Managing Toddler Behavior During the Holidays

toddler behaviorBy Claire Westbrook, My Devising

As we approach the fun Christmas season, many of us find ourselves wrapped up in the chaos of our holiday schedule. Or maybe you’re staying home. If that’s the case, you may be avoiding all of this chaos. But if you’re traveling, whether an hour or a day-long car ride or a flight, things can be crazy.

This will only be my 3rd Christmas as a mom. I have a 2-year-old and it’s amazing how quickly the relaxing holidays can become full of stress. (I talked specifically about surviving the holidays with a newborn here if that’s closer to the phase you’re in.) When it comes to toddlers, it’s all about behavior. Duke’s behavior can either make or break how much I enjoy a certain situation. In my limited experience, I’ve found a few things to be true about managing toddler behavior when it’s not a typical day-to-day scenario.

SLEEP

When it comes to behavior, in my experience, I link it mainly to sleep. Sure, there are the occasional days of teething or sickness that can send a toddler into crazy land making us moms think, “Where did my sweet angel go?” But on a normal day, sleep is the bottom line. So when it comes to the holidays, I think this is the first place to go.

Honestly, you just can’t budge on it. If Duke, my son, doesn’t get his normal 12 hours of night sleep and at least 2 hours of nap time, he is a different person. He is whiny, defiant, and needy. So if it means I have to lug all of Duke’s essential nap gear to someone’s house so he can get a decent nap, then I will. If I have to leave places early to get him to bed at a decent hour, then I will. It’s worth the extra effort. When Duke is happy and well-rested, I am happy and well-rested.

DISCIPLINE/RULES

I think it’s best to keep rules the same, whether in my house or in someone else’s. If Duke can’t sit on our coffee table, he can’t sit on his Mimi’s either. I find that the more I let go of Duke’s structure, the crazier his behavior gets and more he tests me. Keeping it consistent and normal is best.

EATING

This is one area worth budging on. During the holidays, many times our eating schedules get a bit wonky. If your toddler is like mine, we have 3 meals a day at very normal times. But once the holidays hit, we’re faced with more brunch-ish hours for breakfast, late lunches, or early dinners. So when the kid is hungry, I pretty much let him eat.  Since everything is off, I can’t really expect his appetite to be the same as it is every other day. If you’re snacking throughout the day, then your toddler will probably want to as well.

What works for you? How do you maintain structure and manage your toddler’s behavior during the holiday chaos?

Claire is a stay-at-home mom to her 2-year-old son, Duke. She enjoys teaching piano lessons, songwriting, and blogging at My Devising.

Hit the Reset Button

Source: gsdrew91.wordpress.com

Do you ever feel like you’re looking for life’s reset button? It’s so easy when our computers act up. We can just hit that reset button and start anew. If only we had a reset button with our kids. I’ve blogged before about the ebb and flow of parenting. There are days when we’re super committed to doing all that we know is right. Then after doing that for a while, our kids are super obedient and do all that we ask. Then, after a while of that, we take that for granted and become complacent in our parenting. Once we realize that’s what’s happening, we start fresh with our drive to improve our parenting.

Well, I speak from experience when I say that it can take a little longer than we’d like to realize that things have gone awry in our parenting. When this happens, and when we let it go too long, our kids’ behaviors can get really out of control. Of course, it’s not ideal to let this happen, but hey, we’re human.

When we realize that our kids’ behaviors have been out of control for a little too long, we need to hit that reset button. I’m sorry to say it’s not as easy as pressing a button, but I’ll offer a few steps here to get you back on track.

Sit down with your spouse

There are a few things we can do to hit that proverbial reset button. It all begins with a little planning. Sit down with your spouse and hash it out. Talk big picture about what you would like your kids to think and act like, and examine how far you are from that ideal picture. It can even be helpful to sit down and write out the characteristics you’d like to see in your child. Or reference an old list if you’ve done this before. Check off the ones that you currently see in your child. Then highlight those that still need work. Then start thinking about what it will take to get you there. Here are a few pointers:

Create a plan. Whether it’s a discipline plan, a reward chart, or some other system that focuses on the child’s strengths and weaknesses, having a plan is key. This plan can be in your head, but it’s often much more effective when it’s on paper.

