Children disobey. It happens whether you’re raising toddlers or teenagers. In fact, we disobey too. Like when we deliberately go a bit or a lot faster than the posted speed limit sign because our kid was going to be late for school for the third time this week.
The fact is when we disobey we often take the “it’s justified” stance based on our circumstances at the moment. However, when our kids disobey we assume that our kid is acting out.
There are many underlying causes for child disobedience that may actually surprise you. And many situations where a child is being called “strong-willed” is actually being caused by something else entirely.
Part of being a loving, positive parent is learning to become a detective who looks for clues most people can’t clearly see on the surface. We need to do some digging to find the real answers to our parenting struggles.
It May Not Be Defiance at All
Like I said earlier, all children disobey. That’s totally normal and not necessarily a symptom of an underlying problem.
That’s because there may be a logical reason for your child not listening. Let’s say you called your 4 year old to dinner and they didn’t come downstairs. You called three more times with no response before finally storming upstairs with your frustrated meter on high.
You find your daughter in her closet trying to put away the game she was playing. She’s visibly frustrated with tears welling up in her eyes because she can’t figure out how to get the game in the box by herself. You’ve been spending time lately teaching her how to put away her toys when she’s done.
Frustration meter suddenly plummets and you feel terrible for getting upset.
The most helpful way to handle this situation is to offer positive encouragement by acknowledging how she cleaned up before dinner.
But this praise must be followed by a clear reinforcement that whenever mommy or daddy calls you, you answer… no matter what.
Surprising Reasons Children Disobey
But what if your child disobeys a lot… on purpose? This can be frustrating and requires us as parents to look deeper for the source.
First, we need to explore the possible causes for your child’s disobedience. Again, these may surprise you and help you change your approach to discipline.
1 – Your Relationship Needs Strengthening
It may not seem or feel on the surface that your relationship with your child needs strengthening but often that’s exactly the culprit.
There’s a need built into children to want to please and obey their parents just as we have the same need to put a smile on our child’s face. However, when there’s a lack of trust or connection this can lead to a child acting out.
If you feel that you aren’t as connected as you once were with your child, try setting aside a small amount of time every day to have one on one time together. This can be just talking and asking questions or doing fun activities together.
Building trust and connection with your child isn’t done overnight and should be a priority for the long haul. Relationship and connection with our children should be at the top of our priorities as parents.
2 – No Clear Boundaries
If your child doesn’t have clear expectations or boundaries as it relates to his behavior he will consequently spend much of his time testing those boundaries.
He’s not testing to irritate you but to simply locate those boundaries so he knows how far to go. This can feel to a parent like your child is always testing the limits. That’s because they are!
It’s our responsibility as parents to establish those healthy expectations for our child from very early on. This task is one that never goes away and needs constant refining and reminding along the way.
It’s much easier to spend your moments teaching and modeling proper behavior, even ad nauseam, than it is to spend your days constantly correcting the wrong ones.
3 – Constant Labeling
This is a big one for today’s parenting where social media cultivates all the “labels and names” we can give our children without ever considering if that’s even true of our child. Labeling actually holds us back as parents.
Terms like the terrible twos, bratty teenager, and even strong-willed child are all labels that limit our own will as parents. For example, if we buy into the lie that all babies who reach the age of two become terrible we set ourselves up to hunker down until it’s over.
We stop looking for solutions because we believe it’s all a part of the journey. I mean, every mom is struggling with their teenager, right?
I’ve refused to believe in the negative labels about children and as it turns out when you expect your child to be a certain way, they will. That’s because my expectation that my kids will be well-behaved greatly influenced my parenting choices.
If there is tension in the home because of constant fighting or maybe financial pressures that spill over into your child’s world, they can internalize this as stress causing them to act out.
They will often not fully understand why they are acting this way because they don’t understand how stress effects the mind and body.
Also, if your child is under another type of stress like academic pressure or too many high-stress activities they may feel the need to blow off steam which often looks like getting into trouble.
We should be taking an intentional measure of our child’s stress levels by talking with them on a daily basis. Simple check-ins and one on one talks help to let your child know they’re not alone.
If you find that you fit into one of these reasons and feel overwhelmed, don’t be hard on yourself. Parenting is the hardest thing we’ll EVER do. Just make positive changes in the right direction every day and you’ll see the difference!
How to Respond When Your Child Disobeys on Purpose
When dealing with a disobedient child we should be focused on finding solutions as to why the disobedience is happening in the first place. Instead of being totally punishment focused.
Here are 4 ways to handle deliberate disobedience:
1 – Pick Your Battles
Backtalk, intentional disrespect and lying are non-negotiable offenses in our home that always get addressed in some way.
But there are days when my toddler wants to wear his Spiderman PJ’s or my daughter doesn’t want to eat what I cooked for dinner. Some days I dig in and others I don’t.
I pick my battles and live to fight another day.
2 – Hold Your Child Accountable
Part of good parenting is establishing those healthy boundaries we talked about. And the only way those boundaries are effective is if we hold our kids to them.
If your child repeatedly forgets to turn in their homework resulting in poor grades, you must have already established consequences set in advance.
After they fully understand what’s expected of them, it’s our job to be the enforcer. If we say they lose their phone for a month if their grade falls to a C, then they lose their phone for a month. Period.
3 – Offer an Explanation
So I know I’m probably getting some eye rolls from all you old school parents. Trust me I hear you. I believe children should listen and obey regardless of whether an explaination is ever given.
But in the spirit of changing our kid’s behavior, sometimes a simple and very brief explaination can do wonders in making kids do what we’re asking.
There was a study done that showed how it was so much easier for a woman to cut in line if she offered a reason. Let’s face it, as adults we LOVE explanations. We don’t like it when people just ask us to do things and don’t offer a reason. Kids are the same.
Occasionally telling your kid why you need them to do something doesn’t make you a weak parent. I promise.
4 – Stay Calm and Firm
You are the parent. Losing your cool or entering into a debate or argument with your child undermines your authority. It also turns your power over to your child.
Kids are smart and will learn what pushes your buttons and what they can say or do to get you to give in out of frustration.
Though kids are skilled with the keen ability to set their parents off in a moment’s notice, we don’t have to take the bait.
We don’t yell and lose our cool at work or other places when people irritate us because we have self-control. We need to keep our control by acting like the adults we are even with our kids.
Parenting is hard and there’s never a day off. Just know that your desire to help your child make better choices is the starting point to healthy change.
And making connection with your kid your highest priority is going to help you tremendously on the hard days.
Toddler temper tantrums can happen in a split second and can be caused by many different reasons. But the resulting cause every single time is frustration and even embarrassment when your sweet little angel decides to unleash her reign of terror in public.
That’s why I believe we as parents should work to skillfully play offense with our kids instead of pounding it out on the defensive line. There, I sounded like I know what I’m talking about with football. My husband would be so proud!
Basically what I mean is, working on the front end to prevent temper tantrums in the first place instead of working so hard to stop them when they happen. Yes, it’s really possible!
However, even when you do all these things to help prevent tantrums, chances are, one or more will still happen. Here are some easy and effective tips to help calm your child and your nerves when your child is in full-on fit mode.
1 – Get on Their Level
No one likes being talked down, including our kids. Toddlers are short and if we want to stop talking down to them, we need to intentionally get down on their level.
Talking to your toddler eye to eye isn’t just helpful during a tantrum but really is how we should be talking to our children every time.
If you ask your little one to do something and you’re getting totally ignored, don’t keep repeating yourself. You’ll only get more frustrated and angry. Simply stop and get down to where they are or bring them up to where you are, and speak to them in a calm and direct tone.
And look them right in their eyes.
This takes some practice, and in the beginning, you’ll most likely be met with aversion and them trying to escape your space. But keep at it. Once they realize you’re no longer going to be towering over them barking demands, they’ll begin to respond positively.
Doing this ensures they’ve actually heard you and also makes them focus. This practice is extremely effective with my toddler son. And talking to him from across the room almost never works.
And one more thing, talking to anyone in this way is a sign of respect. It shows them they’re important and deserve your full attention. This really goes a long way.
Think about the last time someone talked to you while staring at their phone. Feel ignored much?
Here’s where things can get a little sticky because when our toddler isn’t listening, talking back, or having an outright tantrum it’s really easy to allow our emotions to go into overdrive.
When our emotions are in control we’ve more likely to say things that aren’t helpful, add to the problem or things we don’t mean and will regret. So when your little one is acting out, always take a breath before you say anything or make any parenting decisions.
As silly as this may sound, take a couple slow and deep breaths or count to ten in your head. This serves as a reminder to you that you’re the parent and you’re the one in control – not your toddler.
Then decide how you want to handle the situation. Just remember, that once you open your mouth and say something, you need to stick by it.
If you say to your child that if he runs through the clothing racks at Target again, he isn’t going to get that cookie he asked for. And you can’t go back on that… ever! No matter if you went too harsh with your punishment and feel guilty.
Take a moment to think first and don’t act out of your own emotions.
4 – Get Outta There!
If you’re in a public place, get out as fast as you can. It’s obviously great for all the innocent bystanders and just plain good manners. But it also resets the location and works to interrupt their tirade.
Just a few words to consider while you’re running out of Wal-Mart. Stay calm and take this time to breathe and count, NOT to yell, complain, and yank your kid’s arm off.
I know this is easier said than done. I’ve screwed this one up many times. But modeling calm behavior is SUPER important!
