Toddlers and Self-Control: A Survival Guide for Parents

boystakingturnsPulling the dog’s tail after you’ve told your child not to touch it. Hitting a friend who took the train she didn’t want two minutes ago. Running across the street after you’ve asked him to go together. These are typical moments that all come down to one thing: self-control, and toddlers’ lack of it.Expecting more from children than they are capable of can lead to lots of frustration and stress for both parents and children.

“Last night, my son had the biggest tantrum…I ended up giving in. But, I’m like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Up against my son, I feel like I’m out of control. I don’t know if it’s the age or the stage, or I should have better parenting skills, but all the time I just feel so powerless.” (Rebecca from Washington, DC)

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Findings from a major research endeavor, Tuning In — conducted by ZERO TO THREE and The Bezos Family Foundation — revealed that thousands of parents of children five years and younger overestimate toddlers’ ability for self-control.

  • Over half of all parents (56 percent) believe children have the impulse control to resist the desire to do something forbidden before age three.
  • Over a third (36 percent) believe that children under age two have this kind of self-control. Brain research shows that these skills start developing between 3.5 and 4 years, and take many more years to be used consistently.
  • Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all parents believe that children are able to control their emotions, such as not having a tantrum when frustrated, at one year or younger.
  • Almost half (42 percent) believe children have this ability by two years. Research shows this type of self-control is also just starting to develop between 3.5 and 4 years, and that it takes many more years for children to master the ability to manage their feelings. (And some of us adults are still working on this skill!)

So why do young children have so little self-control? The part of the brain responsible for exerting control over the emotional, impulsive part is not well developed in children under three. This is why toddlers are much more likely to act on their desires, such as yanking a toy out of a friend’s hand, rather than ask nicely for a turn.

Remember too that being able to recite a rule — Hands are not for hitting — is not the same as being able to follow it. Clever, verbal two-year-olds make it easy for parents to have an “expectation gap” since they seem to understand so much. But life with your toddler will be more joyful and less maddening when your expectations are in line with his abilities — when you see that your child is acting his age, and that he needs help to learn to manage his impulses. He is not purposefully trying to drive you crazy, as much as it may feel that way.

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Why Does My Baby Wake Up When I Put Her Down?

By Kelly Winder 

Why Does My Baby Wake Up When I Put Her Down?

It’s many a parent’s frustration: your baby has finally fallen asleep in your arms, and you want to put her down so you can have a break, go to the toilet or even feed yourself! You quietly tiptoe towards your baby’s bed, doing your very best not to disturb her. At a painfully slow speed and with super smooth motion, you lower her into bed. But no, the minute she hits the mattress, she looks at you with those, ‘I can’t believe you tried put me down!’ puppy dog eyes. She’s wide awake. It’s all over. She wants to be back in your arms. No matter how many times you try, or how deep a sleep you think she is in, it happens again. And again. Why? Why Does My Baby Wake Up When I Put Her Down? There are two main reasons: Firstly, it’s important to understand that a baby’s sleep cycle is different from that of an adult. It takes up to 20 minutes for babies to reach a deep sleep. This means your baby will wake easily, if disturbed before this time. Part of the problem could be you’ve tried to put your baby down too soon. However, some parents find that even waiting longer doesn’t seem to help – which brings us to the second reason. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it — it’s not something you can control or change. –

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The most important thing you’re teaching your child

by Aha Parenting

“Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity – a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother.”  — Rose Kennedy

Most parents take their job as teachers very seriously. We teach our kids colors. ABCs.  Taking turns. Right from wrong.

But sometimes we don’t even notice a much more important lesson we’re imparting to our children: how to manage their feelings, and therefore their behavior. This is the basis of emotional intelligence (EQ), which will determine their quality of life much more fundamentally than their IQ.

Kids learn how to manage “big feelings” when we:

  1. Stay calm and kind in the face of their upset.
  2. Accept their feelings even while we limit their actions.
  3. Respond to their anger with compassion, so they can show us the tears and fears behind their anger.

Research shows that their brains learn to self soothe through this process. Eventually, they learn to stabilize themselves even in the face of stressful situations and emotions.

That’s the unconditional love that we all know every child needs.

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Why ‘connected parenting’ is the secret to happy families

by GoZen!

connectedYour 4-year-old demands a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. You sense a forthcoming meltdown and quickly evaluate your parenting-style options:

1. Permissive: Say “yes” (then prepare to serve cookies for lunch and cake for dinner).

2. Authoritative: Say “no” directly and firmly (then prepare to stand your ground as there will likely be a protest).

3. Exhausted: Scream “never” (because it’s only 7:15 a.m. and you’re already exhausted).

4. Denial: Pretend none of it is happening and hide in the bathroom for a while. (It is the morning after all; you could conceivably be getting ready.)

5. Connected: Empathize (e.g., “I hear you—yum!”); be playful (e.g., “Why not make it a sundae?”); and then guide your child toward another option (e.g., “How about we save that for the weekend and we eat it together?”)

Although many of us probably use a mix of the styles above, most may lean in one direction or another. I try to practice as well as advocate for connected parenting, aligned with a conscious, positive and peaceful approach. Yet this approach is not for the faint of heart.

Connected parenting is really just what it sounds like—in every situation, you try to empathically connect with your children and see their perspective before guiding them.

While I firmly believe connected parenting reaps meaningful relationships for both parents and children, I also feel that a vital piece of the discourse is missing. We fail to be open about the amount of energy this parenting style requires.

In fact, of all the parenting examples above, connected parenting requires the most effort in many respects.

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The Train Analogy That Will Completely Change How You See Your Crying Child


My 4-year-old was climbing into bed, his face turned away from me and toward the wall, when he asked the question.

“Where’s Glenn?”

His tone made the question sound like an afterthought, but I know better. Glenn is the opposite of an afterthought; he’s the tiger lovey blanket my son has been carting around with him since he was old enough to maintain a tight grasp. 

My husband offered to head back downstairs to search, and I absently commented that I actually hadn’t seen Glenn around that evening, which was unusual.

At that, my son slowly turned around to face me but without making eye contact, his mind racing. His eyes were fixed on some background point as his mouth twisted and turned with each darting thought. They met mine only as he realized it, his shoulders straightening and his back growing taller as the panic scaled him. 

Finally, the shout: “I left Glenn in the back of Gigi’s car!!!”

Gigi, of course, was one state away by this point, which means we were facing my son’s first night since he was an infant—the first night ever in his little memory—without Glenn curled up in the crook of his arm.

Oh, sure, we’d lost Glenn before, but he’d always been found before bedtime, even if sometimes it required what felt like hours of searching. And then there was the time my son held him out the car window and accidentally let go, so Glenn spent a bit of time playing chicken on the yellow lines of a busy street. 

But still, there had never been a bedtime without Glenn.

The initial shock was, of course, followed by electric currents of anger that coursed through my son’s little body. He punched the air and gritted his teeth and screamed, “I WILL NOT SLEEP WITHOUT GLENN! I WILL NOT GO TO BED UNTIL HE’S HERE! I WILL NOT GO TO BED EVER AGAIN!” More punching, more gritting, a few angry flops onto the floor. 

At this point my husband had returned from his futile search, and was looking at me for direction. How are we handling this one, mama? 

I don’t know if the look I shot back reflected confidence, wisdom, and clarity, but believe it or not, that’s what I felt.

Because right when I needed it most, I remembered the train analogy.

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