Having kids will be the best thing that ever happens to you. But it will also be the hardest. That’s why I’ve dedicated this article to addressing some of the most prominent parenting frustrations to give you the best advice based on my years of writing and researching parenting, as well as being a parent myself. At the end of reading this article, you will come out a different parent.

mother and child talking

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Moms everywhere desire to find effective ways to enjoy their kids once again and get back on track with healthy habits, especially in a pandemic world. But remember, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Family life will go through seasons of good and bad. That’s normal. But most often, it’s the little things that can make a huge difference.

Being a mom myself, I can wholeheartedly say that you’re not alone when it comes to desiring to learn about what good parenting requires. Your and your child’s mental health depends on it! So before you go seeking therapy and spend loads of money, here are a few small tips and hacks that can change your family environment forever. 

Please note that this guidance is meant to help you self-reflect on ways you can change as a parent, whether you’re new parents or veteran parents, not a “fix your kid fast” perspective that most popular parenting techniques offer. If you’ve read anything on the blog, you will know that I am all about the long game in parenting and understanding that first and foremost parents need t model the behavior they want to see in their kids. Have you ever impatiently snapped at your kid to be patient? Yeah. We all have. And as I’m not here to make you feel guilty, I want to give you the tools to see your family roles a little clearer, and from there, instill habits that will change your family from the inside out. It’s about self-reflecting on the areas YOU can change. 

Bedtime frustration turned to peaceful nighttime moments

mother and daughter reading in bed

The word “bedtime” in some households is considered a curse word. It’s as though you don’t want to say it because when you do, all hell breaks loose. I get it. Been there. And sometimes I still have a hard time. Yep, I’m not coming at this from an “I’ve got it all figured out, so listen to my every word” perspective. I can share with you only what has worked for me, but some nights, nothing works. And that’s where I hope you will feel encouraged. Parenting is hard. You can try anything and every parenting style out there, and sometimes it might work; other times, it doesn’t. But we keep trying, right? I mean, what other option do we have? 

So those are my first words of wisdom. When you can accept that parenting is hard, the more likely you will be able to go with the flow, and be a better parent with this ever-changing, sometimes frustrating, most beautiful thing in the world. You will be able to stop sweating the small stuff and enjoy your kid’s childhood right along with them. With that overarching perspective, let’s take a look at one of the biggest parental frustrations –bedtime. 

I’m one of those moms who loves bedtime. Since my kids were little, I’ve always seen it as a moment to bond with them and make memories. I think this has paved the way for bedtime to be a pretty special time for all of us. Sometimes my husband puts our kids to bed, sometimes I do. But I’m all about taking the time to read a story, sing songs, pray, and answer all the questions my curious little minds want answering. But sometimes, this is not enough, and when I say, “It’s time for bed,” things can get pretty heated. Depending on the age of your child, bedtime can often shift. My toddler’s bedtime routine looks vastly different than my 10 yo. Either way, I try to meet my child’s needs whatever their age and adjust where needed. 

I wrote an entire article on how to help your kids go to bed peacefully.

Here’s the gist of it.

  • Make sure they have done all the things they are likely to come out of bed for again – drink water, go to the bathroom, had a snack, etc.
  • Shut off screens AT LEAST an hour before bed
  • Come up with a routine that works for your family and stick to it
  • Keep bedtime at the same time every night
  • Give a 10-minute warning for bed
  • Make it fun so your kids will look forward to it 
  • Allow for pillow talk and special one on one time
  • Ask them to name 3 things they are grateful for

When your toddler is struggling to stay in bed

One thing that we’ve done to help keep our curious little toddler in bed and stop throwing tantrums every time we leave the room, is to say this after we’ve tucked him in.

“I’m going to come to check on you in a little bit. I’ll be here soon. In the meantime, think about what you’d like to do together tomorrow morning when you wake up (give them something to think about, i.e., what they want for breakfast, etc.).”

It doesn’t work every time, but as long as I make it a little different every time (my guy is smart), he will accept it and wait for me to come. Usually, when I come to check on him, he’s fast asleep! 