5 – Hear Them to Understand
Remember, tantrums are a form of communication. Not the best, but communication none the less. If your child’s form of getting their way is a tantrum or if tantrums are a way of life in your home, I would strongly suggest reading this post.
This is a sign that your child hasn’t learned a more appropriate way of sharing their feelings. And this behavior isn’t likely to go away on its own as they get older. I have witnessed many shocking tantrums in public with older kids berating their parents. #Sad
This occurs when children aren’t taught how to properly communicate and haven’t been shown that this is unacceptable behavior. Or at least, they haven’t in the right way.
However, on the occasion tantrums or angry displays of emotion do happen and this is where we need to do our best to find the source and help them work through it with compassion.
Never, ever bargain with a child! If you were headed to get ice cream and needed to make one last stop at the store and your child starts misbehaving, give her a firm warning that she won’t be having any ice cream if she doesn’t stop NOW.
If she doesn’t listen, no more ice cream. Period.
They may cry, beg, and try to bait you into a bargaining session, but you Must. Stand. Firm.
7 – Keep Your Language Positive
As tempting as it is to unleash your true feelings of frustration and call it like you see it, do your best to reign it in. Calling your son a bad boy over and over isn’t going to fix the problem.
I’ve witnessed name calling from parents many times and it rips my heart out because they just don’t know how powerful their words are and the impact they make.
Our words have power and calling your son a “bad boy” is actually making a declaration that your son is bad. Certainly not what you really want to accomplish.
I always work to speak what I desire to see in my children, my life, and my family. Our words have creative ability and have the power to change our circumstances.
In Romans 4:17, it says to “call those things that do not exist as though they did.”
Instead, try saying something like, “you are a good boy, so let’s start showing it.”
Do you have some effective strategies to stop your toddler’s tantrums? We love to hear it! Please share in the comments below!
Little kids and toddlers talk and share… a lot. It’s pretty much what they do best. In fact, many parents consider their small children to be “over-sharers” of oodles of random thoughts and information.
But as kids get older all that can change. Suddenly, your abundantly chatty 6-year-old becomes a tight-lipped 12-year-old overnight.
Why does this communication phenomenon happen with so many kids as they get older?
It all boils down to trust and how we set up the boundaries of parental communication early on in our parenting relationship.
The younger a child is, the less they pay attention to what and how we say things. They genuinely just want to talk and be with us. So in order to keep this lovely over-sharing going strong into the teen years and beyond, we need to start preparing now.
It turns out the connection a kid needs to feel with his parents in order to open up and talk to them is cemented long before the teen years. Julie Romanowski, a parenting coach in Vancouver, says communication skills are built even in infancy and toddlerhood. source
And if you’re wondering how you connect and communicate with your little ones, if you’ve ever heard the phrase, “Mommy will you play with me?” you just heard it.
Toddlers and small children talk, share, and connect with us through play. I personally am not the mom who loves “playing with my kids” but it’s a necessary sacrifice that seals the path for open and healthy communication down the road.
We need to break our bad communication habits now and work to develop healthy ones that create openness in our relationship with our children.
Our Highest Priority as Parents
I believe one of our highest priorities as parents, beyond feeding and clothing, is to win our child’s heart. If you have a person’s heart, you have everything to need to be in a healthy and thriving relationship.
And it’s every parent on the planet’s goal to be in a healthy and thriving relationship with their child that lasts a lifetime.
It’s hard and is work that takes more sacrifice that our society thinks is necessary or even possible, but it’s oh so worth it.
If you strongly desire to raise kids that want to come to you first to share their joys and victories along with their fears, questions, and problems you need to be sure you aren’t making the following communication mistakes.
Kids, tweens, and teens all have their own levels of sensitivity. And being repeatedly exposed to any of the following mistakes can cause your child to inadvertently shut down and stop sharing with you on a meaningful level.
And that alone is devastating for a parent.
How to Become a Parent Your Kids Won’t Talk To
When your child decides to share the random events of their day at school, confides in you about a peer pressure situation they’re struggling with, or wants to tell you a dream they have for their future… it’s a big deal.
Talking and sharing is the access to our child’s heart and that’s always my goal with my kids – to win their heart. If you can successfully win the heart, you win the child.
But we need to be acutely aware of ways we might not even know that stand in our way of being a parent our kids want to talk and share with, especially as they get older.
Here are some really huge actions to watch out for in your own behavior the next time you find yourself in a kid conversation.
1 – You Try to Fix Everything
A huge mistake loving parents make as an act of love is to swoop in mid-conversation to help your child fix their problem. After all, we’re the parents with all the experience and wisdom, right?
Wrong. Well, yes you have wisdom and experience but you can’t use all that right now. Your kid is wading through their issue and finding the right words and emotions to share them with you.
That’s all that matters right now. Not fixing anything.
In fact, we all probably know what this feels like. My hubby does this to me all the time and it drives me nuts. We all need to vent and let our thoughts out into the open without solutions and ideas shooting out of the sky like heat-seeking missiles.
When we’re quick to offer solutions, what we’re really saying to the other person is they aren’t smart enough to come to a good solution on their own. We also rob our children of developing the skills to think critically and solve problems on their own.
2 – You Aren’t Fully Present
One of the most damaging things we can do repeatedly when in conversations with anyone is not give our full attention to the person.
Like when your kid tries to talk to you but your phone is literally still in your hand as you umm hmm through the conversation only occasionally meeting their eyes with yours.
This tells them you’re not really listening.
I know as women we’re known for great multitasking skills but there’s no place for multitasking in communication, with our kids or our spouse.
Eye to eye communication is best with our phone out of sight.
I already know what you’re thinking… the last time your 10-year-old held you hostage to talk about their awesome Minecraft world they just created you thought you actually fell asleep with your eyes open.
I get it, kids’ conversations aren’t always the most interesting for us but every conversation lays the groundwork for more meaningful ones down the road. Hang in there!
3 – You Judge Their Feelings
When your child is sharing how they honestly feel about a situation or even a person and we shift right into parent mode and say something like, “now that’s not a nice way to think about her.” or “is that how I taught you to talk to a friend?”
If your kid is in the middle of sharing their raw, unedited feelings our best course of action is to listen, listen, and keep listening.
Judging them no matter how much we may want to, in the moment, is off limits.
Again, think of how we feel when we vent to a friend or spouse and we know deep inside we’re totally overreacting but the last thing we want is to feel judged for our feelings.
All we want is an ear to listen.
After they’re done, try asking a question like, “how do you think you handled the situation?” or “would you have done things differently if you could?”
These are non-judgemental questions and allow your child to think and reason for themselves. This line of questioning helps your child learn how to solve problems and self-edit their own behavior.
Plus, they keep the conversation going and building more trust!
4 – You Try to Change Their Feelings
Imagine being in a conversation with a friend and you are very upset about a situation and they responded to you like this:
“I think you may be over-reacting a little…”
“I think you should…”
“This could get better for you if you just…”
“You don’t need to cry about that...”
Everyone has emotions and we’re all probably guilty of way overusing them. And when we’re smack-dab in the middle of a cry-fest the LAST thing anyone wants is to be told their feelings aren’t valid or need to be changed.
The only thing your kid needs when they’re experiencing strong feelings is support and empathy.
To fully understand empathy in a way you’ve probably never heard but WILL open your eyes, watch Brene Brown’s super short video on understanding empathy (this will help you so much!):
5 – You Blow Them Off
Blowing a person off doesn’t always look like making a date with someone and not showing up. Nope. When it comes to our kids it’s often much more subtle than that.
This happens to me a lot… I’m working and one of my kids comes in the room and starts to share something amazing that happened at school and I say, “in a minute… let me finish this first” and then totally forget them when I’m done.
Kids (humans) know when they’re being blown off and though we probably do it so often we don’t even notice it anymore, we need to stop!
If you are truly unable to speak with your child at that moment (that’s real) we need to be very skilled at keeping our word when we are available. That means getting up and finding your child, apologizing, and give them your fullest attention.
Why should you apologize? This is not out of admitting that you did something wrong but as a means to acknowledge how sorry you are for not being available when they needed you.
And if you are truly able to stop what you’re doing at that moment… DO IT.
6 – You Make it All About You
Nobody likes a narcissist. If you compulsively turn conversations with other people toward you… stop now.
When someone is sharing with you, the conversation is and should be about them. Responding repeatedly with statements like…
“when this happened to me as a kid, I did…”
“what I would do is…”
“I know I didn’t raise you like that…”
…leaves your child feeling less-than in your eyes. You are sowing seeds of comparison and competition. And if you’re a mom talking to her daughter, this is very dangerous ground.
Often times self-absorbed communication stems from the desire to fix a situation so we end up looking good in the end. For example, if our child is acting out, we don’t want to be judged by others so we attempt to fix it fast.
We must keep our own motives out of our kid’s conversations and keep it about supporting and helping them. Instead of offering advice and opinions try asking, “how can I help?“
If the answer is nothing or not now, leave it alone and don’t push to be the savior. This is a wonderful opportunity to pray for your child and let God work it out!
7 – You Freak Out
Let’s just all agree that part of being a parent is spending most of your time being shocked.
Shocked when your newborn blows out more poop than seems humanly possible and when your toddler paints a sharpie mural in your living room.
So when your kid trusts you enough to tell you that a boy hit her at school today and you immediately fly off the handle you’re sending signals that you’ll freak out every time you hear freak out worthy news.