Create a schedule. If you don’t have a schedule already, create one. If you have one, figure out where it’s failing you. Is it too detailed to realistically follow? If so, scale it back considerably. Personally, I have a hard time following a detailed schedule. I like to plan things around breakfast, lunch, and dinner since they are typically all at the same time every day. Be realistic with yourself and the schedule. When in doubt, start small.

Examine your weaknesses. This is a hard one. But look long and hard at yourself and try to examine where you might have gone wrong. Personally, I have a hard time “meaning what I say.” I tend to spout out instructions without really listening to myself. This ultimately leads to a lack of follow through. As for my husband, he probably threatens consequences too much. We all need to realize that actions speak louder than words. No matter your weakness, pick one and write it down. And work on that one only. Once you see improvement in yourself, you can start working on any other weaknesses you may have.

Sit down with your child

If your child is of the age where he can understand (or even if he isn’t) sit down and explain your new rules. Inevitably, life will look a little different after you go through this exercise. Why not explain it all to the child. Prepare him for the change. And above all, explain the behavior you expect of him. If you’re working from a reward or discipline chart, show it to him. Read it over and explain it all step by step.

Evaluate your progress

In the business world, they call this a “post mortem.” After every project, we examine how it all went and what we might improve for next time. Even better than having a final evaluation of your progress, set a few milestones along the way that will tell you how you’re doing. Schedule a time to meet with your spouse, perhaps a month after your first meeting. Have a list of your milestones and evaluate each one. One of your milestones might be your consistency with a schedule, or following through on everything you say. Be honest with yourselves. And let your spouse be critical so you can improve. Always see your spouse as a partner in this effort, not an adversary or critic.

There’s probably a lot more I could say about this, but I’ll stop here. Perhaps in future posts, I’ll dig a little more into the nitty gritty on how you can hit that proverbial reset button with your kids. Wherever you are in this process, realize that you’re never alone. Read more of my blog. Lean on your spouse. Enlist the help and support of friends. It takes a village!

 

Do You Open the Door to Disobedience?

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Ultimately, when our children disobey, they are making the choice to disobey. Whether it’s childishness or foolishness, they still have control over their own actions. But there are times when we parents open the door to disobedience.

The Ezzos give us many ideas to prevent misbehavior from occurring in the first place. And we know well and good that structuring their day, reducing their freedoms and choices, and ensuring healthy meals and sleep all contribute to a healthy, obedient atmosphere.

But when we don’t do all of these things, we open the door to disobedience. There are times when we put our children into situations where they are tempted to disobey.

This is what the Ezzos have to say about prevention:

“There are many excellent methods of correction available to Childwise parents, but ultimately the best form of parental correction is prevention. There is no better way to deal with behavior problems than by preventing them in the first place. Parents may find themselves correcting misbehavior that could have easily been avoided had they first considered the principles of prevention,” (On Becoming Childwise).

And here’s where the rubber meets the road:

“It is even possible that parents, by overlooking prevention, may actually be encouraging misbehavior in their children. If a parent puts a child in a situation in which he is likely to have a problem being obedient, who is really to blame for the disobedience?” (On Becoming Childwise).

The point here is not to place blame. The idea is simply that we have great power over our children’s obedience simply by being aware of the situations that could tempt them to disobey.

This is somewhat timely for me because I’ve been dealing with a situation with my boys at our homeschool co-op. There are two other boys there who bring computers, iPads, smartphones and several other devices to co-op. My boys are drawn to these devices like moths to a flame, but they also become a problem because my boys have a much more difficult time obeying my instructions when they are wrapped up in these boys’ devices.

So I have made it clear to my boys that they are not to go over to those boys’ devices unless they ask permission. And even at that, I still often say no simply because I know I will be allowing a situation that will tempt them to disobey.

Bedtime is another tricky situation. Simply by being near each other, my boys tempt each other to disobey while they’re showering, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, etc. My husband and I have eliminated that temptation by requiring them to get ready for bed in separate bathrooms.