Be patient with your little one and remember that you’re the parent. It may be a learning curve, and they might not like it when you’re being firm, but don’t give in. Give them their normal bedtime routine, but don’t allow them to milk you for all you’ve got!

What to do when your toddler throws a tantrum

little girl crying

Every child will rebel at various points in their life. The extent to which they rebel is often determined by the parent’s reaction to it. Yes, YOUR reaction is vital. How can we help our children regulate their emotions when we aren’t able to be a healthy role models? So the first thing, remain PATIENT and calm and regulate your own emotions.

As every child is different, every tantrum is different. Some tantrums are thrown because kids don’t want to eat their vegetables, while others are a bit more complex, like, they don’t understand why they can’t lick the ground of a public bathroom or why they can’t throw your folded laundry all over the room. 

Yes, toddlers are wonderfully entertaining little gems. And while most of the time they are a complete joy to be around, they do have the tendency to overreact. Why? Because they haven’t learned how to self-regulate, and they need to learn, from you, their teacher. 

And by simply remaining calm, and using a calm voice, you can make a huge difference. 

When a toddler throws a fit, both parent and child feel overwhelmed, not really knowing what to do next. Depending on the situation, whether you’re in public, there are a few good things you can ask yourself to possibly avoid tantrums in the first place. 

  • Is your child feeling overwhelmed, hungry, or tired because of too much on the daily schedule? Simplify life a little.
  • Is your child overstimulated from too much screen time? Come down to 20 min a day and don’t allow active screen time (iPad learning games, video games, etc.) and stick to passive (watching a movie or TV show). 
  • Have you not been paying as much attention to your child’s needs as the content of your phone? Only look at your phone at certain times of the day if possible.
  • Are you giving too much attention to their negative behavior, causing them to seek your attention by any means necessary? Start looking for the good in your child and affirming that behavior. 
parenting coaching book session

Again, there are many determining factors as to WHY a child throws a tantrum, but it’s always good to self-reflect and make sure their behavioral reactions aren’t due to something that needs to be tweaked in your parenting

It’s also important not to give in when your child is throwing a fit. Just wait patiently until they are ready to talk. You can say something like, “I want to make this better, but I’ll have to wait until you’re ready to talk.”

After they have calmed down, you can now address their defiance or disobedience if need be. You can help them understand that reacting in that way won’t help them or their problem. This is why you should never give in to their demands, or they will think that a fit will get them what they want. 

They might throw another fit if you need to give them a consequence. But that’s okay. You can’t control a toddler to stop throwing a fit. It’s darn near impossible, and you might end up making them angrier. Instead, it’s best to wait patiently until they’re done, and then you can calmly explain things.

I assure you. If you stand your ground, they will begin to learn that tantrums will not get them what they want. Don’t resort to anger or yelling. Resort to patience, standing firm in your discipline, and adjusting the areas in your parenting that need to be adjusted.

How much screen time is too much for kids according to their age?

two little boys watching ipad

Another pivotal aspect of parenting is determining how much screen time is healthy for your child according to their age. 

Now that there has been a decent amount of research done on kids and screen time, many experts are warning parents of the dangers that screens can have on your child’s brain development and mental health. The danger doesn’t ONLY lie in kids experiencing age-inappropriate content through social media or web searching, but the simple act of staring at a screen. 

In fact, there are studies that suggest that active screen time (video games, iPad games, learning games) is more damaging to brain development than passive screen time (watching movies or tv shows). That being said, it’s better to put your child in front of a movie than to have them play a learning game on their iPad. 

Kids 2 and under shouldn’t have any screen time, while it should be limited to under 2 hours a day (ideally broken up) to kids over the age of 2. 

It’s also recommended that kids be outside as much as possible (3-6 hrs a day), to give them better odds of not developing a mental health disorder at some point in their life. 

So the verdict is in. Even though screens can sometimes help parents out and give them a break, it’s important to weigh the statistics. 