You’ve gotta compose yourself and be cool. Count to ten, breathe slowly, or whatever you have to do but stay calm and listen. And help them work it out.
Then excuse yourself to your closet and shout into a pillow!
Parenting isn’t easy… that wasn’t part of the deal. But one of the greatest joys a mom can experience is the trust and loving relationship with her child. It takes work but is the greatest work we’ll ever do!
How do you connect and keep communication flowing in your home? Share in the comments below.
There are tons of articles floating around the internet telling moms how and why they should stop yelling at their kids. And while I’ll admit I’m one of many bloggers who’ve written on this topic – I want to set the record straight.
Personally, I struggled a lot in my early years as a mom with getting my kids to listen without yelling or constant nagging.
That’s why I simply don’t believe the yelling is the problem. If our kids don’t listen without the shock of a yell from us or needing to be reminded a hundred times, our system isn’t working.
It’s not the yelling that needs fixing, it’s the system!
And a lot of the parenting advice today can leave moms feeling hopeless for why they can’t control their own temper or why they can’t figure out how to get their kid’s attention without yelling.
If that’s you, know you’re NOT alone and you’re NOT a bad mom!
Yelling happens to all moms at some point. I don’t know a mom who’s never lost her cool. If that’s you, I’ve seriously got to meet you and sincerely shake your hand.
The cold, hard truth is motherhood can be painfully hard some days. And when we combine the behavioral issues of our kids, our own emotional challenges and seriously crappy days – yelling seems like an inevitable occurrence.
In my early days as a mom, I probably yelled at my kids at least once every day. Sometimes my yelling was just high energy talking like when we’d be running late and I needed to announce it upstairs to the whole house at once. Let’s go!!
But other times I yelled when I was angry like when my kids would start arguing in the living room over what to watch on Netflix and start wrestling over the remote.
In the beginning, it all seemed normal. When I yelled, it always got everyone’s attention and made me feel like I was doing a better job than simply taking a passive approach.
I felt proud of the fact that my kids were always some of the most well behaved kids in the room. I always got compliments and comments about how respectful my children were, even when they were just toddlers.
What people didn’t see was, I was using yelling as part of my parenting strategy. A strategy that gets results but doesn’t last. One that required ME to make it work.
This overwhelm and exhaustion only perpetuated my yelling and anger. It was like I was angry because I had to yell in order to get anything done.
I’m convinced that if there was a way to measure the stress hormones surging through my body in those days, mine would’ve been off the charts! I was always running on a 10 and found it very hard to be in a state of calm or ever be relaxed or playful with my kids.
Click below to get my FREE guide that shows you how to quickly identify surprising mom anger triggers and how to calm down before losing it!
What’s Really Behind All The Yelling
I didn’t really want to yell or scream at my kids. But at the time, I felt like it was my only option and was my go-to method that always gave me that quick win.
I wished there was a way I could talk to my kids like Claire Huxtable who always knew just what to say to get her kids to listen, teach a valuable life lesson, and make a priceless connection with her kids – all after a long day at the office.
What I didn’t know at the time was my communication process with my kids was broken and that parenting like Claire wasn’t a total work of fiction.
The problem with yelling all the time is it hinders our ability to truly connect to the heart of our children. Think about if you yelled at your spouse all the time when they got on your nerves. Instead of communicating in a more respectful way you just yelled and nagged.
Or what if your partner was the yeller and lost it every time they didn’t like the way you did something. Hmm. I bet there wouldn’t be a lot of intimacy happening.
It’s the same with our kids. When we’re angry and yelling, it sends negative and fear-laden messages to our brain about the source of our anger. Who just happens to be our kids.
Yelling also sends fear signals to our kids’ brains and studies have shown that yelling also has damaging effects to their brains and overall development.
When you combine how yelling makes us feel and how it makes our kids feel – it really hinders our ability to have a close, intimate, and even playful relationship with our children.
Again, let me emphasize that yelling here and there isn’t likely to be a problem. What I’m talking about here is a lifestyle of yelling.
Is there a source of unresolved anger that’s bubbling under the surface?
Only you know the answer to those questions and only you know if you need and want to change. It’s not my place or anyone else’s to tell you that you have a problem or need to change.
You’re smart and capable enough to decide that for yourself.
I made my own decision to change because I didn’t like how I felt as a mom anymore. I didn’t read a parenting article that told me I should stop yelling. I just felt inside that there was a better way for me and my family.
What You Probably Don’t Know About Yelling
Yelling is two things…
The first is something I didn’t know early on. And that is yelling is a reinforcer of the behavior we don’t want. Yep. Every time we yell and our kids finally jump up and do what we ask, we‘ve reinforced that ineffective pattern of behavior.
We’re essentially training our kids to only listen and obey when we yell. In fact, I used to say that to my kids when I was annoyed… “you guys are training me to yell more because you don’t listen until I yell.”
Sure, I was just venting my frustration, but the truth was they weren’t training me… I was training them!
The second thing is that yelling is more about us and how we’re feeling in the moment than it is about our kids and what they’re doing in the moment.
Imagine your spouse just came home and gave you the devastating news that his position is being phased out of his company and he’ll be getting laid off next month.
Suddenly, you’re heart starts racing and you’re flooded with high levels of anxiety, fear, frustration, and maybe even anger at the situation. You walk into the kitchen to get a glass of water and you’re jolted when see your 4-year-old decided to take his older sister’s giant pack of colored sharpies and make a mural on the kitchen wall.
How do you think you’d react to the wall and your son in that moment? What would you say? What would you do? Do you think you’d be yelling or screaming?
Now let’s change that scenario up a bit. Let’s say your husband came home and announces that he’s finally been given the dream promotion he’s been working on for two years.
His salary and bonuses will be increasing significantly and you can finally move out of your cramped house and into the neighborhood you’ve both been eyeing for over a year.
You’re elated and filled with a renewed sense of hope. As you bounce into the kitchen for a drink of water you suddenly notice your son’s art project.
How do you think you’d react to the wall and your son now? Is it a much different reaction from the first one? Do you think yelling and screaming would be involved? Or do you think you might even have a sense of humor about it.
I’ve seen many awful messes made by toddlers whose moms decided to make a video and post it on social media. I’ve always thought, “she must have been in a fantastic mood when that happened!”
Seriously, the BEST News Ever!
Now that we know what yelling is… let’s talk about what yelling is NOT. Yelling is not something that has to control you. We get to decide.
If yelling is more about us and NOT our kids… that means we have the power to control the only thing we can control… us.
We can’t make our kids behave differently, make better choices, or do everything just the way we want it. That’s the definition of owning a robot. And if you’ve been a parent beyond 5 minutes, you know there’s no off switch or mute button!
This is the work I did for myself. I got very honest with myself and asked God to help me through this process. And He did. I surrendered my guilt, frustrations, and my pride before God and decided that it was time I committed to doing the work I needed in order to change.
And make no mistake about it, this was WORK. God gave me the grace, but I had to walk through the hard stuff for several years while making all the mistakes until I made it to a place that feels like peace.
I can’t express the gratitude that I feel for giving myself permission to be brave to go somewhere I was terrified to go.
I still get mad, irritated, and yell from time to time. I’m human and those old instincts still come out if I can stressed and tired.
The difference for me is I know exactly how to calm my nerves in those anger-inducing moments. I’ve done it for so long, I even surprise myself sometimes!
But the most priceless gift is having kids who truly listen to me and the relationship I’ve been able to build with each one of them.
Less Yelling is Just a Happy By-Product
If you’re feeling stuck in a cycle of yelling and can’t figure it out… it’s time to do some work. That’s because you don’t have to yell unless you really want to.
NOT yelling shouldn’t be your focus. There’s always an underlying cause that needs more attention.
You can become a mom that’s calmer and more playful than you’ve been in a long time.
One who’s not burnt out and overwhelmed to your max.
If I can do it… you can do it.
Yelling less at our kids is simply a by-product of fixing the actual problem!
If you’re a mom who’s stuck and feels alone… please hear me now. You are NOT alone! You are NOT a bad mom. And you do NOT need to spend your days in guilt and frustration. There is freedom for you.
You can start your journey to a calmer way of life by grabbing your free copy of The Calm Mom Formula! It will teach you how to start training your brain and understanding your anger triggers.
How have you overcome anger? Share your tips in the comments below. Or share your biggest struggles and questions and I’ll be sure to answer them below!
Ever wonder how to get your kids to listen without yelling? I know, it’s frustrating! But this simple strategy really helps to get your kids to listen without screaming your head off. You have to work it… but it really works!
I’m not talking about when you shout upstairs for your kiddos to get in the car because you’re running late for school for the third time this week.
Or when your 12-year-old’s friend who lives down the block stops by and you kindly let her (and the whole house) know to come downstairs. I’m kind of loud in general… maybe you are too.
I’m talking about when your toddler decides to morph into Captain America for the hundredth time this week and starts throwing his shield across the living room and you kindly ask him to stop. At which he shows no visible signs of hearing and therefore you remind him again a little louder this time.
Bam! The shield slams into your wall once again and there goes your sanity and here comes the yelling.
This was me… every single day for years.
I knew something had to change because I wasn’t enjoying being a mom which I knew wasn’t right because I loved being a mom. But I just couldn’t figure out how to break the vicious cycle of yelling and regret.
Then through prayerful observation and help from my husband who could see what was going on all along, I saw that I was the cause of this cycle – not my kids. And that’s what I want to share with you in this post.
