8 phrases that will change your thinking when your child acts out, mama

The refrigerator door stood wide open. My toddler had pulled out every bottle of water and tea and had thrown them onto the kitchen floor. (Lots can happen in the amount of time it takes for a mama to go to the bathroom.)

As soon as I walked into the kitchen and caught him in the act, I knew I had a choice. I could see the worst in him or the best in him. I could view him as naughty or I could understand his curiosity, and I also knew that whatever I chose to see would affect my reaction.

Over the years, my children have given me plenty of opportunities to make these kinds of choices. Every time I chose to see the best in them, no matter what their behavior was at that moment, it helped me to react and correct them more lovingly, gently and positively.

Seeing the best in my kids means I'm giving them my best and treating them with the respect and kindness that I know children deserve. This meant I had to change the language I used, both inside my head and out of my mouth, in those early years of parenting.

How we view (and communicate) bad behavior

Society gives us lots of negative views and attitudes toward children, and those negative perspectives can seep into our minds and change the way we perceive behavior which affects the way we treat our kids.

Phrases like "terrible twos" aren't harmless, cute words. They profoundly impact what we expect and, therefore, what we see. We are often given messages such as, "Ignore them, they're just wanting attention," and, "They'll try to see what they can get away with," or, "They'll test your boundaries, so show them who's boss."

These kinds of messages cultivate an "us versus them" attitude that doesn't serve us well in creating healthy relationships. Rather than seeing a child who is crying out for help, we end up seeing a child who is acting "terrible" or "fearsome."

When we see "terribleness," we think the answer is punishment. When we see a child who is struggling, the answer is clearly to help.The difference between a terrible child and a struggling child is simply a matter of perspective, but the difference in punishing and helping shapes who our children become.

The perspective we choose has a huge impact on how our kids feel about themselves. What they see reflected in our words and attitude toward them is what they come to believe about who they are.

How to adjust your reactions—and their behaviors

Understanding your child's brain development is key to changing your language and how you view their behavior. Children are commonly thought to be manipulative, even as infants. Parents perceive crying and tantrums as ways children manipulate their parents into getting what they want. We assume bad intentions. However, this simply isn't the case.

Young children are not cognitively capable of such schemes. The part of the brain that houses the kinds of complex thought processes needed to rationalize and devise this kind of plan is the very last to develop and is barely even "online" in the early years of childhood.

It is simply not possible for babies and toddlers to try to manipulate or control their parents. Furthermore, understanding a child's drive for play and exploration will help you be more patient and understanding when they're jumping on the couch or food hits the floor for the fifth time. It isn't really about pushing your buttons or disobeying you!

Seeing the best in our kids doesn't mean turning a blind eye to poor behavior or choices. It means that we see the good in them even when it's not on display. It means we believe the best in them even when they're not showing us their best. It means we don't judge the whole of who they are based on a momentary behavior.

This is what we all need—someone who sees the best in us and reminds of our goodness when we most need to be reminded. Seeing the best helps me to respond consciously, to correct gently, and to reach their hearts, but most importantly, it helps my kids to see and believe the best in themselves.

Changing your language from negative to positive can make a difference

Pay close attention to the language you use around your child's behavior. Is it mostly negative or positive?

Here are examples of how to change your language so you can see the best in your child:

1. Instead of: "He's hitting the terrible twos."

Try: "He's entering the boundary stage."

2. Instead of: "She's really pushing my buttons."

Try: "She's doing her best to get her needs met."

3. Instead of: "He's just trying to get attention."

Try: "He needs my presence right now."

4. Instead of: "She's being so dramatic!"

Try: "She has big feelings and needs my help."

5. Instead of: "He won't listen to a thing I say!"

Try: "He's having trouble hearing me right now. I need to change my approach and get his attention."

6. Instead of: "She's very whiny today."

Try: "She's trying to communicate her needs, and she's upset."

7. Instead of: "He's being very difficult today."

Try: "He's having a hard day. How can I help?"

8. Instead of: "She can't sit still for five minutes!"

Try: "She's full of energy and joy!"

"See the light in others and treat them as if that is all you see." – Dr. Wayne Dyer

You might also like:

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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


When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


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


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.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play