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Toddler tantrums are pleas for control: How to help your child feel heard—not rewarded

Tantrums are normal for toddlers—even legendary. Toddlers feel so passionately about everything, and they simply don't have enough frontal cortex capacity yet to control themselves when they're upset.


That said, you'll be glad to know that many tantrums are avoidable.

Since many tantrums are results of feeling powerless, toddlers who feel they have some control over their lives have many fewer tantrums. And since toddlers who are tired and hungry don't have the inner resources to handle frustration, managing your toddler's life so he isn't asked to cope when he's hungry or tired will reduce tantrums. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

Here's how to tame those toddler tantrums:

1. Since most tantrums happen when kids are hungry or tired, think ahead

Preemptive feeding and napping, firm bedtimes, enforced rests, cozy times, peaceful quiet time without media stimulation—whatever it takes—prevent most tantrums, and reground kids who are getting whiny. This may mean learning to just say no—to yourself! Don't squeeze in that last errand. Don't drag a hungry or tired kid to the store. Make do or do it tomorrow.

“I guess we can’t do a big shop today. We’ll just get the milk and bread and go home. And here’s a cheese stick to eat while we wait in line.”

2. Make sure your child has a full reservoir of your love and attention

Kids who feel needy are more likely to tantrum. If you've been separated all day, make sure you reconnect before you try to shop for dinner.

3. Try to handle tantrums so they don’t escalate

It's amazing how acknowledging your child's anger can stop a brewing tantrum in its tracks. Before you set a limit, acknowledge what he wants.

"You wish you could have more juice, you love that juice, right?"

(Look, he's already nodding yes!) Then set the limit:

"You need to eat some eggs, too. We'll have more juice later."

(As you move his cup out of sight.) If he responds with anger, acknowledge it:

"That makes you so mad. You really want the juice."

Keep the number of words you use pared down:

"You are so mad! No hitting."

4. Sidestep power struggles

You don't have to prove you're right. Your child is trying to assert that he is a real person, with some real power in the world. That's totally appropriate. Let him say no whenever you can do so without compromise to safety, health or other peoples' rights.

5. When your child gets angry, remember that all anger is a defense against more uncomfortable feelings

If you can get him to go back to those underlying feelings—such as vulnerability, fear, hurt or grief—his anger will dissipate.

"You wish we could stay at the playground... You're sad and mad that we have to go."

6. Create safety

Usually at this point your child will cry. If he'll let you hold him, do so. If he won't, stay close, even if he won't let you touch him. He needs to know you're there, and still love him. Be calm and reassuring. Don’t try to reason with him. Your goal is just to create safety, so he can let all those feelings come up. Once he gets a chance to show you his sad feelings, he'll feel, and act, a lot better.

Think about what you feel like when you’re swept with exhaustion, rage and hopelessness. If you do lose it, you want someone else there holding things together, reassuring you and helping you get yourself under control—but only after you've had a good cry.

After the tantrum:

First, take some “cozy time” together to reconnect and reassure. (No, you're not "rewarding" the tantrum. She needed this connection with you or she wouldn't have had the tantrum to begin with! And of course, make sure that your child gets enough “cozy time” with you that she doesn’t have to tantrum to get it.)

Second, tell the story of what happened, so that your child can understand and reflect, which builds the pre-frontal cortex: "You were having such a good time playing at the playground... You didn't want to go home. When I said it was time to go, you were sad and mad... You yelled NO and hit me... I said, ‘No hitting,’ and you cried and cried. I stayed right here and when you were ready we had a big, big hug. Now you feel better."

You’ve got this—and soon your little one will, too.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

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Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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