Do I still have a set-back every now and then and yell at my kids in anger? Sure, but those are infrequent and much less than they used to be. If you find yourself losing your temper frequently with your kids, I strongly encourage you to read and try these tips.
They really do work!
Why Yelling Doesn’t Get Your Kids to Listen
The first step to getting your kids to listen when you’re disciplining is to not be angry. Feels impossible, right?
I mean, sure they “hear” you, but our goal is for them to listen which isn’t the same thing.
Even if you need to step away, it’s important to release or control your personal frustration before diving right in. That’s because disciplining when you’re angry undermines your authority.
I’ve come to learn something along the way. Yelling really never worked, and kids lose respect for yelling parents.
I thought it was working because when I talked normally, no one ever moved. Until I broke out in a nice yell. That’s only partially true because they simply learned to respond to the yelling.
Not only does disciplining when you’re angry undermine your authority, but you’re also teaching your child how to have loose and untamed emotions by watching you. Ouch!
Yelling like a lunatic and saying hurtful things to your children can have lasting consequences. And whether they tell you or not… those words run deep.
Our yelling is really more about us than it is about them.
This is so, so important for us as parents to let sink in. When we get overwhelmed at the situation and break out into a yelling fit we are acting no different than our toddler who drops to the floor in a temper tantrum.
And when we feel tempted to have a mommy tantrum… we need to give ourselves a mommy timeout.
This is really important to allow us to cool down so we don’t let our emotions take over and do or say something we’ll most certainly regret. And need to apologize for!
Lax Parenting is your Enemy
Lax parenting – without firm and consistent boundaries – opens the door to being challenged by your child at some point… really every point.
And we have the tendency be most lax when all is well and we’re having a stress-free day. Little things get overlooked over and over again. We’re afraid to make any adjustments so we don’t rock this peaceful boat we’re in.
For example, you’re in the grocery store with your toddler and things are going great. #MomWin
He asks if he can walk, and since you only had to run in for a couple things (another #MomWin) you let him walk.
In a nano-second, he starts to touch things. He’s just touching and not knocking things over… so what’s the big deal you tell yourself. Deep down, you’re terrified to do anything to end this no-chaos bliss thing happening. So you don’t tell him to stop.
But wait!! Here’s the kicker, he’s just mentally and physically recorded that it’s ok to touch stuff at the store.
Fast forward to your next trip to the store when you need to grab a cart full of stuff (no #MomWin). To top it off, your son didn’t get a full nap today and you’re so exhausted you think you might need glasses.
This time your son reaches out to grab and pull down every item he can get his hands on. You’re embarrassed, frustrated, and headed for a melt-down.
The key to setting boundaries is making them consistent. In the Good Times AND in the Bad! They need to know what to expect EVERY single time.
The Importance of Staying Consistent
Children desperately need consistency to learn. Not only do they need to know what to except, but that expectation you need shouldn’t change every day of the week. And we can’t be wishy-washy.
I use to be the Queen of the Threat. I’d rattle off statements like, “Do you want to go into Timeout?” or “Do you want a spanking?”
When in reality, I didn’t plan on following through. I was banking on the “threat” doing its job. But the truth is, our kids are just too smart for that. They can see right through our weakness. I think they can smell it too!
Here’s a quick tip – make sure to think about the punishment when you’re not emotional. If you rattle off that your teenager is grounded for 6 months… if it doesn’t fit the crime, you’re going to be in a dilemma.
Do I let her off the punishment early or make her stick it out just to prove a point?
Either way isn’t the best scenario.
Firm doesn’t mean harsh.
Not only should our discipline be consistent but it also needs to be firm. They need to know you mean business.
But by the same token, they shouldn’t be afraid of you. I know, this kind of goes against many old-school parenting methods. But instilling fear is never helpful. There’s a clear difference between firm and harsh.
You may feel this is beneficial when your children are small, but as they get older – they need to know you’re there for them.
Think of all the crazy things young people have to deal with in our current times. Having a parent who blows their top over every little thing will keep your child from confiding in you – when they need you and your wisdom the most.
Let me also mention, that when I say harsh I’m not talking about spanking either. Spanking, done in a loving environment, without anger, can be a very effective discipline tool. And should only be done in love. Although it can clearly be misused and over-used.
Harsh discipline is done when we’re angry and led by our disappointment, embarrassment, guilt, or some other emotion. And can happen in every form of discipline from timeouts, lectures, mean words, shaming, and spanking.
The whole point of discipline is to teach our children what’s right and wrong. And we do this out of our love.
Discipline Should Come From Love
We see so much destruction in the news today, and I wonder how many of those individuals had no boundaries in their formative years.
Discipline, done the right way, is an act of love. It’s one way we keep our kids safe.
The Bible provides so much practical wisdom on correction and discipline. And the focal point always comes back to love. Proverbs 3:11-12
It’s our job, really our privilege, to shape our children’s lives in a positive way. Giving them the best possible chance at life by teaching them the proper way to conduct themselves.
I want to emphasize here that the actual form of discipline and punishment you choose is not as important as being consistent and doing what you say.
Not only that, but each child is different and will respond differently to various forms of discipline such as timeouts, removal of privileges, and so on. There is no cookie-cutter formula that’ll work for every kid.
This is an on-going process and one where we need to fully depend on the Grace of God to do well. And rest in that same Grace when we miss it because we all do!
Do you have some tried and trusted methods for getting your kids to listen? Share them in the comments below! We’d love to hear them!
As a new mom of two little ones I spent my days cycling through being a happy and grateful mom to an angry yelling “blowing her top” mom, to an ashamed and guilty for yelling at my kids mom.
As the days went on the cycles got more frequent, the happy and grateful mom showed up much less often and I ended up trapped in a sad and paralyzing state of tired, grouchiness.
I snapped very often, my demeanor was pretty uptight most of the time, and I felt like a complete and total failure as a mom. Until one day it hit me and I asked myself, “why am I such an angry mom?”
This certainly wasn’t what I thought motherhood was going to be like. I dreamed of being a mom and though we struggled through infertility for almost 5 years, I was overjoyed to bring our first child into this world.
Then the reality of mom life showed up… and my idea of motherhood didn’t seem to fit my reality of motherhood.
It was hard for me.
And the fact that is was hard for “me” the mom whose dream it was to even be a mom, was pretty devastating. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in over my head and felt consumed with shame all the time.
Why Good Moms Get Angry
I finally decided this craziness needed to stop. I genuinely wanted to have fun as a mom and have a close and fulfilling relationship with my children. So I got to work.
With loads of prayer, study, and tons of trial and error I’m now at a place in my life where I LOVE being a mom and actually feel like I’m pretty good at it! But that only changed when I stopped letting dysfunctional behavior patterns just happen, and started getting intentional about changing them.
One of the first things I learned (HUGE!) were my anger triggers. Little did I know, I was setting anger traps for myself every single day. And that’s what this post is about… helping you to set yourself up for those good, no-blow up days!
Now, let me be clear here, I did a lot of work in the process of healing from mental and emotional lies and past hurts that were greatly contributing to my overall anger. This is not an overnight process.
Recognizing my triggers for yelling was just a part of the puzzle but helped tremendously! Doing these things won’t likely be a total solution to why you are yelling at your kids but they are vitally important to an overall anger management solution.
Here are some helpful posts to getting kids to listen and not causing anger in the first place:
I would also like to add that yelling to be heard or because you tend to be on the louder side of the communication spectrum isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you just talk louder or are more intense than all your mom friends… that’s totally OK. I personally still fall slightly into this category!
In this post, I’m addressing moms who struggle with anger in this post. The kind where you feel like a horrible mom after. That’s what I wanted to break free from, and you can join me!
Surprising Mom Anger Triggers
These surprising anger triggers are the things we commonly do every day that we’re usually unaware of that can open the door to blow-ups. And as the saying goes, “when we know better… we do better.”
If you read this list and notice one or more that you’re doing, I want to encourage you to make a plan to set up borders for yourself to allow yourself the change you desire.
You want to be a more peaceful mom who really enjoys her children or else you wouldn’t still be reading this post! This process is going to take work but you owe it to yourself and your family to give it all you got so you can be the mom you know you really are inside!
1 | Working with Kids in the Room
I’ve been a work from home mom since my first daughter was born. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to work right in my home while raising my kids, but there is a right and a wrong way to do it! Over the years I’ve done crappy work totally because we needed the money and work that I absolutely love – and this rule still holds true either way.
Honestly, I could write an entire post on this topic, so I’ll do my best to keep it brief. Working on your laptop (or whatever work you do) with kids actively in the room is a setup for disaster. Unless you make a very intentional mindset shift.
I can’t tell you how many times I’d be intensely working (head down, eyes on screen) and blow up because I kept getting interrupted again and again. Silly, I know.
After I realized this to be a huge anger trigger for me, I totally shifted how I work. I now get up very early in the morning and do the bulk of my work that needs my full concentration while my kids sleep. This doesn’t have to be how you do it, but find what works for you.
Then, here’s the mindset shift, I make any work that I do work on in the presence of my kids, second to their needs… ALWAYS.
It looks like this – if I’m working (on a less intense work task) and my child asks for a snack, I put my laptop down and get a snack.
If my children break out in a fight-mob in the living room, I put my laptop down and handle the issue. No more, let me finish this really quick… one more minute sweety… stop fighting! Don’t you see I’m working!
By mentally shifting to my kids and not my project as the priority, it totally changes things for me. Sure, I’m not nearly as productive as I used to be when I was putting my work first but I’m so much more peaceful and my kids no longer resent it or try to fight for my attention when they see me working. It’s a total win-win.
