I gave my toddler choices—instead of just telling him what to do

Giving a toddler choices may seem like a bad idea—a really bad idea. But, I needed to find an alternative to the “because I said so” I was so used to hearing growing up. That ultimatum was not working for us, and I could tell he was struggling with not being heard, which lead to inevitable meltdowns over the silliest things. Call me an optimist, but I feel that I’m outsmarting him a bit. I’m giving him a chance to make his own choices, but what he doesn’t realize is I have steered him in the direction I want him to go.

Not to say it doesn’t come with challenges as we establish who holds the power in this household (spoiler alert: It’s Mommy and Daddy). It also came with a newly coined phrase from my son, “Tell me what my options are?” Which sort of makes me cringe every time I hear it.

But I’ve tried to structure how we provide options to help him feel independent and in control of his choices, but also not create a three-year-old monster.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

I offer a max of two options

“What would you like for snack?” is a slippery slope. One, I open myself up to a crazy request that I may not be able to fulfill. Plus, I imagine the answer is always an ice pop or some sweet treat that I wouldn’t want him to have.

By instead giving him only two things to choose from it helps me keep my sanity and ensure he is still getting a snack that I deem acceptable. But he doesn’t realize that—he thinks that he is in control of his choice—which he is, but only to a certain extent.

I pick my battles (and set both of us up for success)

There are a few areas where I let his imagination soar in terms of options, and ironically most have to do with bedtime. When it comes to what PJs he wants to wear and what two books we read before bed, those are choices he can make himself. As we are winding down for the night I have found this actually leads to a calmer bedtime routine.

It is worthy to note, the bookshelf in his bedroom does not contain long books, they are all “bedtime length” and the PJ drawer is always stocked with seasonally appropriate options. AKA no fleecy footie PJs in August. Those are hidden in a separate drawer.

I let him negotiate (to a degree)

Most nights there are severe negotiations that occur in this household around screen time. You would think there was a multi-million dollar business acquisition at stake. I have found that by giving him the option to choose makes for a more peaceful experience.

For example, “if you want to watch another Paw Patrol, that means only one book before bed instead of two.” I allow him to make that choice for himself. If he really wants to watch that additional episode, something else will have to be sacrificed to make a timely bedtime, and avoid the overtired meltdown.

I love watching his face as the wheels turn in his head and he computes which option will allow him to stay up just a few minutes later.

I ask him what he needs

My son has had a hard time at school drop-off, so I was determined to find a solution. We read all the books, tried all the talking and all the bribing. Nothing worked.

Finally one day I asked him, “What do you need that Mommy isn’t giving you?” And he said, “so many kisses.” Cue simultaneous heart melting and heartbreak.

Of course I always gave him a kiss before I dropped him off, but he felt he needed more. So now, on the way to school every day he gets to choose the number of kisses he gets before he goes in the door. Today was “twenty-hundred” (working on counting is for another day).

Since we started the “you pick the amount of kisses” routine, he walks in happy and smiling every day...some days even giggling. What a change! Allowing him the ability to make his own choice has made for a much happier boy (and mama).

At the end of the day, what’s most important to me is to cultivate his confidence—and independence.

Let’s be honest—no one likes to be told what to do, especially a toddler. Allowing him to make choices on his own give him the confidence in his own decision-making ability. I may be projecting too far out, but I think that this confidence helps fuel his independence. He can be sure that he knows the right thing to do, or what will make him happy.

And a happy little man equals a happy mama, any day.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.


Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.


Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.


Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!


Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.


Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.


'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."


Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.


Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.


Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!


Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.


Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.


Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.


Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


My belly has been through some things.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yep, severe debilitating pregnancy-related vomiting), the pregnancies of each of my four kids, the 65 pounds of weight gain I have endured with each pregnancy, stretch marks, Occupational Therapy for pregnancy pelvic pain, unmedicated childbirth, and of course, postpartum recovery.

It's my personal opinion that this belly deserves some love. So starting with my second pregnancy, I've relied on Belly Bandit's postpartum belly bands (which I own in three sizes) to help support my core, reduce swelling, and begin to activate my midsection after nine months of being stretched to the max.

Here's why I love Belly Bandit:

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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