How To Get a Toddler to Cooperate

How To Get a Toddler to Cooperate

How To Get A Toddler To Cooperate

Tips to get your toddler to cooperate more provided by a certified parent coach

The toddler years can be filled with a whole lot of parental frustration, but it doesn’t have to. Check out these tips to get your toddler to cooperate and listen more.

Start small, with clear simple instructions

It is important to only give one instruction at a time and to stay close to your toddler to ensure compliance in the beginning.

When your toddler is beginning to learn compliance, avoid giving directions when you are on the move, distracted or in a hurry. Instead, make sure you are giving instructions when your child is an arm’s length away or less. Once your toddler grows and learns, you can work your way up to 3 instructions at once, but remember, they must remain simple.

If you toddler struggles with more instructions, do not be afraid to drop back to only one instruction at a time and work up their stamina over time. You can also increase your distance from them, but if they regress to not doing a requested behavior then you need to go back to being close.

Limit distractions

Toddlers are not made for multitasking so make sure distractions are limited when you are giving your instructions. This means your child’s head is not buried in a screen or they are not immersed in their play when you are talking.

A toddler’s play is their work and just as you need to get to a good stopping point so you can switch tasks, so does your toddler. If you need to gain your toddler’s attention, make sure to give them a warning about the need for their attention and get down on their level. Visual timers, like from Time Timer*, can be a great way to help toddlers transition to listening or to a different activity.

Make demands mean something

If you want your toddler to do something, make sure you actually want them to do it. Otherwise, if you request they do something to later back off and do it yourself, you are sending them mixed signals.

For toddlers, consistency is the key. They need to learn that every time you make a request you expect them to complete the task, not sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. So once you have made the decision that you want your toddler to do something, then insist they do what you are requesting.

This requires you to show them exactly how to do it until they have learned the expected behavior. If they refuse, make sure to break down the task into smaller tasks that are easier to complete. So instead of ‘put your toys in the box’ you might first say ‘find the box’.

Extra tips for transitions

Calmly tell your child to take their time with the task, that the next fun thing on the agenda (like reading a book with you) can wait until they are done.

If a child is playing it can be helpful to play with them for a minute or two before transitioning them to the new activity you are requiring.

Make sure to preview what the next activity and expectations will be before making the demand.

Be clear about what you want

Toddlers feel more secure when they are told exactly what to do. So instead of telling your child to get ready to go, try telling them ‘go put on your shoes, then put on your coat’.

Keep the instructions as a requirement, not a ‘would you like to…’ or ‘how about you…’ as those words make it seem like the toddler has a choice in the matter. If there is no choice to what you want your toddler to do, using choice wording will invite conflict and refusal if your toddler does not want to do it.

Offer limited choices

Sometimes offering your toddler a choice can help with non-compliance. For example, you can brush your teeth first or you can use the potty first. Make sure you are offering choices you can live with and limit the choices you offer to two.

Understand your toddler’s resistance

Sometimes we don’t like what we have to do. Toddlers are no different. If your toddler starts to have a meltdown reflect back your child’s feelings. Repeat they do not want to stop playing, wear their coat, leave, etc. Restate back to them that they are mad, sad, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Acknowledging their feelings by reflecting them back, will help your toddler transition through their meltdown faster.

Once they have calmed down offer them a hug, but remain insistent in the task being completed. That may mean you need to help them start the task or break it down into smaller tasks. It can also help to reaffirm your family’s values when enforcing the required task by stating “This is what we do in our family”.

Help your toddler learn

Toddlers learn best through mirroring and modeling so in the beginning, do the tasks along side your child so they learn how you expect the task to be done. Over time you will be able to remove yourself from participating once your toddler has learned what is expected.

*Happy Parenting & Families does not receive any compensation for recommending this product.

Holiday Parenting Tips

Holiday Parenting Tips

Holiday Parenting Tips

Holiday parenting tips

Holidays bring a lot of expectations for parents. Family traditions, positive memories, and of course well-behaving children are just a few. Which is why holidays are generally a time of stress for most parents.

Let’s face it, kids are more likely to act out during holidays because there is less structure and more stress. And adults are less likely to have patience and more likely to respond with frustration. Add in travel, long visits with relatives and friends, sugary foods, interrupted sleep schedules and you’ve got a recipe for tough times.

So here are 5 holiday parenting tips to help you thrive during your holiday season

1. Readjust Your Expectations

Come to terms that things may not work out exactly how you would like them to. Take a moment to recognize a lot of things are outside of your control. It is not a reflection on you as a parent or as a person. And then come up with the next best thing you know you or your kids can do. This will help take some of the pressure off. And make everyone feel more successful when things do work out.

