Somewhere around the time my son turned 9 months old, I started wondering how much longer I could consider him my baby. When would he become a toddler? Was it when he turned one? Was it when he started walking?

Both of those things surely play a role, but for me, toddlerhood started with my son’s first tantrum. It was abundantly clear that something had changed.

Everything had changed.

To be honest, it was pretty adorable at first, with him throwing his little body on the floor over something I had done, then immediately wanting snuggles. Still, a small part of me felt more than a little apprehensive, as so much of what we hear about the toddler phase is negative.

Thank goodness I have some experience with toddlers as a Montessori teacher.

Here are the best tricks I’ve learned to make toddlerhood as peaceful as possible.

1. Find the motivation

While it may seem like your toddler’s goal is to make you crazy, he really has his own agenda, and it is all about independence. When your toddler is “behaving badly,” try to pause before reacting and look for the motive behind what he’s doing.

Is he climbing on the table again? Maybe he needs help finding a more appropriate gross motor activity.

Is he running away when it’s time to get dressed in the morning? Maybe he needs to be a more active participant in the process by choosing his clothes or putting his own arms through the sleeves.

Everything these little people do has a motive behind it and if we can figure it out, we can help them effectively meet their needs instead of getting angry.

2. Give choices

Toddlerhood is when children realize they can say no, and they’re generally not shy about it. Giving choices allows toddlers to express their opinions and feel some sense of control over their own lives, to avoid the unpleasant power struggles often associated with this developmental stage.

The trick is to offer limited choices (two or three works best) and to offer only acceptable choices. Asking your toddler, “Do you want to get dressed now?” is not a good way to offer choice unless you are really okay with her saying no. Instead try, “It’s time to get dressed. Do you want to start with a shirt or pants?”

3. Be silly

Try adding a little silliness into your interactions with your toddler.

Who doesn’t love that guy at the dinner party who makes a joke to cut the awkward silence? Humor releases tension and this is just as true for toddlers as it is for adults.

There’s no need to become a clown, performing for your child, but there’s also no reason not to make mundane tasks a little more fun. Does your child resist getting in the car? Try hopping or skipping or racing to the car. Does she hate brushing her teeth? Put on her favorite song and challenge her to brush for the whole thing.

4. Set boundaries

Toddlers are still very much trying to figure out how the world works. While they will push back against them, boundaries help young children feel safe. Consistent boundaries make your child’s world predictable. They also show him that you are in charge. While they want to be independent, toddlers need someone else to be in charge to feel safe and free to explore.

Boundaries are also essential for helping us give our best selves to our children. Setting boundaries means that it’s okay for me to ask my son to wait while I get a drink of water before I read his book for the fifth time. It means that it’s okay for me to tell him that we only eat at the table, instead of following him around and picking up a trail of cheerios.

5. Be consistent

While no one likes hearing “no,” staying consistent with rules and routines helps young children understand what’s expected of them, and makes things so much easier in the long run.

I know it is so tempting sometimes to let your toddler do something “just this once” when you’re tired and want nothing more than to avoid a battle. The thing is, though, if expectations aren’t consistent, children will keep testing them, trying to figure out how rules work and when they are enforced. Toddlers will accept rules much more quickly if you enforce them every. single. time.

6. Exude confidence

It is a natural thing to second guess ourselves as parents. The stakes seem so high when it comes to our children, and there are so many opinions out there on the “right” way to parent.

Children look to us as leaders and it’s important to appear confident. Think about what you want in your own boss or leader. Sure, we like our leaders to be kind and open and to listen to our opinions. But we also like them to be sure of themselves. How can we confidently follow someone who isn’t sure themselves of the right course of action?

Children need the same thing, a confident leader to guide them. When you make a request of your child, try to make if confidently, not apologetically, and they will be much more likely to follow you.

7. Encourage contribution

While the toddler years can be tough, they are also a wonderful time when children really want to be a part of the community. Part of this is contributing to the family.

Many toddlers love to help around the house. Try to find ways to let them help, even if it takes a little longer. Including your toddler in household chores not only starts good habits, it also allows her to feel like she is contributing, which is great for self-confidence. Allowing a child to contribute strengthens her identity as a helper.

8. Don’t try to fix it—be present and comfortable with big emotions

It’s more important to show young children that their feelings are okay than to distract them or try to save them from a hard moment. Our children can tell if we’re present and they can tell if we’re comfortable. Sometimes the best thing to do when a child is overwhelmed by emotion is simply to be there with him, available, but not taking over the situation.

This reassures our children that we love them no matter what and that their feelings are normal and totally okay.

Change is hard and few times in life include as much change as the toddler years. I hope these tips make it just a little bit easier and more fun for you and your toddler. You’ve got this.

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