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5 ways to help your toddler manage change—minus the tantrum

Verbals skills + mastering their universe = turmoil, tears and opportunity.

5 ways to help your toddler manage change—minus the  tantrum

Having a toddler means new ways to communicate, now that she has developed quite the vocabulary.


Mama, all that talking can make you tired, but also excited and relieved that you have a little person to communicate with.

And at the top of your toddler’s growing vocabulary list is the word “no,” at times even accompanied by a yell, a stomp, or a wicked shake of the head.

So what makes your joyful toddler the apple of your eye one minute, and your stark adversary the next? Your toddler’s joy and the delight are still there, just temporarily set aside for a more important job—mastering her universe. Up till now, your little one navigated through life almost exclusively at your guidance. You taught her what things were, where things were, and how to communicate in order to get what she needs.

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The difference now is that she has recognized that she has some control over her world and how she makes her way through it.

What does mastering her universe really mean for your tot? It means taking action to effect some change or result, which affords a sense of control. It means integrating prior knowledge with new explorations and beginning to link isolated behaviors together in meaningful sequences. So, a doll is no longer just for labeling "baby" and carrying around as some sort of transitional object. That doll may very well be held, rocked, fed, and put to bed by your toddler, who is learning to act out real-life and complex sequences.

Having said that, at this age, she is not entirely able to distinguish reality from fantasy, and her worldview is pretty much limited to what she experiences in the here-and-now. This egocentric stage where your toddler is on her own agenda and with only enough energy reserves to tackle these pursuits, combined with limited resources for reasoning, is what brings about your little "Mary Mary, quite contrary."

So, while it seems perfectly reasonable to suggest to your toddler, who is engrossed in smothering his toy car with playdoh to see if it will still roll down his homemade ramp, that it is time to wash his hands for dinner, he likely experiences that as a fatal disruption to his life's work with no possibility of return. Drastic, right?

It is the true nature of toddlerhood to experience much turmoil with the mere suggestion of a transition.

Luckily, there are some strategies you can try that allow you to see life through your toddler’s eyes and facilitate transitions, while minimizing battle wounds for both of you:

1. Understand

First and foremost, take a step back to make sense of your toddler’s experiences, considering both what brings her joy and under what circumstances you are seeing the most resistance. Specifically, seek to understand:

  • What your child is going through developmentally. It may seem as though toddlers are a bottomless pit of energy, but managing transitions, changes, and demands, while also exercising autonomy actually requires significant effort and can be exhausting for the little one who is hard at work mastering his universe.
  • What the function of the resistance behavior is. Is it to gain or prolong access to a preferred activity, or is your request unfamiliar and possibly anxiety-provoking
  • What the child is feeling in the moment and why. Even if the reaction seems excessive for the situation, the underlying emotional experience is valid.
  • How your child’s resistance affects you. Know that you are not alone. Lean on your other mama friends to exchange the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can be both insightful and replenishing.

2. Model

Never underestimate just how important you are in teaching your child how to cope with challenges, by how you do it yourself. Try modeling:

  • Narrate your own struggles with things not moving along in the way you hoped or planned. For example, “I feel so frustrated that we ran out of pasta sauce. I’m going to need to come up with a new plan for dinner. I think I can do that!”
  • Resist the urge to meet your child’s resistance with resistance. If we want to shape our children into being flexible problem solvers, we can model this when faced with the problem of a little defiant one. Take a deep breath and use validation and problem solving (see tips below) to proceed with both reason and compassion.
  • Use alternatives phrases. “I don’t think so,” “Maybe not,” or even simply “No, thank you,” can help minimize the sting of an outright “No.”

3. Anticipate

Chances are, you’ve have started to see clearly what makes your toddler tick, so anticipating some challenges with getting your toddler to shift gears can help you navigate those trying moments with greater ease. Pay particular attention to what tends to set off your tot the most, and take some preventative action by using one or more of these tips:

  • Offer choices so that she retains her sense of control. “Do you want to use a spoon or a fork to eat your peas?” and, “Should we wear the tiger jammies or the princess ones?”or, “Is mommy or daddy going to be toothbrush helper tonight?” all provide options for her to consider and choose.
  • Deliver your expectations in a fun, creative, or easy manner. For example, “I’ll race you to the bathroom!” or, “I wonder if you got any new teeth, we better count each one we brush to be sure!”
  • Offer something preferred to accompany her less preferred transition. Statements, like, “Monkey wants to hear the bedtime story tonight—quick, take him to find the best spot on the bed for him!” serve to provide her with perceived control over the process.

4. Validate

When your toddler starts to crumble, recognize the tragedy that he is experiencing in a genuine, interested, and compassionate way. There is always some rational sense underlying the extreme reaction. A little empathy can often be just what is needed to move your toddler from “No” to go. Use these important tips for validating:

  • Empathize with how your child feels. Phrases like, “You’re mad because you have to stop playing to get ready for bed,” and, “It’s sad to break a favorite toy,” or, “It’s hard to be away from blankie, and blankie will be so happy to feel clean again!” are infinitely better than ignoring their emotions.
  • Never validate the invalid. You don’t want to find yourself saying, “You’re right, mommy is bad,” but you can say, “I understand, you’re upset with mommy because I can’t stay and play trains with you.”

Remember that reasoning with them is not the same as validating them. Toddlers are notoriously deficient in their reasoning abilities, but moreover, a pull towards logic and rationality when someone is stuck in an emotion mindset can further polarize the experience. Joining your child by understanding his experience allows you to walk gently with him towards a balanced view that incorporates both logic and emotions.

5. Problem Solve

Lastly, carefully crafting a concoction of a few of these skills can often be just the right dose of flexibility to get your toddler moving and not resisting. Problem solving can happen when we:

  • Validate the feeling and the experience, model communication about it, present choices, and add in a creative twist to make it enticing. For example, “You really like that puzzle and we are just looking today. I can see you feel pretty sad about that. What can we do to feel better? Should we take a picture of you with the puzzle or have a puzzle play-day at home?”
  • Anticipate a tough transition, model getting through it with calm communication and empathy. Restating what you see and what your child may feel, like, “I know you love the toy store. Sometimes we go there and buy things for home, and sometimes we get to buy special surprises for other kids. Today, we are picking out a toy for your cousin. Do you want to help choose the wrapping paper or the bow? Your cousin will feel so special and so happy if you are the helper!” have a better chance of being heard and absorbed than simply reacting to your child in the midst of a situation.

Your toddler is undergoing quite the transformation and the likely truth is that you are both experiencing the growing pains from this phase. As your little one immerses himself in his new world in which he is becoming master, take pride in his achievements and in your own, because, Mama, you have created this secure universe for him.

These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.


Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin


Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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