2. Take A Break

If you are stressed, the whole family feels stressed. So as hard as it can be and as guilty as you might feel, it is important to practice self-care during holidays.

And I know what you are thinking, you don’t have time for that. But, think of it this way. Parents set the tone for their families. So if you want to have a smoother holiday, you need to set the tone of being calm and relaxed. And the only way to do that is to actually become calm and relaxed.

Which brings us back to self-care needing to be a priority. Schedule it in as though it is an important meeting, because it is. Better yet, use the time before the holiday as practice. Start asking for more help and taking more time for yourself. Help yourself get into the habit. Tanks can’t run on empty so make sure you are going into your holiday with a full tank.

3. Practice Self-Compassion

It’s okay to feel sad, overwhelmed and upset. These are emotions that a lot of people feel everyday. Even during holidays when you are ‘supposed’ to feel happy. It is also okay to feel the grief of not having things go the way you want or for traditions being changed.

What can help you through these tough emotions is practicing self-compassion. In short, self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a close friend. Realizing that you are dealing with something tough. Recognizing that others may also be struggling like you. And that this is just one moment in time.

And because it is a tough time, you deserve to meet yourself with kindness and understanding. As you would a friend.

Need more of a push? Studies have shown that self-compassion can help increase oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone that can counteract increased blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. And that helps lower your stress and decreases your anxiety. Plus self-compassion has the added benefit of helping you stay in the present moment. So you have a higher chance of actually enjoying the holiday with your children and family.

4. Move Your Body

Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress in your body and reset your stress response. Whether you like to run, lift weights, go for a walk, or something else, just get your body moving.

The reason exercise works so well is because it helps to complete the body’s stress cycle.

It’s easy to get stuck in a stress cycle when you are running from one thing to the next. But when you exercise and bring your heart rate up and then stop exercising and your heart rate comes back to normal, it is a natural signal letting your body know to stop its stress response. When you can get your body to stop signaling a stress response it will reduce the levels of cortisol in your system. Less cortisol allows you to think more clearly, function better and sleep better. It also gives you more control over your emotional regulation, making it easier to keep your cool. Which is a win for you and your kids.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the exercise of staying in the present moment. And staying in the present moment can help cut down a lot on stress. It can also help you reset so you can appreciate the things that are going well.

Now if you aren’t into mindfulness or feel like it is too difficult, stick with me for a moment. Because anyone can learn to practice mindfulness, even kids.

Mindfulness is about being in the moment, noticing your thoughts/feelings and then letting them go. So it is okay if you think about things as you try to be mindful. Simply acknowledge your thought or emotion and then try to let that thought or emotion go.

For beginners and for kids, I like to help teach mindfulness through exercises that engage the senses. A very popular mindfulness exercise for this is noticing 5 things you hear, 4 things you see/notice, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste.

Another good option is doing 10-20 jumping jacks. Then rest your hand on your heart and focus on how your heart rate comes back to normal.

Learning to practice mindfulness, like self-compassion takes time. But the benefits are worth it, so give it a try.

When You Are Triggered by Your Child

When You Are Triggered by Your Child

When You Are Triggered By Your Child

When your childs challenging behavior triggers your rage_parent coaching can help solve difficult behaviors

Are you a parent triggered by your child?

No one can push your buttons the way your child does. But for some parents, interactions with their child can feel more extreme because their child not only pushes their buttons, but triggers uncontrollable reactions.

When a parent feels triggered it can come out as anger. It may feel like you have a shorter fuse and that you explode more. Sometimes it comes out as avoidance. Feeling like you can’t stand to be in the same physical space as your child or interact with them. And sometimes it comes out as giving in or giving up. Feeling like you can’t possibly win. Feeling so exhausted you question if you can do anything right so you simply chose to do nothing.

No matter how you react, the end result is the same. You feel like you are failing as a parent. Like parenting is incredibly hard and frustrating. And often times it leads you to feel like you don’t want to be a parent to your child.

And then you have the guilt for having such thoughts. And you feel alone because no one else seems to have these struggles like you.

I know that feeling because it is a feeling I used to get a lot when my eldest was young. For me, my child triggered my anxiety. Whenever they began to spiral I could feel my anxiety rising. And as a result I would try to control the environment to keep my child from becoming triggered. Because it was the only way I thought I could keep myself from becoming triggered. Because when I became triggered I became angry. And when I was angry I was not the parent I wanted to be.

