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

Phrases like "terrible twos" aren't harmless, cute words. They profoundly impact what we expect and, therefore, what we see.

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

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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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This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.


From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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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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