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6 ways tantrums can bring you closer to your toddler, mama

You can use them to bring you closer to your toddler. ❤️

the positive side to tantrums

We have seen plenty of tantrums in our house, but there are a few that have stuck with us. One of these is the "graham cracker tantrum of 2017." My son was just under 2 years old, and we had gone out to lunch with a friend. As many toddlers are, my son was big on routine. He was used to coming home from school, having lunch and then getting ready for a nap. Going out to lunch threw off everything.

My sister was with us and she drove home so that I could sit in the backseat and prevent my toddler from falling asleep on the 30 minute drive home that would ruin his nap. I don't remember how it came up, but we started talking about snacks he could have later in the afternoon. I suggested graham crackers and peanut butter.

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It was already past nap time when we got home, but my son walked into the house and sat down at his little table, ready for lunch just like every day. It didn't matter that he had just had a full lunch, this was his routine. He looked up at me and sweetly said, "Maybe graham cracker?"

Now if I had only known what would follow, I would likely have just given him a small snack or at least a drink at his little table to fulfill his need for routine. That is not what happened.

I reminded him he had already had lunch and it was time to get ready for a nap. He looked at me and he utterly lost it. He quickly went from sitting patiently, waiting for graham crackers to thrashing around on the floor, banging on things, yelling "Maybe graham cracker!"

This was not the kind of tantrum I could cut short. It was happening.

Should I scramble to find the graham crackers and start tossing them his way, hoping one would land in his mid-yell mouth?

Should I scold him and tell him his behavior was inappropriate?

Should I try to reason with him?

I don't think any of these responses would have ended well. But how do you handle tantrums in a positive way? How do you handle them in a way that doesn't reinforce the behavior by giving into their tyrannical demands, but that does bring you closer rather than pushing you apart?

Here are six steps to use tantrums to bring you closer to your toddler:

Step 1: Know that tantrums are normal.

The first step is understanding that tantrums are a completely normal, appropriate behavior for young children. This is key because this understanding will help you keep your calm.

Toddlers throw tantrums for all sorts of reasons. They are struggling to process big emotions with still-developing verbal skills. They are hungry or tired or off schedule. They are overstimulated.

Sometimes, and most frustratingly, there is no discernible reason for the tantrum. But it is still a normal part of toddler behavior and the more you can accept that, the calmer you'll be able to stay.

Step 2: Don't try to stop the tantrum.

Most tantrums can't be stopped once they're underway. Even if you can stop a tantrum though, you probably shouldn't.

For starters, you don't need to tell your child tantrums are unacceptable. If there is no reward for throwing a tantrum, that is if you don't give in to what they're yelling for, they will stop when they're developmentally ready.

Trying to stop a tantrum often makes it last longer. This is because any reasoning you try to do provides additional stimulation. If a child is already overwhelmed with emotion, this stimulation only feeds the fire.

Trying to stop a tantrum also sends the message that you're uncomfortable with your child's big emotions, that you can't or don't want to deal with them.

Step 3: Don't punish your child.

Punishing a child for having a tantrum isn't fair because the behavior is out of their control. They are not willfully laying on the floor kicking and screaming, they have simply lost it, lost control of their little bodies for the time being. Furthermore, they can't hear you and they can't think rationally in this state. If there is a behavior that needs to be addressed, such as a safety issue, wait until you are both calm to discuss it.

Step 4: Don't give in.

Wouldn't it be easier to just give him the graham cracker?

In the short term, yes, it absolutely would. In the long run, giving in to the demands of tantrums will not bring you closer together. It will in fact likely make you feel resentful over time, because no one likes to feel like they're being manipulated or controlled, even by a toddler.

It can also get your child stuck in a pattern of behavior, where they keep throwing tantrums when they normally would be done with the behavior because they know if they throw a tantrum, they will get their way.

Does this mean you have to dig your feet in and never give your toddler what they're begging for? No.

There will be times when you simply just didn't realize something was important to them when you said "no" offhandedly but don't really care. In these cases, say something like, "Whoa, I didn't realize this was so important to you. I changed my mind, I'm actually okay with it if you have a graham cracker."

This works best if your child is just starting to get upset, rather than already mid-tantrum. Also, only do this when you really don't mind giving them what they ask for, and when you can do it calmly.

Step 5: Provide quiet comfort.

Be a calming presence for your child when they are having a tantrum. What does this look like?

  1. It likely means sitting on the floor with them, if you can.
  2. It means using few, if any words, as they can't hear you.
  3. It means being available for hugs and comfort, but not grabbing them in a big bear hug and trying to skip to the end.
  4. It means simply being present and accepting.

It can feel odd, to just sit there and watch as your child yells and flails around, but this presence is what they need and it is powerful.

Being a calm presence sends the message that, despite their big feelings, they are safe. It lets them know that you can handle anything they throw your way and that you are okay with their emotions, even the negative ones.

Step 6: Be there when it's over.

You will be able to tell when the tantrum is winding down. Your child may make eye contact with you, their cries may become quieter, they may start sucking their thumb if they use that for comfort.

Now is the time to reconnect with your child, to show them that you still love them as much as ever when they act like this. You can reach out for their hand or open your arms to show you're available for a hug. This is the part that makes it all worth it.

These post-tantrum snuggles bring you closer together and strengthen your connection in a different way than the happy times.

Think about a friendship where you can be real and raw and show your emotions, versus one where it is always fun but you stick to talking about music and movies. It is a different level of relationship.

We want our children to come to us when they feel bullied at school, when they struggle with body image or when they are heartbroken by their first breakup.

It all starts now, with these little flailing bodies and hot tears, with nonsensical yells about graham crackers. These are the times when we build the trust, the solid relationships that will last throughout our parenting journeys.

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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