I knew I was not helping my child and that I was hurting our relationship. But I couldn’t figure out how to not get triggered by my child. And for me, I felt confused and upset after I was triggered. Because before I had my eldest I was laid back and handled pressure well. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten to this point of dreading my child’s reactions or how to break the cycle.

So what did I do? Well it took some time to recognize that my child was actually a trigger for me. That it was more than just getting on my nerves or pushing my buttons. They were causing a very intense, uncontrollable reaction in me. And that because of that reaction and how much I dreaded it, I was doing a lot to try to avoid or minimize my child’s triggers.

Once I realized I was being triggered I needed to reflect on how I wanted to live and parent. I took a hard look at how I was parenting. And I realized that I was putting a lot of effort in, but not getting the results I wanted. In short, I was doing a lot of accommodations, but still being triggered a lot of the time.

That caused me to realize that if I wanted something to be different I was going to have to do something different. Because what I was doing was not working for my child or for me.

Being triggered by your child does not make you a bad parent. But it does make parenting harder. A lot harder. So if your child is triggering you, you are not alone. And while it can be a good idea to work with a therapist or counselor to discover why you become triggered, this article is about the things you can do right now to break free from being triggered by your child.

These things all take time, so give yourself some grace and understanding. Behaviors don’t change overnight. Just keep showing up and doing the work. That is how you make changes.

Breaking Free of Being Triggered By Your Child

1. Understand your body’s reaction – This is not just in your head

Your body is having a biological reaction to your child’s behaviors. When your child has a big reaction, or you have an intense memory of how your child reacted the last time, your fear center becomes triggered. This is a normal reaction anytime we experience someone’s anger or when we feel threatened.

When our fear is triggered, we react in a very biological way. Our survival instincts kick in and that means our thinking brain shuts off. So we have a harder time regulating ourselves. Meaning we often escalate right along with our child who is upset.

So how do we interrupt this biological reaction? We need to remember to practice coping techniques. If you are becoming triggered you need to take care of yourself first. Regaining your calm is necessary to be able to effectively calm down your child. Try taking deep breaths, removing yourself temporarily from the room if it is safe for your child, or naming your feelings.

By practicing coping techniques you can regain control over your body’s reaction and bring your thinking brain back online. Once you are able to think again it becomes easier to problem solve solutions to help your child as well.

2. Understand it may not be your child who is causing you to be triggered, it may be you

When your child hits certain milestones or ages, it is natural for you to remember your childhood at that age. Depending on your experience, your family interactions or how you felt at that time it may cause old feelings and trauma to resurface.

And what a lot of people don’t know is that trauma can be caused by small events. And it varies from individual to individual. Trauma can be caused by invalidations or criticisms that get repeated over and over, often without the parent being aware that any harm is being done to their child. In short, trauma is based on your individual response to an event that you found overwhelming and that you could not fully process. So it is not uncommon for our parenting to bring up trauma that we did not know existed.

That is why when our child behaves a certain way or reminds you of when you were young, your childhood feelings reemerge. And the tricky thing about trauma is it blends time together. What happened in the past and how we felt gets mixed with what is happening now and how we feel now. Making it hard to realize our emotions and triggers are coming from the past.

So how do we move past a trauma we didn’t even realize we had? This is where mindfulness, yoga or Qigong can help. Each of these tools helps you to breathe and focus on the present moment. And when we can breathe and bring awareness to how our body feels in this moment we can begin to separate out the past from the present. Yoga and Qigong can be especially helpful if your body needs movement in order to focus on the present.

By practicing a form of mindfulness you are creating space to notice and question your feelings. What are you feeling? Why might you be feeling this? And when you can answer these questions you can then make an intentional decision about how you are going to proceed. And that ability to be intentional has the power to change your interactions with your child and their interactions with you.

3. Instead of avoiding being triggered, work on interrupting your triggers

It is easy to get into the habit of trying to avoid your child during certain time periods or events. Or to bend over backwards with accommodations. And it is easy to say you are doing it to keep the peace and make things easier for everyone. But it’s time to ask yourself if it really is easier.

Chances are your avoidance is leading to more behavior issues because kids tend to escalate behaviors if they feel they are being ignored. Or you are actually spending a lot of your time and energy on making accommodations.

So what can you do? Practice the STOP mantra. When your child is escalating and you feel like you are going to escalate right along with them 1. Stop 2. Take 3 deep breaths 3. Observe what you are feeling and 4. Proceed with intent.

