5 Tips To Keep Sane While Parenting A Toddler

Ways to deal with the toddler rollercoaster ride

By Rachelle Nelson, Publisher Macaroni KID Smyrna Vinings April 18, 2024

Having a toddler is not for the weak, you may have heard. I am here to confirm it! I think we talk a lot about losing sleep when you first have your baby. The thing is, the first 3 months of your baby's life, and your new life, are all about you supporting your child eating, sleeping, and pooping. For 3 long months, your days are surrounded by these activities. But then, just when you wished your child would hurry up and walk, talk, and go to the bathroom. They do, and it's nothing like you expected! 

My daughter just turned 3 and she is truly a beautiful monster! She is so cute, precious, and lovable. I am impressed by all the new things she learns daily. Then, in the blink of an eye, she is yelling at me, throwing things, and on the floor swinging her body around, refusing to do anything that I ask her to do, even if it's for her own good. Just when I have had enough and I am at my wit's end, and extremely annoyed, she starts blowing kisses at me and using her manners, as if she just didn’t assault me with fake foods from her play kitchen!  

Whether it's your first time parenting during the toddler phase or you are a seasoned parent who has been here before, each child is unique. This is my third toddler journey and I am still taken aback by many things that my 3-year-old does today. Here are some really honest tips I suggest for those of you parenting on the toddler rollercoaster. 

  1. Do not negotiate with domestic terrorists.

While, as adults,  we can rationalize and make sense of situations, toddlers can not. That part of their brain has not been developed yet. So toddlers stay in reaction mode. They aren’t even sure what they are reacting to at this age because they can not even claim what emotions they are feeling yet. So, there is no use trying to reason with them. You will just grow more frustrated and angry yourself. Instead, remind them, and teach them, how to act. I often tell my daughter, “The way you are treating Mommie is not nice and it’s making me sad.” I remind her to use her words and ask her to use her words to tell me what she wants. I repeat these same phrases calmly every time she tantrums so she begins to learn better habits. Does this always work? No, it does not. But we get better every day and the tantrums grow shorter. I grow weary sometimes so I often have to remind myself that my toddler does not mean to do any of this. I am still working on letting this resonate with me. 

  1. Don’t feed the monster. 

I calmly walk away from the scene of the crime when she is in a tantrum and it is getting out of hand. I do not go too far but far enough for her to know that her behavior does not sustain my attention. I do this because I do not want her to think this is how she gets attention or gets what she wants. Feeding into the tantrum reinforces the wrong ways for toddlers to acquire what they want. They may be 2 or 3 years old now, but they will be 5 and 6 years old shortly. They must learn proper ways to control their emotions and understand how to get their needs met respectably. Instead, I trade her undesirable behavior with an activity, toy, or snack. I tell her, “When you are done, this is here for you.” and this tends to draw the moment to a close. She sits close to me, eating her snack, like a normal human being. I ask her if she wants to say sorry, and she’ll nod her head yes, but won’t say it. I know she understands the concept because when I am doing her hair and I pull her hair too tight, she tells me “Say sorry”. The nerve of her! 

  1. Toddlers are messy, so manage expectations. 

The chaos of primary-colored toys in my living room bothers me to the core. Yet, there aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of my family, and myself, and have a perfectly clean house. For the first 2 years of my daughter’s life, I spent so much time trying to put her toy sets back together and clean up after her free play moments. I was so stressed out trying to get everything done that I was ruining great moments trying to get everything back at 1 again. So I let go! I realized if I minimized the number of toys allowed in the space, it would be less of a mess for me to clean up, and I could begin to teach her how to clean up after herself as well. And so these lessons began while singing the well-known “Clean Up” song. This winter, I converted half our garage to a play place with a couch, and coffee table, and put most of her toys in there for her to play with. I switch the toys out maybe 1-2 times a month so my toddler does not get bored. 

  1. Activities that aren’t groundbreaking but engaging.

My daughter goes to daycare during the week, so I noticed she was getting bored on the weekends with her parents. (we aren’t boring I promise). I didn’t know what to do with her besides give her the same old toys or keep buying new ones she played with for 5 minutes. What a waste of money! She was bored. Instead,  I started adding activity stations on Saturday and Sunday so that she has activities each day to keep her engaged. I noticed that since I started prepping these stations, she has less tantrums. I use the word “prep” lightly. These aren’t groundbreaking activities but they have changed the game for our weekends. Things such as a $2 Watercolor painting set with regular copy paper, play dough and stamps, Dollar Tree wooden blocks, different cups, water on a sheet from my cabinets, stickers with blank paper, chalk and the back porch, raw rice and pasta with measure cups, marbles, and even small shot glasses (yes these where from my bar and she loves them), etc. My toddler thinks it's amazing!  And to be honest, it is because I can sit down and drink a cup of coffee with a smiling toddler instead of the monster I was getting before. 

  1. Pack your patience and a to-go bag.

I’ve noticed that my toddler is on her best behavior when she is out in the world exploring. Places like out shopping, at events, or out to dinner. 9 out of 10 times she’s pretty well-behaved, for a toddler. A toddler always needs your attention so you still need to manage your expectations of what “well-behaved” means. There will always be at least 1-2 moments when your toddler finds something they are interested in, and you are not interested in it for them. This could potentially lead to a power struggle. I try and remind myself of tips #1 and #2 and just lean into my patience. I know my toddler is exploring when we are out and about and I can not deprive her of this. To minimize these moments, I pack my patience and a bag of cheap, new, and interesting things for her to play with. This allows her to explore right where we are set up, especially if we are out to eat. If I am lucky, I can eat my entire meal! 

I hope you find these tips useful for you and your family. I would love to hear any tips you have for our toddler parent community. Share your tips with me at