2 | Not Setting Boundaries Up Front
One major source of mom blow ups is when our kids don’t listen until we yell. It’s a cycle that doesn’t have to continue.
In fact, yelling undermines our authority because we don’t have to yell to get their attention. One of the biggest reasons our kids do things we don’t like is because they don’t know the boundaries.
Think of behavioral boundaries like physical boundaries. If you told your son he could ride his bike outside until 5:00, chances are, he’ll go exploring beyond where you had in mind. If you caught him riding his bike on the main road, you might be upset.
This really wouldn’t be fair because he wasn’t given a boundary line like, “do not ride your bike past our street.” Now, this doesn’t mean he won’t try to test this boundary but we’ll get to that in the next point.
For now, we need to establish simple boundaries like, “when we play with one game, we need to clean it up before we open another game.”
This keeps us from going into a screaming fit when we walk into the playroom and see every game they own dumped out on the floor after a very exhausting day at work!
There are endless boundaries you can create, but you get the point.
3 | Not Giving Natural Consequences
When we create and effectively and repeatedly communicate our boundaries, we must offer natural consequences when those boundaries are challenged.
And they will be challenged! Your kid isn’t bad when she deliberately disobeys what you just told her. She’s merely testing your resolve and if you’re really telling the truth. Hmmm, think about that for a second.
When we say, “if you don’t pick up your Legos by the time I get back upstairs in five minutes, I’m going to box them up and give them away” and we don’t follow through (if the Legos aren’t cleaned up), we’ve just lied to our child.
And they know it.
This is why giving natural consequences upfront is so important. Don’t give great big threats that you have no intention of doing just to scare them into obedience. This cycle of giving threats and not following through is a recipe for disobedience every day of the week. And your sanity goes right out the window!
Make sure your child clearly knows both the boundary and the consequence to their behavior upfront. If they cross that boundary… that’s where the next point comes in.
4 | Not Keeping Your Word
This is so important to establishing trust with your child. They know when we won’t stick to our word and it’s like blood in the water to a kid.
They aren’t trying to destroy our patience, they’re just trying to figure it all out.
Take a moment to be sure the consequence you’re about to give makes sense and you are willing to dole it out when needed.
Never ever waiver or bargain with your child. This is the key to keeping your peace.
If you’re currently trapped in this cycle, I give you permission to stop right now.
Just know, it’s going to take work and your kids will likely not appreciate your new found change. But over time, they’ll know you mean business and will listen when you talk without needing to yell.
5 | Pouring Out of an Empty Cup
As a mom, we’re in a perpetual state of pouring out. We pour out spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. We know that’s all a part of the job of mom.
But what we all seem to forget or treat as unimportant is the filling back up part.
We can’t run on empty any more than our car sitting in the driveway can. Sure, we can try but at what cost?
There are harder mom seasons than others, and in the hardest ones, we need to find pockets of rest. But when we’re not caring for a newborn or for 3 kids under the age of 3, things get a bit easier.
And it’s our job to carve out time to rest and recharge because honestly no one else is going to do it for us!
Doing things that recharge you like getting enough rest, exercising consistently, reading purely for enjoyment (audiobooks are great for moms), having a quiet devotional and prayer time, and even time with close friends you can connect with.
Just remember, these things are only effective if you schedule them regularly… not once a year around Mother’s Day.
Sure, it’s wonderful to have a family who shows their appreciation for all you do, but I’m pretty sure that’s a rare occurrence for most moms. The good news is, you can take charge of your own happiness and show appreciation to yourself. You totally need and deserve it!
6 | You Take it All Personally
Kids misbehave and test boundaries… it’s kind of their thing. It’s NOT personal towards you. There may be things we’re doing that contribute to undesired behavior, but it’s not an attack on you.
Kids are tiny humans and whether we believe it or not, they have their own reasons for doing what they do no matter how strange or annoying those things are to us.
I find one of the best ways to get in our kids’ little heads and hearts is to ask questions before we assume what we see is accurate.
One day I was looking for my daughter who was 5 at the time and heard her in her closet. When I turned the corner I almost lost it! There were clothes everywhere!
What looked like a, destroy my closet for no reason type of situation, was actually her attempting to reorganize her wardrobe. She was just doing it the really hard way kids at that age do. Yikes.
I’m grateful that in that moment, I didn’t start yelling and lecturing but mustered up enough self-control to ask what she was doing.
When I realized that she was trying to do something helpful, I dropped down and started to help her. We had a good conversation and I found out that she didn’t like the way I had organized her clothes and she felt like her way would be easier to get ready in the morning faster.
Who am I to argue that?
Even in the moments when our kids are disobedient and rude right to our faces, we must know there is something else at the root. And ironically, they need us most of the time to help them work through their emotions.
Not taking it personally helps us show up and do that.
7 | Not Managing Things Well
When life gets too hectic and I’ve allowed too many things to overtake our family schedule all the important stuff gets pushed to the side.
What’s left is a very messy house, no plan at all for dinner every night, running late for everything, and a mom that’s always on the edge of a meltdown.
I think in many ways, this is the hardest part about being a mom… the managing the home stuff.
It took me a long time to realize that something’s gotta give and I can’t allow our routines to fall by the wayside.
Making sure that the house stays livable and the kids are actually doing their part in keeping the house clean is so important. When the house is filthy, it’s very hard for me to stay in a positive mindset.
And making sure there is a plan for meals that don’t involve giving all my money away in the drive-thru is also super important. Meal planning is both my nemesis and lifesaver. I honestly hate doing it, but it’s the only way to not operate in chaos.
Finally, practicing intentionally leaving with plenty of time totally reduces fits of yelling at my kids. Running late for appointments is such an open door for yelling, tears, and frustration.
Why Moms Get Angry
This is not an exhaustive list of anger triggers. Moms yell at their kids for many reasons, some are not even being addressed here in this post. These are just some anger triggers that I became aware of personally in my own life and from talking to other moms who struggle with anger.
I want to encourage you to observe your life and time with your kids and look for those things that set you off, and do what you can to eliminate them.
The important thing to remember is, you are NOT a bad mother! Simply the fact that you’re reading this to the bottom proves you’re a good mom.
The first thing I learned is that I needed to change, but I couldn’t do it on my own. I am a Christian and knew I needed to surrender my emotions to Christ. I believe surrender is the first step to change. It acknowledges that I can’t do this on my own or I already would have by now.
I then needed to be honest with myself and transparent with others. I stopped being isolated and found out that other moms were struggling with the same issues. There is freedom in openness.
Finally, I made a quality decision to change and become the mom I knew I was meant to be. I apologized a lot to my kids along the way, and now they hardly have memory of those old days. Which means there’s a better life ahead of you that’s free from guilt and shame.
You can do it if it’s what you really want… you just have to decide.
Toddler temper tantrums – they can strike at a moment’s notice. And usually, happen at the quietest and least kid appropriate location possible with plenty of judging witnesses shaming you with their childless stares.
If your toddler has ever unleashed a monster temper tantrum in public, you already know it’s on the top 10 list of most embarrassing and most frustrating moments in your life.
So what’s a mom to do when her blessed angel reaches the age of toddlerhood and isn’t maintaining their previous cutie-pie status?
There is help and you don’t have to live afraid to go outdoors or feel like a prisoner to your new toddler’s reign of terror.
But first, we need to change the narrative.
Change the Toddler Narrative
I really hate hearing parents label the toddler years as the terrible twos. This is basically stereotyping and nobody likes to be stereotyped… ever. We ALL want to have the opportunity to be our own person and live our lives without the labels trying to hold us back.
Plus, having the mindset that all toddlers are like the Tasmanian Devil will only hurt you as a parent. That’s because you’re already going into the toddler years expecting the craziness to ensue. Maybe your friend had a toddler that became unglued at the sound of the word, No.
And you automatically assumed this was the norm.
Anytime we go into any relationship or encounter with a set of preconceived notions about that person, we never give them a fighting chance to show us any different. This includes our children.
And this way of thinking is exactly what’s wrong in our world today. So, let’s not allow this toxic mindset to creep into our homes.
Instead, we need to focus on us. Yes, not our toddler but us as parents. Our children are brilliant little people and have the amazing capacity to rise up and meet our parental expectations. We just need to know what those are and lay them out.
And just like the carefully chosen outfit that you laid on the bed for your child to wear to church, they’ll probably come along and chose something else. You need to be prepared that battles will go down but you are the boss and you’ve got this!
I have three children and one of my kiddos is in the throes of toddlerhood. And I can probably count on two hands (that being generous) how many tantrums I’ve experienced with all three of my kids combined. I don’t say that to brag.
Only to offer encouragement that all of the typical “stages” that are thrown at us as parents don’t have to be our own experiences. I’m by no means a perfect parent but I went into motherhood with the mindset that I’m not excepting society’s negative reports for my children.
That means the terrible twos, the tween and teen disrespect, and anything else society tells me is supposed to happen with my children.
Instead, I choose to take responsibility for creating the environment I want to live. Call me crazy, but I just hate when someone tells me I can’t do something or this is just the way it is.
So, I set out to do things differently. Here is the simple formula for gracefully preventing your toddler’s temper tantrums.
Tantrums are one of the ways your toddler communicates. Like a baby cries… a toddler will act out in their emotions to get our attention. Therefore, don’t worry, tantrums are normal and they don’t mean your child is bad or unruly.