The importance of breaking the avoidance habit is because avoidance is not a long term solution. Emotions that are not dealt with do not go away on their own. They usually resurface later with more intensity. The key to moving past your emotions is noticing what you are feeling. And moving past your emotions is critical to forming new behaviors for you and your child.

4. Choose to practice empathy and compassion for both your child and yourself

When you become triggered as a parent, parenting gets 10x harder. So acknowledge your struggle. Tell yourself that this is really hard right now. And tell yourself you are doing the best you can right now. Practicing this kind of self-compassion can help you shed any guilt or shame you are piling on top of yourself. It also lets you experience a little kindness when you need it most.

But don’t forget about your child. It may be hard to do as your child is triggering you, but remember they are a child. They are not trying to make you upset. They are trying to communicate they are struggling and that they need help. It’s just neither of you are at your best right now. Remind yourself of these things and you will find you are able to be more empathetic to your child. And empathy leads to connection, understanding and patience. All of which help resolve behavior challenges faster.

5. Work on repairing your relationship after you have been triggered

No parent is perfect. All parents yell. All parents have said something to their child they later regret. What happens during an escalation doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens after the event.

Repairing is the act of acknowledging your actions and making amends for them. In order to do this, you need to acknowledge your part in the escalation. This means you let your child know how you were feeling, why you reacted the way you did and how you could have done better.

Repairing is critical. Not only does it teach your child valuable relationship skills, but it helps you put your emotions and reactions into context so you can recognize and learn from them. It helps to create awareness and accountability, which can help you change your future responses. Repairing also helps protect your child from trauma because it gives them a chance to process their feelings and emotions about an event.

Final Thoughts

Parenting is never easy. Especially if your child triggers uncontrollable emotions in you. But becoming triggered is something you can change.

If you are triggered by your child and need help or support, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat to talk about how parent coaching can help support you and your child.

Schedule a Free 30 Minute Chat

Sensory Activities for Summer

Sensory Activities for Summer

Sensory Activities for the Summer

Sensory activities that help organize the vestibular and proprioceptive senses

Summer is a great time to get in a lot of sensory experiences. And those sensory experiences can ultimately help your child behave better. Especially if they are struggling with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or sensory sensitivities.

Depending on whether you have a child that is over responsive (reacts intensely and negatively to sensory experiences), under responsive (seems like they are slow to notice or engage in experiences) or sensory craving (reacts intensely or wildly to sensory experiences, seeking out more and more), will determine which sensory experiences will help your child best. Observe what your child likes to do or what they avoid if you are unsure whether they have sensitivities. Children’s bodies tend to do activities that feel good and help them feel organized. But if your child’s avoidance or performance of a task interferes with their life, it is time for a closer look.

The following activities help develop the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. The vestibular sense is where your balance comes from. It helps you know where your head is in relation to your body and the earth. The proprioceptive sense is how you know how to move your body. It helps your muscles, tendons and joints know how to move, with how much force and at what speed.

When there are sensory sensitivities or craving related to the vestibular and/or proprioceptive senses a child may appear clumsy, have a poor sense of body space, or seem like a wild child in activities. Helping your child find ways to have sensory experiences will help them reduce these behaviors. Sensory experiences can help regulate a child’s body, making them feel more successful.

The below activities can help integrate vestibular and proprioceptive senses.

Activities at Home:

  • Eat applesauce or yogurt thru a straw
  • Vacuum (if your child does not have auditory sensitivities)
  • Carry grocery bags into the house
  • Flop on the bed
  • Press hands (or any body part) against the wall with all their strength for 15 seconds
  • Walk like various animals (crab walk, bear walk, frog jump, etc.)
  • Use an old tennis ball and have them wrap rubber bands around it twice. (This also makes a good fidget for a child to play with.)

Activities at the playground:

  • Swing Set: Hold up a stick as a target for them to kick/push against as they swing forward.
  • Swing Set: Have them lay facing down on the swing seat and twirl themselves in one direction. Then have them let go and unwind.
  • Swing Set: Have them lay facing down on the swing seat and wind themselves up in one direction. When they let go have them spread their arms and legs into a star position. As they unwind, ask them to go from a star to crossing their arms and feet (like a figure skater does in the air) and then back to a star position.
  • Swing Set: Have them push you on the swing set
  • Teeter-Totter: Have them walk from one end to the other
  • Teeter-Totter: Have them straddle the middle and tip back and forth from side to side
  • Use a paper bag closed at both ends so it resembles a ball of air and let them kick it around.