This post was most recently updated on April 29th, 2019
And What to Do Instead!
Cabin fever set in hard this winter. My two toddler boys couldn’t be blamed for their stir-craziness. Play areas don’t snap them out of it. They squabble over space for their epic train tracks and instigate wrestling matches NONSTOP.
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Sad to admit, the stress of their bickering on top of my aims to study after a hard day at work took me to my low point- yelling at them to stop, for the love of all that is good and holy!
Yeah, as you know, that doesn’t work. Which leads to the mystery of why do we keep yelling when they don’t even listen?!
As an adherent of Positive Parenting and RIE, and I found myself off course. I didn’t like that I was yelling (like my mother!) and I wasn’t getting them to obey anyway.
I delved back into my favorite resources for a refresher of what I am supposed to be doing, that will magically cause your kids follow your every instruction.
Be consciously connected to your kids, reestablish clear, respectful communication, and build them to make good choices and solve problems.
No Bad Kids
No Bad Kids reminded me that our toddlers are not trying to drive us batty. You need to stop, take a breath, and tell yourself that they need the basics to be happy: sleep, food, activity.
Next, Gentle Discipline is required. No Time-Outs (they aren’t effective). Whatever the offense is launched from your toddler, immediately apply a firm but ho-hum consequence (not punishment) that is related and respectful.
What to do
Two year old throwing food?
“You’re telling me you’re not hungry anymore.” Remove the food.
Older one hitting the younger?
“I won’t let you hit.” Separate them, and tell them they can’t play together unless they are nice.
Your entire living room is covered in lego booby traps and they refuse to pick up?
“I will have to put them away until you decide you will pick up after yourself.”
It’s important to state the limit clearly- but it’s not a threat. It’s a simple if-then statement, and they have control how to react. The key is to give them the choice. Toddlers love independence, and if they get to decide, then it’s a win-win.
If I’m yelling, I’m getting angry, and that means I’m entering a futile power struggle.
Don’t repeat the limit over and over (which escalates to the yelling), only tell them once, and then take action. They will quickly learn that mom means business.
Example: “After you pick up your trains, then we can go to the park.”
Give them opportunity to solve their own problems and disputes. “I see you only have one train and two of you. It’s a problem to solve.”
And, when they demonstrate kind behavior, or put their toys away, call them out on it! Give them positive feedback and be specific! “You are playing so nicely with your brother.”
If the time to go out has passed, and there’s still a mess, don’t pull the I-told-you-so. Don’t nag. Just empathize-
“You wanted to go to the park, but now it’s too late, that’s sad.”
Let them see that their inaction did not result in getting to the next fun activity. They are in charge.
The Good News
The Good News about Bad Behavior is another favorite resource.
Someone drew on the walls in red crayon? Don’t blame and scold. They likely knew they were not supposed to. The point is to get them to become problem-solvers. How can we fix this? And make sure they take part in scrubbing with you.
Another yelling hot point is the “how many times to I have to tell you to…” and I realized for the final time I do not need to be doing this any times and going nuts!
What to do instead?
After my son cruises out of the bathroom, “I see your hands are dry.”
(Not- “Did you wash your hands?”)
Say aloud what they are wishing: “I know you wish you washed them, let’s go do it now.”
So how did it work for me? I was truly amazed when I implemented these new strategies. I wasn’t a bad mom, I was just a tired, worn out mom. All I needed was these tools. First, I apologized to my kids and I told them it would get better. Next, I started living it. And they really turned around. They’re not perfect angels, of course, but I’m teaching them life without yelling. And you can, too!
If we have learned anything as toddler moms, we know that we can’t make them do anything, and yelling certainly helps no one. So we have to throw the ball to them to want to do it.
Make a strong commitment this week to take the first step.
Related: How to Make More Me Time as Moms