I used to let my 3 yo play his iPad and watch a show or two a day. We have recently done away with screens altogether, and I can’t tell you how much of a difference it’s made in his behavior. I know it may seem overwhelming to give them up completely, but give it a try for a week. See how they turn to their imagination instead of begging for a screen. See how they start playing with all the toys they haven’t touched in months and go outside to discover what’s there. It may take a little time for everyone to adjust, but it’s well worth it. 

That being said, older children that have a phone (middle school or high school), device, or computer, will need protection from a parental control software like Bark. We use Bark on all our devices. Check out the review I did of the most innovative and incredible company that has your child’s best interest at heart. Nowadays, it’s just as harmful to allow your child to be on social media or browsing the web alone without protection, as it is to allow them to ride in the car without a seatbelt. 

You can also check out the Pinwheel Phone review I did. If you’re thinking of getting your child a phoneTHIS phone should be your first choice. They also partner with Bark. 

Teaching your child consent from a young age

little girl hugging grandma

When someone, even a family member, wants to hug your child, it’s important for them to know they are allowed to say “no.” It’s not so much about who they are hugging, but rather them learning that their body is their own, and no one is allowed to tell them otherwise. 

Teaching your kids about consent early on can avoid putting them in a dangerous situation where they feel helpless, wanting to please people so they don’t “hurt” feelings. Hugs and kisses from grandma are great, but only if your child is willing. Be sure to explain this to your family members so they know not to push for affection when it’s not wanted. 

You can inform them by saying, “We want to teach our child about consent, so it’s important you ask first before giving physical affection. We want their choice of not to be touched to be respected by everyone, even us as their parents.”

Yes, even parents need to respect when their child isn’t feeling up for a hug. Kids need to have the freedom to say no and not feel bad about it. That being said, there are times when my kids want to be cheered up, so I will tickle them or show them affection without asking. But at the same time, I’m continually discerning the situation. I want to surprise them with my affection and show them how much I love them, but also balance that with respecting their space. 

How to help your child listen the first time

Listening. It’s one of the most sought-after parental advice out there, especially for new moms and young children. Everyone wants to know — how can I get my kid to listen to me? I feel like they don’t listen, no matter their age!

And while I would love to delve yet again into this topic of parenting, I will simply point you to the MANY articles I’ve already written on the subject. 

Every Parent NEEDS These 7 Tips for Getting Your Child to Listen

How to Get Your Kids to Listen the First Time

How can I support my child’s emotional and mental basic needs?

family talking

Arguably THE MOST important aspect of parenting is making sure you’re meeting your child’s needs — physically, spiritually, and mentally. It’s the most talked-about subject on my blog, and theres’ a reason for that. I truly believe that a child’s life WILL be influenced by something. And if they aren’t influenced positively at home, they will look for influences wherever they can find them. A great parent makes sure they are meeting the needs of their kids by adjusting a few simple things. Parenting is hard, but it’s not rocket science. If you want a good relationship with your child, it takes quality time, unconditional love, the right balance of discipline and grace, and a whole lot of patience. Sometimes, the effort your put into parenting doesn’t come to fruition until years later.

Here are a few ways you can meet your child’s needs so they feel loved, cherished, and admired. 

  • Spend time with them DAILY doing something they want to do.
  • Ask them these questions daily. 
  • Show them physical affection whenever possible — older kids – a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a pat on the back. 
  • Tell them these things often. 
  • Monitor their screen time with Bark.
  • Pay attention to them more than your phone.
  • Listen to understand and not respond.
  • Play this game with them often. 
  • Have them journal with these printable journals.
  • Look for ways to have fun together and lighten the mood. 
  • Take them on one-on-one dates.
  • Be intentional in your parenting
  • Affirm them in their positive behavior and don’t just correct their wrong behavior. 
  • Prepare them for the world they WILL grow up in, not the world you WANT them to grow up in. 
  • Be patient, have grace, and give them time to learn.
  • Recognize that you are their ultimate teacher and example fo everything to them.
  • Model the behavior you want to see in them. 
  • Get them involved in extracurricular activities

Please check out all the articles I’ve written on this subject. And for the latest in understanding your child’s mental health when it comes to technology, check out Bark. They have a blog that covers a wide range of issues in regards to this. 