In fact, I’ve had my fair share of “adult” tantrums, some of which were sadly witnessed by my kids. We all get angry, feel misunderstood, and want to be heard. We also don’t always go about expressing our feelings in the most productive and appropriate way.
This is no different from the way toddlers and kids will express their feelings in an outright on the floor tirade. But it’s our job to teach and guide our children into healthier ways to express our emotions. Nobody ever wants to see an adult kicking and screaming on the floor!
And in my own personal experience, most of my kid’s tantrums were because I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on and what they needed at that moment…
Be Sure They Aren’t Having a Meltdown
Before getting into the details about preventing full-on tantrums, I want to give you a quick heads up on what your toddler might be having instead – a meltdown. A toddler meltdown is different than a tantrum because it’s largely a reaction to something they’re experiencing.
Your little guy might be more sensitive to sights and sounds and that new trampoline place is just too overwhelming for him.
It could also be that he’s exhausted and simply needs a nap. Lack of sleep could also trigger a tantrum in a toddler but a meltdown seems to come out of nowhere versus a tantrum which typically happens when you tell them no for something they want.
Finally, you may find your toddler has a meltdown after something upsets or scares them and they can’t control their avalanche of sudden emotions. This happens with my little guy from time to time.
If you suspect your toddler is having a meltdown, follow these simple steps but stay focused on helping him feel safe, comforted, and calm.
Start with Meeting Their Immediate Needs
Toddlers are still very much like their former baby selves. They lack the ability to tell you what they really need and so they act out in a way that’s very similar to a baby crying when they’re wet, hungry, or tired.
When a toddler starts acting out, pulling away from you, and no longer listening you need to go into inspector mode immediately to stop a meltdown in its tracks. Ask yourself when was the last time your little guy had a snack, took his nap, or went to the bathroom. Or basically anything else you can think of.
Meeting these needs early and quickly is the best way to keep a full-on tantrum from happening.
I think we ALL know that lack of sleep or food are huge triggers for a toddler meltdown, so start there.
I’m pretty sure, my son is the most hungry kid on the planet! And he’s quite the opposite from his two older sisters. So as he got older I naturally thought I had this parenting thing down and packed snacks and food based on what I did previously.
I broke the cardinal parenting rule… never try to treat all your kids the same! So basically, he was always hungry and wanting to eat. I quickly learned to bring more healthy snacks with us and that fixed that problem!
Also, if your kiddo doesn’t do well at all with a missed nap, try to always schedule outings and appointments around her nap whenever possible.
Other tantrum triggers can be stress or lack of attention from you. Yes, we can actually do things to contribute to their tantrums.
For example, were you stressed out this afternoon getting her to her doctor’s appointment on time? Were you yelling at the cars, had an intense phone call on the way, or even yelled at your child?
Kids can hold on to the stressful emotions we put out and they simply have no way of handling them in a healthy or effective way. It’s the same thing happening when a baby is crying and suddenly your baby starts crying too.
Toddlers also tend to be extremely sensitive. The other day we were headed to breakfast as a family and my husband and I were deep in conversation. And my toddler began annoying his big sister… his specialty. And instead of stopping our conversation to handle the problem, we ignored it until we blew a top.
Big mistake! My husband yelled at him in the back seat (he pretty much never yells) and my son started the teary-eyed pout. When we pulled up to the restaurant, he seemed fine to me but when he got out and saw his dad, he started to cry very hard.
Needless to say, my husband felt terrible. But this shows how strongly toddlers can hold on to stressful emotions.
The second thing I mentioned is lack of attention. If you’re on your phone the whole time in the waiting room and he’s trying to get your attention, stop and be present with him. Nobody likes to be ignored, and this goes for your child too.
Foster Guided Independence
Another great way to allow your child to feel important and ward off tantrums is to offer them the opportunity to make simple choices which make them feel respected. I like to call this guided independence.
What kinds of choices are we talking about?
Let your child make toddler sized choices like what to wear, which plate they want to eat on, and what color cup they want before they have the opportunity to ask for the green cup themselves. Try putting two cups on the counter and telling your little one to choose a cup and get some milk.
Most of the time these simple choices mean absolutely nothing to us, but giving a toddler the wrong color cup can launch the first missile in WW4.
It’s better to offer them the choice first instead of grabbing a cup and them not liking it and then having to correct the situation and ruining dinner.
It’s not at all about letting kids run the show or some new-aged passive parenting tactics. But it is about understanding the needs of our kids and lovingly allowing them to experience independence on our terms, not theirs.
You may need to create boundaries with these choices to prevent yourself from getting frustrated. For example, I let my son get himself dressed every morning. But I have a special drawer where he has a bunch of t-shirts and shorts to choose from.
Most of them all go together so it’s helpful that I have one less task to do and he doesn’t leave out of the house looking like a circus performer. And the best part is he feels like a big boy and doesn’t feel the need to search for ways to battle for independence.
Here’s my favorite tip and where I believe most parents are missing it. This is honestly where my husband shines and helped me see where I was actually sabotaging my own efforts along the way.
Toddlers may be small, but they’re extremely smart! They know when your no means no and when it really means, um, OK fine. Ever done that one before?
Your kid just mentally hit the jackpot and will be coming for you, again and again, to get what they want.
It’s our job and responsibility to establish strong and predictable expectations for our kids as early as newborns. Basically, when your baby cries she learns that you’ll get up and go into mommy investigation mode to fix her current problem.
When you let your toddler that when we go into the store we do NOT run around, touch things on the shelves, or any other inappropriate behavior.
When your toddler hears your instruction and proceeds to do just want you told him not to do, he’s testing the waters and waiting for your response. This will determine if he does it again. Kids will always do what they’re allowed to do.
Inappropriate behavior needs to be addressed every single time. No matter how much of a pain in the butt it is. This works! And it is work! But it’s so worth it when your child knows how to behave themselves in public and at home.
Does my toddler son ever break out in a sprint in Target? Yep! And I firmly tell him we do NOT run in stores and he immediately goes back in the cart. No second chances, no discussions, no bribes, no deals.
Let’s just say, it doesn’t happen often. He’s learned that we mean business. But toddlers will be toddlers, which means they love to test the boundaries and see what they can get away with.
If you waiver it’s like a shark smelling blood in the water… you’re done!
Parenting is literally the hardest thing we’ll ever do as people! There are so many questions, worries and concerns that keep us up at night and gnaw at our soul.
“Is my kid ever going to actually do what I say?”
“Is she ever going to get passed this phase?”
“I am ever going to feel normal again?”
And here’s the truth, the answers to those questions will look and feel different for every parent and every child. We’re all unique and there’s no one-sized-fits-all approach to parenting. And anyone who tells you that is mistaken.
That’s why I’m so passionate about using positive parenting with my kids. This approach to parenting isn’t a “do this” manual. It’s more of a “consider this” way of seeing myself and my kids.
It’s helped me go from a frustrated, overwhelmed and screaming-head kind of mom to one who can actually remain calm and effectively communicate with my kidseven when I’m fuming. That’s huge for me! I still have bad days and mess ups but those are no longer my daily norm.
I want to simply share some of my own biggest parenting challenges and how I found solutions that actually worked. I’m a mom of a toddler, a school-aged child, and a teen. That’s a lot going on in my house and these tips work with all of them!
5 Simple Solutions for my Biggest Parenting Challenges
1 – My Kids Never Listened to Me Until I Yelled
This is such a huge one for me. Like I said, I used to yell to be heard. It felt like the only way my kids responded was when I yelled and got angry. I got to a point where I started to believe that this was just how my kids needed to hear instruction.
When in reality, they didn’t like being yelled at anymore than any other human does. But I was undermining my own authority by not doing what I said and not having any consistency in my parenting.
I made a regular practice of throwing out empty threats like they were prizes at a sporting event. My kids came to NOT believe what I said and this caused my frustration, followed by lots of what I thought was necessary yelling.
All this changed when I started to only say things I was absolutely going to follow through on and no fluff. In addition, nagging and barking orders constantly never helped either. I found that treating my kids with respect and like people goes a long way.
2 – Mom Guilt was Consuming Me
As a mom, there are so many choices we have to make in a single day that can totally shape the life of our child. This person we’ve been trusted to take care of and lovingly raise into a good human being.
Along the way, the pressure, doubts and mistakes we make can smother our joy and confidence as moms.
I watched the movie BirdBox the other night and all I kept thinking was how Sandra’s character had to keep those precious children alive in the most horrendous of circumstances. The stress of just watching it unfold on TV was almost too much for me!
Here’s what I’m learning about mom guilt. First having it at all means I’m a great, loving, and caring mother. The fact that I even care about how good I’m doing says volumes. There are many moms out there that don’t.
And second, praying to constantly seek God’s direction for my home and also writing down my concerns helps me make the best decisions for us. After that, I’m intentional about NOT obsessing about my choices or my mistakes (because we don’t always get it right) so I can live in peace.
3 – I struggled with balancing work and kids
I’ve always been a working mom since my first daughter was born. I’ve just been blessed to have been able to work from home all these years. I started out doing work I hated and have shifted over the years to doing work I love.
Along the way, I struggled a whole lot with balancing the work load I was responsible for and taking care of my kids and home. The process wasn’t easy and never looked pretty but I found my own version of balance.
I don’t really know if there is such thing as true balance between our families and work. And it doesn’t matter if you work inside the home, outside the home or something different entirely. The key is creating healthy boundaries and being intentional about how you spend your time.
