears start streaming, face turns red.  “Put the sandwich back together!!!!”

You (not giving in): “I’m sorry, I thought that was how you liked it.”

Toddler (potentially throwing the sandwich, hopefully not): “NOOooo!! Put it back together!!”

At this point, you could give in and make him another sandwich.  It would diffuse this situation, but it would only create future situations where your child has to learn what the limit it.  DO NOT GIVE IN. Do not make another sandwich.   Your child can either eat the sandwich you made or not eat the lunch.  

I realize that you want to make another sandwich.  You don’t want the tantrum and the new sandwich will calm everything down.  But if you do give in, then your child has to test the limits again later and will have to see if it is OK to tantrum about something else. 

Don’t give in!

You (still not giving in): “So sorry, but sandwiches don’t go back together.  Do you want to eat or are you all done?”

2) Don’t get mad.  Again, your child is looking to you to see what is ok and what is not ok.  Is it ok to start screaming about sandwiches?  If you start screaming too, then the answer is “Yes.”  If you remain calm then the answer is “No.”

Toddler: “NOOO!!” Tears start streaming, face turns red.  “Put the sandwich back together!!!!”

You (remaining calm): “So sorry about the sandwich, do you want to eat it or are you all done?”

You are going to want to say, “What?!? Are you effing ridiculous? You always want me to cut it up and now you want me to put it back together?!?!?”

Toddler: “No no no no no. put it back. put it back. put it back. put it back.  put it back TOGETHERRRRRRRR!” 

You (remaining calm):  “Are you all done then?”  

You are going to want to say, “If I hear one more word out of you, you are going straight to time out!!”

But if you escalate the situation, two things happen, 1) your child doesn’t learn any skills to calm down and 2) that he can get a lot of attention out of one sandwich and that if he escalates more, then you will as well.  Empathy and calmness will shut the tantrum down (not immediately, but much more quickly).

What to do instead?

Just shut down the whole tantrum by saying “I’m sorry, but no”.

So, instead of giving in, hold strong and say, “I’m sorry, but no”.

And instead of getting mad, say, “I’m sorry, but no”.

I’m sorry, but no.


afternoon

It is so hard sometimes to lay down the law and be consistent.

I hear the words so tempting in my head, “Just this one time.”

But it doesn’t work that way, you have to have one really really bad afternoon in exchange for a lot of great afternoons.

 

Here’s how it works:

You give your child a limit- no toys at naptime.  You do this because they won’t sleep if they take a toy in at naptime.

For a day or a week, it works great, “Remember, no toys at naptime.” 

Then the day comes (you knew it would) “I want my TOY!!”  Screaming, kicking, the whole gamut.


This is the moment.  You could give in and give him the toy knowing that he will be happy and fall asleep in the next 20 minutes and you will have a great afternoon and be able to visit with your friends after nap like you had planned and all will be well.

OR

You can stand your ground and say, “Sorry, no toys at naptime” and know that for the next hour and a half, there will be screaming and he will never take a nap and you’ll have to cancel your plans with your friends and just hope that you can make it through dinner and to bedtime tonight.

The first option sounds so nice and it is so tempting that we often choose that one.  But the second option will set us up for so many nice afternoons in the future because our children will believe us when we set a limit and they will stick to it.

When you are faced with the option of one really horrible afternoon for a lot of great afternoons- hold strong mama!  You can do it!


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strict1

I have found myself having this conversation a lot lately and noticing that there are different ideas and descriptions of whether a parent is “strict” or not.

Are you a strict parent?


In the past, the term “strict” generally referred to parents who used such parenting techniques as spanking, isolation, yelling and punitive punishment.  


Because of this, a lot of parents who don’t want to use those techniques have turned to more permissive parenting thinking that if they are doing the opposite of “strict” then they will have a happier, more loving family and therefore, happier, more loving children.


But what we have realized over the years, is that permissive parenting doesn’t necessarily create happier children.   We have a generation of entitled children who don’t believe that there are rules to live by, because no rules were imposed on them when they were children. 


I hear a lot of backlash of the permissive parenting movement with people saying that if they could only spank their children, then we would all be a lot better off.


But the key word here is “strict” and not spanking.


These days “strict” can be synonymous with “consistent“.   It can be very loving.  It can be empathetic, but it needs to follow through

The argument that someone is strict because they are harsh is outdated and the argument that children don’t thrive in strict households is also outdated. 

Strict is loving.

Strict doesn’t have to be harsh.

Strict can involve kisses and ‘I love you’ as you give the consequence. 

Strict isn’t wobbly.

Strict is firm.

Strict is comforting for children.

Strict is unwavering.  It is always there. 

Are you a strict parent?

 

This article is © Copyright – All rights reserved http://boulderchildwhisperer.com

two-hour1

We all know it, we have either been there, heard others talk of it, or are dreading the future inevitability of the two plus hour bedtime routine.

It starts out with the parent in charge: 

Put your pajamas on.  Brush your teeth.

