My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

Nothing I could do to stay calm, nothing I could do to get this tiny human to eat his food. Tantrums all around.

And all I could think was here we are again. I had crossed the tiny invisible line between calm, positive parent into frustrated and angry mom-mode. I was triggered.

If I had taken just a minute to pause and calm myself down, we might have had a different outcome. If I could have just put my agenda aside for a second and validated the feeling that he was experiencing—to respond to his needs instead of reacting to his behavior—we might have made it to preschool on time.

Ask any mother what virtue she wishes she could multiply, and chances are she will say "patience." Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. The single most challenging thing about positive parenting is being able to keep our reactions under control despite being exhausted, annoyed and triggered.

But the reality is this: The same self-regulation that my 3-year-old needs to learn in order to stop himself from having a tantrum is the same self-regulation that I need to learn to avoid yelling at him.

So what is the secret to growing in patience and the ability to regulate yourself as an adult?

A whole lot of self-reflection.

Identify what kind of behaviors provoke the most anger from you, and think about why that might be. Then find whatever it is that helps you calm down in the midst of a heated moment. This will be different for everyone; it could be taking some deep breaths, stepping away from your child, or taking a break.

Another way to stay centered is to have some go-to parenting mantras to remind you of the big picture goals you have for your children.

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Beautiful mantra bands for challenging moments

Here are 10 phrases to help you stay calm when you're on the verge, mama:

1. "Our relationship is my #1 priority."

It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the many day-to-day demands of motherhood and lose sight of our main goal: connecting with our children. Children who behave poorly are often children who are feeling disconnected from their parents. If we aim for understanding and focus on the relationship with our child, their behavior will follow suit.

2. "This is not an emergency."

Another phrase for "slow down, mama." Unless someone is in physical danger, it's genuinely not an emergency. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all. But at the end of the day, the way you interacted with your child is so much more important than whether or not you made it to preschool on time.

3. "I can't win her heart by force."

I can force my child to do a lot of things because I'm bigger and stronger, but I can't win her heart by force. I want my child to remember my gentleness. My child needs to know that I am on her side; that we make the team. And if my goal is to win my child's heart, I must make empathy and compassion my first priority.

4. "I'm bringing the calm here."

Self-regulation is still very new for your little one, so in the midst of their struggle, you are the only one able to bring peace to the storm. This is the most crucial reason why we need to be able to stay centered with our children because they can't do it without us.

5. "All feelings are okay."

You are open to all the feelings your child can feel. Learning how to self-regulate and become emotionally intelligent is a process that involves your child practicing different ways to cope when he is feeling overwhelmed. By staying calm, you can help your child channel those emotions into appropriate ways of acting.

6. "I can only control myself."

Your child is their person. They have their own fears, insecurities, doubts, and pain. Just because it seems like your child's tantrum is happening over something as seemingly simple as peanut butter toast, it is really about much bigger feelings that they can't articulate.

7. "He's just a child."

Children are loud, impulsive, and a little wild sometimes. If I had a nickel for every time that I was triggered by my child just being a child! I love this simple reminder that I can't expect my son to act like an adult.

8. "It's not supposed to be easy."

With social media continually depicting other people's "picture perfect" lives with their children, I'm here to reassure you that motherhood is not supposed to be easy. The early years of parenting are probably the hardest thing you'll ever do. Stay the course; it's okay that it's hard.

9. "We are moving on."

It's easy to harbor feelings of resentment and frustration over your child's behavior long after the tantrum is done. A really important part of restoring peace in your home after a meltdown is reminding yourself that the only way your child can behave better is if they feel better. Be able to forgive, move on, and start fresh.

10. "It won't always be this way."

When you are in a dark season, it can feel like the struggle will always be there. But if one thing is for sure it is this... the tantrum will end, the house won't always be this loud or this messy, and you will eventually sleep again.

How reassuring and heartbreaking it is to know… it won't always be this way.

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In This Article

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

Gracious Gobbler

I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

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Dear 2020 baby: Thank you

This year has been a mess. But you've been the light in the darkness.

Sweet 2020 baby,

I just want to say thank you.

Because in many ways, this year has been a mess.

A bit of a disaster, really.

But you.

You've been the light in the darkness.

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