Oh and not trying to do it all by yourself!
Take time to find a system that works well for you and your family and be intentional about working that system. And my biggest piece of advice is to learn to ignore that nagging internal voice that says you’re a bad mom for not being with your kids 24/7.
The fact is, our kids don’t need our presence every minute of the day but they do need our heart. If we make connecting with our kids our biggest priority, we’ll all be just fine.
Try spending at least 10 minutes a day with each of your kids just talking and having eyes on me time. You’ll be surprised how effective this is in forging a wonderful bond with your kids.
4 – I was too Punishment-Focused Vs Heart-Focused
I was raised, like so many other kids, that when you did something wrong there was a punishment attached. It was a very simple approach to parenting.
There’s only one problem with that. The need for the parent and child to be deeply connected gets missed. It’s not that parents shouldn’t discipline or dole out appropriate punishments when they’re needed, but when we focus only on the action and punishing that action we miss something.
Our biggest goal as parents should be to win our kid’s heart. When we do that, parenting gets a whole lot easier. You have access into their biggest struggles, concerns and questions. We get to actually help them make decisions and choices that strengthen their ability to make better choices on their own.
This way when they do make a mistake, there’s more communication about why this happened, what they learned, and how it can be avoided in the future.
Punishments have their place, but communication and asking questions are much more effective parenting tools to raising great kids who are ready for real life. In our family, we rarely even have to give out punishments with our kids and in the process, they’re learning how to be more responsible and accountable for their actions and choices.
5 – Not Handling Back Talk, Tantrums and Whining Calmly
When we’re adulting all day, we can be downright exhausted. And when our kids start whining or talking back it can be very frustrating.
We just want our kids to comply without complaint and when they don’t we can feel backed into a wal. This dysfunctional communication cycle isn’t healthy for us and it’s not teaching our kids how to effectively handle conflict.
It’s so much easier, in the short run, to shut down our toddler’s whiny complaints or our teenager’s back talk. But it’s more helpful to engage positively in the conversation or interaction with firm and calm action.
In the case with a tantrum, our toddler is usually overwhelmed by their big feelings. Getting down on their eye level and calmly talking to them or even giving them a firm hug can help calm those emotions.
Ultimately feelings cannot be punished away; they must be worked through. It comes down to determining why a tantrum is occurring and giving children the knowledge and skills needed to move beyond tantrums.
As for dealing with conflict with older children, asking questions for understanding is really helpful in defusing negative emotions and helping our kids feel heard. Dr. Newman also says that being too permissive or being too controlling can bring on back talk in our kids.
This has held true for me and my kids!
hildren need a firm but fair leader who takes their opinions respectfully into account and also knows how to stand firm when needed.
Susan Newman Ph.D.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Parenting Challenges
This isn’t an exhaustive list of parenting challenges and we all struggle in different areas. A lot of our issues depend on the uniqueness of our own families.
These are the challenges I struggled with for far too long. But I know so many other moms feel overwhelmed by these as well. It’s important for me to share my parenting journey with you in the hopes that my struggles and victories will help you!
The most important thing to remember is perfection is the enemy of progress so give yourself tons of grace along the way. When you make a parenting mistake forgive yourself, make it right and move on.
It’s always been widely believed that as our children reach puberty and grow into their teen years hormones will be running the show. As parents, we see these hormones as moody body-snatchers making our kids do and say strange things.
However, your tween or teen’s moodiness might not be caused by hormones at all. And blaming these invisible perpetrators for every odd or rude behavior may actually hurt your child in the long run.
That’s because your middle schooler is living a very hectic and crazy life every single day. Most of us wouldn’t trade our own stressful adult lives to go back to school for any amount of money!
As our children transition from elementary school where most of the kids they go to school with are still sweet and they have the same teacher all day – this all changes drastically when they reach middle school.
The kids they used to be besties with all of a sudden think your kid isn’t cool anymore, they go from having one teacher to seven, and their body is seriously doing some crazy things.
All of this alone would make anyone feel a little out of sorts. But when you add on your tween’s very immature brain which isn’t even close to being finished growing, life can simply feel overwhelming for your child.
It can be a real eye-opener to learn that a lot of typical teen behavior and general moodiness isn’t necessarily caused by hormones at all but by things we can control.
Uh hem… that means we can actually do something real to help!
Tweens Desperately Need More Sleep
As tweens and teens get up at the same time as a typical working adult and get ready to head into an all day physical and emotional roller coaster called school, they are usually short on one thing – SLEEP.
Studies show that 60 to 70% of American teens live with a borderline to severe sleep debt.
Sleep deprivation puts teenagers into a kind of perpetual cloud or haze, explains Dr. Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University and director of chronobiology and sleep research at Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island.
It’s recommended that all kids ranging in age from 12 to 17 get at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night. We can see how hard this is to achieve with their early waking school hours.
Most kids this age probably aren’t realistically getting to sleep at 9pm. In fact, many actually have trouble getting to sleep in the first place because of using electronics late into the evening, relationship stresses, and homework and studying demands.
Encouraging your kids of all ages to have one hour before bed where they do enjoyable non-screen activities is proven to help prevent sleep problems.
In addition, keeping similar wake-up times on the weekends helps too. Apparently, sleeping in till noon on the weekends hurts their sleep cycles during the week. You may want to allow them a little extra sleep on Saturday mornings, though!
There’s a reason your teen seems to want to eat all the food in your house! They’re growing at the rate they were when they were that sweet little toddler.
Their bodies are growing at alarming rates and snacking and grab-and-go meals aren’t cutting it. We must encourage more whole foods whenever possible to reduce the amount of processed foods our teens are consuming.
They’re tasty, convenient, and very attractive to our kids. Packaged and processed foods are also everywhere including our kid’s school. Most children are consuming the typical Modern American Diet (MAD diet) every day.
“Study after study in the medical research journals confirm that people who are most dependent on MAD-style eating habits have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems.” —Tyler G. Graham and Drew Ramsey, The Happiness Diet
Offering many options of healthy, whole foods like sweet clementines, crackers or veggies with hummus, and healthy nuts like pistachios are easy and tasty snack alternatives to candy bars and chips.
Tweens Desparately Need a Break
Wait a minute, all my teen does is lay around all day… breaking is all she does!
Is that what you were thinking?
Having a break doesn’t necessarily mean laying on the couch watching TV or taking a nap. Tweens and teens simply need permission to take a mental and physical break from the stress of their days.
Yes, tweens experience stress… lots of it.
They live in an unusual environment AKA middle school that requires them to change their physical and mental state, sometimes drastically, at the sound of a bell. That is, the school bell.
They dive right into American History and give a class presentation on George Washington’s family life, walk down the hall to take an Algebra exam, run a 4 minute mile in P.E., have a profound discussion on the poetry and life of Robert Frost, sit ackwardly in the cafeteria at the “uncool” table, dissect a butterfly in biology, learn a new song on the trumpet, and the day’s not even done yet.
All of this with different teachers with unique demands and personalities. And let’s not even talk about all the judging, bullying, and peer-pressure being thrown around at our kids every single day.
They need a break.
They need permission to feel how they feel.
They need a space to feel accepted, loved, and un-judged. To feel loved, supported, and encouraged.
They need a break from the pressure.
Our Tweens Desperately Need Us
Teen depression and suicide rates are staggering and on the rise. It’s clear that something is missing.
Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13-to-18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.
While sleep, food, and downtime are very important to our growing kids, what they need most is us.
Tween and teens need to see us present, hear us cheering them on, and know that we love them unconditionally… no matter how many mistakes they make.
Being a present parent doesn’t mean being physically with them 24/7 but it’s a creating a lifestyle of making them a priority.
We can do this by making a habit of really listening to them and carving out a small piece of one on one time regularly (even 5-10 minutes) can make a habit of real connection.
Raising children at any age isn’t easy so be sure in all of this parenting you don’t forget to take care of yourself. That’s one of the biggest things we can do for our kids… not become a mom hanging on by a thread.
How do you relate to your tween or teen? Share your tips in the comments below!
Raising toddlers is one of the most rewarding stages of parenting. Sure, this stage gets a really bad rap because of all the labeling. Terrible Twos ring any bells?
However, toddlers are amazing and really pretty great with their endless curiosity, openness to trying anything (except brussels sprouts of course), and they still think mom’s the best.
And those sweet toddler hugs are what make the struggles worth it.
At least it is for my toddler.
But raising a toddler isn’t away puppies and rainbows. It can be more like toddler tantrums and battle of wills. And this can be downright frustrating especially if your toddler is your first child.
There is a secret to raising happy and tantrum-proof toddlers, and it’s something I learned and tweaked over the years with all three of my children.
My secret to thriving in toddler life is to give your little one very clear expectations up front. That’s it! It’s hard being a toddler and not fully understanding this amazing world around you. They need to have firm boundaries and know exactly what’s going to happen when they cross those boundaries.
Honestly, I hate to sound harsh but a lot of our struggles in raising toddlers is our fault and it’s making life harder for them and us! It’s their job to challenge and seek independence. They are NOT being bad.
They just need us to establish those healthy boundaries and lovingly guard them. You’ll find yourself having much fewer battles when your toddler simply knows what to expect.
And, here’s the kicker, those expectations are always the same and never change based on our emotions at the time. Doing this all the time is pretty much the secret sauce to not having the toddler equivalent of Game of Thrones in your house every day!
