Growing up, my mom would tell me, “You don’t always have to

like your family…but you do have to

love them.” I hear this mantra echo in my mind throughout the day.

You see, I have a two-year-old.

It’s like he woke up on his second birthday and said, “Cool,

guess I’ll be terrible now.”

I love my darling boy more than words could express. And

truth be told, he’s probably one of the tamer little boys on the playground.

But sometimes…I would rather lock myself in the dishwasher and hit Pots and Pans than listen to another one of his tyrannical two-year-old tirades.

So what do I do when my little guy starts to

grate on my last nerve?

As a developmental psychologist and mama, I have a few go-to moves for diffusing my frustrations when life on the home front heats up.

Here are six techniques to try:

Find your mellow mama mantra.

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words could you say to yourself (in your head or out loud) to keep you grounded

when your emotions start to bubble up?


know you just need love.

You are only two years old.

I have to be the grown up

in this situation.

I am trying really hard right now.

Take your pick. Whatever it takes to put

things in perspective.

Repeating a short and simple mantra will also give you a

second to step back and calm down before continuing. And saying your mantra is

much better than saying whatever else might pop out at that challenging moment.

Breathe in and out.


week, my son took it upon himself to empty all of my limited edition body wash

down the shower drain. Thanks. I was

smelling just a little too nice these days, anyway, kid.

After getting

angry, what did I immediately do? Googled “My toddler makes me so mad,” of


I stumbled upon an amazing article with the following advice.

Take this momentary pause

as a chance to ask yourself two questions. Do

I really want to let my toddler get the best of me and my emotions? Who is the

adult here?

Take a walk in your tot’s tiny shoes.

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how much bigger and more intimidating everything used to seem to us when we were little?

When you lose your temper with your tot, you might look in the mirror and see a stressed, tired, and frenzied mom. But when your child sees you, they may very well see a fire-breathing dragon staring them down.

You are your child’s everything at this age. Their source of food, comfort, support, and

shelter. If you are outwardly angry with your child, even the best attempts at disciplining,

lecturing, or reasoning with them may be eclipsed by their fears of losing

these basic needs.

Make a hand-off.


a family member, friend, or your partner is around, pass off your cantankerous

tot for a few minutes.

Leave the room and take a short break. Use this time to

chill out (watch a funny video or scroll through Facebook if you need to). Once you are

in a calmer state, you can re-join the “fun.”

If you are flying solo, you can

still leave the room if your child is okay to be alone for a moment.

If you

think your child needs supervision, you can still take a physical step back.

Move to the other side of the room for some personal space. You will feel

better and won’t be tempted to reach out in anger.

If you feel the need to discipline

your child, you can (and probably should) wait until you have taken a break to

calm down before deciding what to dole out. The suspense will be punishment

enough for older toddlers, anyway.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

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you just have to fake it ’til you make it.

If you are feeling particularly annoyed or upset, force yourself to smile. It turns out, facial features can help reinforce our emotions, so even a fake smile can make us feel truly happier.

If it helps, think of your go-to happy song and sing it

loud for all to hear! Bonus: Singing

can also diffuse your tot’s Grouch-o Marx routine.

Be proactive.


you have noticed a negative pattern developing between you and your tot lately

(e.g., your child throws a tantrum and then you reciprocate), start the day off on the

right foot.

Make it a habit to monitor your tone throughout the day. If you notice yourself being loud, barking orders, or yelling, it’s time for a change.

It may

take a few days, but with a little practice, you will begin noticing your

demeanor without even trying.

The most important thing to remember the next time your tot tries to get your goat?

Even if you are the most even-keeled person, toddlers can take your emotions to places they have never been before.

If you freak out once in a while, it doesn’t make you the worst mom in the world.

It just means you need to take a step back and reassess how you can improve your ability to regulate your emotions. Wallow in your self-guilt for just a minute and then take the necessary steps to develop a more positive connection with your child.

You’ve got this, mama.