Parenting is teaching. Own your role.

Across the board, my advice to you is to model the behavior you want to see in your child. The best way to teach is to model. As a teacher, it’s your job to take the time to teach your kids. Teach them how to treat others. Teach them how to tip their waiter. Teach them proper hygiene, how to pick up after their messes, and how to respect others. Teach them how to apologize by apologizing to them. Teach them what to do when you fail. 

By living intentionally yourself, you can teach your child a lot. When parents can understand this is a vital part of their role, they will recognize the importance of making wise choices, especially when their kids are watching. 

If you drink, drink responsibly in front of your kids. 

There is so much we can teach by simply living our life! You are the example of everything to your kids. Be a good example. 

What to do when your child is lying

“Knowing what to do when your child lies to you is challenging. On the one hand, you don’t want to shame them, and on the other, you want to teach them valuable lessons with healthy discipline when it comes to guiding them to be honest. As always, parenting is a continual balancing act between loving discipline and extending grace.

As adults, we too know how hard it is to be honest. Whether it’s because we don’t want to hurt or disappoint someone, or reveal who we truly are, there will always be a temptation to lie, whatever your age. But the earlier one can learn to not give in to that temptation to lie, the better. And what better place to learn this than in a healthy home environment.”

Read the rest of this article here. 

What to do when you feel like you want to escape your kids

My cat used to come to me while I was using the bathroom because he knew he would get my undivided attention. That doesn’t happen anymore now that I have a toddler. 

Every mom has experienced this feeling of wanting to escape their kids. A feeling we most often feel riddled by with guilt. It’s that feeling of wanting to go hide in a closet with a glass of wine or coffee or both and cry our eyes out. And, it’s normal. 

So what should you do? I know, for me, I feel this way the most when I’m going through PMS. I can usually better handle life in general when I’m not PMSing. 

Here are a few things that have helped me get through the tough times of parenting. I hope it does the same for you. 

  • I ease up on the screen time boundaries – sometimes, I just need to be alone, and if that’s the only way to get a moment’s peace, I’d rather my kids get a little more screen time than being angry, yelling mom. I would usually say send your kids outside, but I know for those of you with toddlers, they can’t be alone outside, so…
  • I come up with a game or activity that is fun for everyone
  • I get out of the house and change up our environment. Sometimes a change of scenery is all everyone needed. 
  • I remind myself that my kids just want me. They aren’t harassing me or not allowing me to go to the bathroom alone on purpose. They just love me so much that they desire my presence. It helps to remember that. 
  • Bake cookies together. Seriously. It works every time. Either that or have breakfast for dinner and get your kids involved in the preparation. 
  • Watch a movie together and eat popcorn. 
  • Have a dance party or do something really fun.
  • Take a deep breath and get back in the game.

woman smiling

The Pinwheel Phone should be the first phone every child should get – it’s safe, it’s affordable, and it grows with your child.”

— Hillary Gruener

What to do when your kid’s rebel

“Parents often struggle to know what to do when their child rebels. It can be frustrating when you’re questioned repeatedly when you simply want the best for your child and for them to trust you indefinitely. After all, you’ve gotten them this far in life; why can’t they trust you with the rest of it. But parents also desire for their kids to become independent, free thinkers and not just follow the crowd because something is popular or cool.

And this is where I’ll say something you might not want to hear. Your child is their own person, and allowing them to be that means they will have to question you at some point or another. Read more about backtalk here.

That’s rebellion in a nutshell — a child becoming their own person and questioning their parents. Every child is different with wills of their own. As it’s good and normal for kids to rebel, parents must know what to do to not push their kids even further away. Because here’s the hope – it’s possible for your child to express themselves, have their own ideas and opinions while also being respectful to their parents. It’s up to you to set the boundaries but also cover it all in so much GRACE.” Read the rest of this article here.

Good behavior should be the least of your worries

To sum everything up, I would like to note some important things about your child’s behavior

Author

Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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