Now, here are 29 most super helpful expert tips on thriving as a mom in the toddler years!
The two simple words that work for us are, “Yes, Mama.” That’s it. It won’t work like magic the first time you say it. Some training will be required to help your child understand what is expected when they hear those words.
Did you know there is an actual condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder – ODD? It affects children and their ability to handle listening to authority. This can be especially difficult for parents.
But there are things we can do whether or not our toddler has received a diagnosis. Many of which have to do with how we cope with these challenges, such as bargaining and negotiating with our little ones.
Bargaining is a tool used by kids to get their way and get out of dealing with their responsibilities. No matter how they cry or complain, they must fix their mistake and then accept the consequences.
If you find yourself in a battle of wills every single day with your toddler, you may have a strong-willed child. Being strong-willed isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but it can be a real challenge for parents in the early days.
Establishing very clear boundaries and expectations are your best line of defense!
When we give our strong-willed toddler a routine, she knows what to expect. While this can’t prevent things like meltdowns over the toys we can and can’t bring to the park, it can help with bedtime, night wakings, car trips, etc.
To read Nicole’s full tips on raising a strong-willed toddler click here.
4 – Teaching Your Toddler Discipline without Yelling
Toddler mealtimes can be some of the most challenging parts of the day. From picky eating, distracted eating, and sudden refusal to eat previously familiar foods. Toddler feeding is a delicate balance between our need for healthy boundaries and your toddler’s desire for independence.
Pick options that are already a part of dinner time, making it look like a choice to your toddler but not putting yourself through too much trouble making new meals just for the children.
6 – How to Start Feeding Your Toddler with Baby Led Weaning
I only heard about baby led weaning with my 3rd child and I wish I’d learned about it sooner. It’s so much easier for you as the “chef” and more fun for your baby. I believe that because they are more in control. And let’s face it, toddler’s love control!
I usually start Bady Led Weaning with snacks then, later on, on move onto full meals. I just find this works better for my children.
There are many safe and healthy diets that do not include meat that many parents feed their toddlers. However, sometimes parents who do eat a meat-based diet find their toddler refuses to eat meat
This can be frustrating and there are worries that your toddler won’t get enough nutrients, but there are healthy ways to feed your toddler a meatless diet. No matter the reason.
There are certain nutrients that if you aren’t getting from meat you need to be getting from somewhere. The two main nutrients are protein and iron. My secret weapon: Edamame. It has a good amount of both protein and iron!
My oldest daughter is an extremely picky eater and though she’s much better now, she’s still pretty selective in what she likes to eat. She was and still is very sensitive to textures, and many other kids struggle with the same issue.
If you have a picky eater, you may want to consider Jenn’s rather unconventional tip…
By allowing young kids to mouth pine cones, rocks, and leaves they will further develop the mouth sensations which may prevent intolerance for food textures at an older age. Yes, making your kids eat dirt will make them less picky eaters.
10 – How to Handle Tantrums without Punishment or Timeouts
Toddler tantrums are super tricky and can leave you feeling helpless when a toddler tantrum sets in. Many parents aren’t exactly sure how to handle a tantrum and whether they are actually worthy of punishment or not.
I personally believe that we need to work much harder on the front end to prevent toddler tantrums in the first place. And then they are much more likely to be related to your toddler feeling overwhelmed in some way without the ability to communicate their feelings.
When your child is having a tantrum and distraction and other techniques aren’t working, or even before using those other techniques, try empathy.
As parents, we can often wonder why our little angels can turn so quickly into… well, the opposite of angels. This happens because their emotions aren’t fully developed, and they often times haven’t practiced using healthy emotional communication.
There are many ways we can teach our children how to share their feelings in an appropriate way and develop social skills.
Attending daycare or preschool is NOT required for your child to learn social skills. Providing them play time with other people is all they need to learn to play with others.
To get all of Kayla’s amazing tips on toddler social skills, click here.
12 – How to Prevent Toddler Meltdowns
Prevent toddler tantrums? Yes, you can prevent meltdowns from your toddler. The key is doing all the work on the front end so you can help your toddler learn how to express their feelings in a more constructive way.
If we take a minute to give them a voice, to listen to their choices, and to make them feel part of the decision-making team, they’ll buy in. They’ll do what we need them to do. They won’t need to have a tantrum to be heard.
To get Nicole’s full list of amazing tantrum prevention tips, click here.
Toddler Potty Training Tips
13 – The 3 Day Potty Training Plan
Part of the success of potty training is making it fun for your toddler. They love growing up and becoming big kids so help them embrace their desire for independence. This next tip totally worked for my 2-year-old son!
You’ll want to buy your child super cute underwear that will get them excited about going to the potty. I bought Drew superhero undies and he loves them!
Potty training can be tricky and there are certainly no one-size-fits-all strategies for getting your little one fully potty trained. There are many ways to approach this right of passive, but knowing when your toddler is ready is your key to success!
If your child is starting to become aware of their bodily functions, it could mean that she’s ready. Sometimes, if you wait it out, your child’s willingness to potty train could pass.
It’s easy to pick out the perfect potty chair, the cool underwear or pull-ups, but what about when things don’t go as planned? Making the following mistake can set back your potty training goals way back!
One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is shaming their kids during this process. It may not seem like a big deal to drop an “I can’t believe you pee peed in your underwear like a baby” but it can actually undo any progress you are making.
Kids thrive on routine and while travel can definitely throw that for a loop, we like to try to keep things as similar to home as possible. For us, this means trying to travel during nap times so the kids can sleep in the car.
Toddlers are just older babies who are growing up really fast. In many ways, they’re light years ahead of their previous baby stage. But in many ways, they’re holding on tight to their baby privileges.
And being held a lot is one of those privileges. Most toddlers drop the need to be held when the independence stage kicks in, but every kid is unique.
Whether your child’s clinginess is new and most likely temporary or a long-term concern, a great first step is to reassure your child and create a sense of security.
Elizabeth gives great insight into why toddlers are clingy in the first place. And her full process for reducing toddler clinginess. Get the full post here!
20 – How to Stop Your Toddler From Hitting
When your toddler decides one day to hit another kid or even to hit you it’s frustrating and also embarrassing. But just like any other toddler behavioral issue, hitting can be corrected too.
Actions speak louder than words. If you hit back and say no, you’re teaching them hitting is an okay response. The same goes for yelling. If a toddler hits and screams, stay calm and offer an alternative by distracting the child.
21 – How to Easily Ween Your Toddler from a Pacifier
Giving your new baby a pacifier can feel like magic when soothing your inconsolable newborn. However, in a few years, it can feel like a curse when it’s time to wean your toddler from the binky. If you have the right strategies, it gets a lot easier!
It is best to try to control how much your child is using the pacifier in the first place by only giving it to them during naps and bedtime.
22 – How to Keep Your Toddler in Bed Through the Night
Once you transition your baby from their crib into their own “big bed” an unfortunate side effect can happen… they never seem to want to stay in their bed.
As frustrating as this is, you can do something about it! It’s not easy… and it requires your unwavering commitment to the process but it will pay off. It comes down to setting a loving yet firm tone no matter how many extra requests your toddler askes for.
When you do the “extra stuff,” you are establishing the idea that if they get up you will come in and give them the attention they want.
The wonderful thing about the baby years is most babies need more than one nap. Suddenly, something starts to change as they enter toddlerhood… they start needing less daytime sleep.
Your toddler will start showing signs that they are ready for only one nap per day. This transition can be tricky but is a lot simpler with the right strategy.
Sometimes the trickiest part of this transition is figuring out when to give lunch! What works best for most toddlers is splitting lunch during the early days. Who says lunch has to be one big meal at noon?!
24 – Creating Sleep Routines for the Spirited Child
Not every child is created the same and many are what can be referred to as spirited children. These are children who find it difficult to turn off their energy switch. They can be endlessly curious and tenacious.
None of which are bad things at all. But they can make for parenting challenges. Especially, when it comes to sleeping and naptimes.
Having an intense, persistent child has its challenges, particularly when it comes to sleeping. Routine helps immensely, but when it is time to let up a little bit and give your spirited child the independence she craves.
26 – Getting Your Toddler to Sleep without a Pacifier
If your baby took a pacifier, getting them to sleep without it as you try to ween them can be a real struggle. There are many methods to use, and some can cause you a lot more headache and lack of sleep. You may want to try this 3-day approach…
3 days before, the day before, and the day of pacifier removal, I told the twins they were getting so big and it was time to stop using pacifiers. I also told them there were babies that needed them more than they did and we would send the pacifiers to them.
Traveling is stressful enough but adding a toddler to the mix can feel overwhelming. One of your best assets is planning, planning, planning. And in that planning, you must build in plenty of buffers so you don’t feel rushed throughout your travels.
Be Early and Avoid Super Short Connections, especially if traveling by plane. You do not want to be the 30-week pregnant lady with a toddler running to catch her next plane (like I was).
Toddlerhood is an amazing developmental stage in your child’s growth. They are learning, testing, experimenting, and growing every single moment of the day. We just need to help create the environment for them to safely flourish.
Your job as the parent is to set the boundaries and enforce them gently. You will need to enforce them more or less frequently, more or less strongly depending on how strong-willed your toddler is.
Toddler life is truly an adventure but is one I choose to cherish as my son gets older. I hope these tips help you to feel less overwhelmed with this special age and more equipped to build a wonderful relationship with your curious little toddler.
Let us know in the comments below which expert tip you’re excited to use the most!