And then about 45 minutes in, the children take over:

“One more story.”  “Mom?  Mo-oooom!”  “I need another drink.”  “I’m not TIRED!”  

You end up giving in to each demand because at the back of your mind, you are thinking, “If I don’t give them what they want, it will be two hours of screaming and and I just do this last thing, they will go to bed.”

But we also know in the back of our mind, that they won’t go to bed, they will just ask for something else.

Then we lay down with the children knowing that at least they will eventually fall asleep this way and at 10:30 pm we will finally have some time to ourselves.

But this is no way to live, for us or for the kids.

So what to do?

First, tell the kids that things are going to change.  Talk about the bedtime routine and even make a schedule with pictures and words.  Tell them that this is the only routine that you will have and there won’t be any additions or subtractions.  Then post the schedule somewhere where everyone can see it and everyone is on the same page.

Second, (and this is the HARD part), follow the routine.  Don’t stray like you previously have done.  Whenever your child starts to ask for something more, remind them, “Sorry, it’s not part of our routine.”  Kiss them goodnight, and then close the door and leave.

Will your child be happy about this?  Possibly, but probably not.  They may yell and scream.  They may try to leave the room.  You have some options here depending on your parenting styles.  But you don’t have the option to give in to their demands.  You can rub their back for a minute and leave them be for ten minutes and continue the one minute rub/ten minute break until they fall asleep.  You can close the door and stand guard.  You can lay down on their floor for two minutes.  But whatever you do, know that it will take a couple of days to two weeks for you to see any changes in behavior   They are used to getting what they want and you need to remind them that the routine has changed.

Stick to it!  Consistency is key.

Talk about their good behavior.  If they did really well on one thing (like brushing their teeth, or only asking for one story) then talk about how awesome that was even if they cried for 45 minutes after that.  

Talk about the new schedule with them (again!!) and tell that that they are going to do really well with it tonight.  

Stick to it!  The change won’t happen overnight.  It will take a while for them to get used to it, but they will get used to.  Children can adapt to anything


disappointment

From Wikipedia:

Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest.

This definition describes every couple of minutes in a toddler’s life.  They don’t get what they want and they don’t like that.

But it is also a great teaching tool because as adults, we are well aware of disappointment too.   Unfortunately, it is a difficult concept to teach because toddlers are so young and they don’t quite get the concept.

So they cry.

And often we give in because we want to spare them the disappointment.  It can be as simple as they want their grilled cheese cut up.  You cut it up and “NOO!  I wanted it cut up this WAY!”  or “NOO! I wanted to cut it myself!!”  and honestly, you don’t care how it’s cut up so you take their grilled cheese and give them yours to try again.   They are happy and no more fussing.

But they didn’t get the opportunity to learn about disappointment in a very non-threatening way.  Instead of giving in, you can offer empathy.  You can say, “I’m sorry that it didn’t get cut how you wanted it.”  And then you can offer choices, “You don’t have to eat it that way if you don’t want to.”   They may even negotiate and try and take your sandwich but unfortunately, that’s not one of the options.  

It is healthy for a child to experience and learn about disappointment.   It is key part of development.

It is part of the balance of control between the parent and the child.  When the child has all of the control, they way not get disappointed, but they won’t benefit from having all the power. 

When a parent sets a limit, the child will undoubtedly be disappointed, but that is OK.  You can empathize and help the child learn about emotions as part of the process.  

Allow your child the opportunity to be disappointed today!

second guessing

There are so many ways to parent out there- attachment parenting, cry-it-out, organic versus non-organic, that it can make your head spin.  Not one of these ways is the absolute best or worst way to parent (although you may hear differently from fanatics).   

But one thing that any parent can avoid is second guessing their decision.  It is not good for children to have their parents backtrack after a decision is made.

I often hear, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works!”  Those words themselves tell me exactly what the problem is.  If you are trying everything, then you aren’t sticking with one thing until you see a change in behavior.  Consistency is what helps a child through a tough time because it builds stability.  

One issue that most parents deal with is helping their child sleep through the night.  Again, there are as many philosophies as there are book deals available, and no one philosophy is correct.  They all have good parts and bad parts.  But once you choose the philosophy, stick with it.  When your child is crying at 3 am, remember the words of your chosen philosopher and don’t go back on your decision.  It will be hard because if you chose a form of cry-it-out and you start to doubt yourself in the middle of the night, then you are just prolonging the process and confusing your child.  If you choose a form of co-sleeping and after a week decide that you can’t have them in the bed any longer, then you are just dragging it out.  

Same thing with disciplining.  There are many ways to discipline.  Choose one with your husband, and then stick with it.  Your children will thank you. 

I’ve been in situations where either me or my husband makes a disciplining decision off the cuff and we both immediately regret it.  But we look at each other and with a split second decision of solidarity, and we carry on through the bad parenting decision.

Why? Because it is important for the children to see us working as team (even with questionable parenting decisions) and it is important to be consistent.  Children feel safer with consistency and you build trust by following through with what you say you are going to do.