Think of it this way:

“Just as you wouldn’t send a recovering alcoholic into a bar to test his resolve, so it may not be wise to send your excitable child into a McDonald’s play area where the other kids are running around with out-of-control ecstasy,” (On Becoming Childwise).

So think twice before putting your kids in a situation that would tempt them to disobey.

Don’t Ignore Yourself

Lucas on chairThe title of this post might sound odd, but if you’re a parent, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about. It goes something like this:

Mom is busy with something and not concentrating on her children, yet she sees misbehavior out of the corner of her eye. Without thinking about it and without even looking up, she says, “Lucas, get down from there.” (Lucas has started climbing everything lately.)

I bet you can guess what happens next. Yes, the child ignores what mom said. She didn’t say it with much conviction, nor did she call his name or get eye contact first. And since mom is so busy, she doesn’t always realize what’s happening until later, if at all. She ignores herself doesn’t follow through.

Lucas was kind enough to test this theory out on me just as I write this. We are sitting outside on the deck, in our flimsy outdoor chairs, and Lucas stood up. Yes, the little monkey is standing on and climbing on everything. You’d think he’s two! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him stand up, and looked him in the eye as I told him to sit down. He immediately squatted down as if he was going to sit. Trusting that he was going to sit, I looked back at the computer. What did he do the minute my eyes went back to the screen? He stood back up! We did this two or three times before he decided to obey and stay seated.

When we speak to our children this way, we pretty much give them the freedom to ignore us. If we ignore ourselves, why shouldn’t our children ignore us? Try to catch yourself whenever this happens. Before you become engrossed in whatever you’re doing, whether it’s cooking, dishes, or working on the computer, make sure the kids are occupied doing something else. Turning on the TV or having an extra session of roomtime is better than saying something you shouldn’t or ignoring them completely.

“When you speak to your child in a way that requires an answer or an action, you should expect an immediate and complete response. This principle speaks to the parents’ level of expectation. Children will rise to whatever level is expected and encouraged. Too many parents expect little and receive exactly that,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).

If obedience is your goal, always make sure you say what you mean and mean what you say. Never utter a word unless you are prepared to follow through. Recognize your moments of deep concentration, and either be prepared to follow through on what you say, or change the situation so you won’t have to correct your child.

Milestones and Behavior

A recent shot of Lucas. If only he were always so peaceful.

There’s a new phenomenon going on in my home right now. I haven’t read about this in any parenting book, but I have heard other moms mention it. There’s something about kids hitting a certain age or particular milestone that sends their behavior completely off-kilter.

Lucas has been 5.5 for 13 days now, and I’ll tell you, it’s been 13 days of defiance, disobedience, attitude, and pretty much any other behavior problem you can think of. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I did the math and realized that he had hit his half birthday. We were doing all kinds of timeouts, logical consequences, pulling our hair out (William included), and more.

I explained this phenomenon to my husband, and he wondered why a half birthday would do it. But I’ve seen it mentioned on the Babywise message board. And it’s not that Lucas is aware of this milestone. It’s just a little change in his development that perhaps has him a little confused.

I think many parents see this phenomenon much earlier in their kids’ lives. Typically, age two and three present big challenges. But for us, with Lucas at least, two and three were a breeze. I’ve always considered it 10% luck, 20% personality, and 70% training. I started training him in the Babywise principles from day one. My blanket time success story was one of our shining moments.

As odd as this sounds, I think part of the reason Lucas was so easy was that William was so difficult. I don’t think anybody who knows William would call him easy-going or laid back. A friend recently described him as intense, and that’s him in a nutshell. He’s intense in everything he does, and he’s been like this from the minute he was born. I remember being in the hospital wondering if it was okay that I went to sleep, considering my newborn was lying in his bassinet bright eyed and bushy tailed! Sleepy newborn? What’s that? Even his entrance into this world was intense since my water broke before I had a single contraction. And then it was 11 hours of painful, intense labor. We had colic, developmental delays, you name it!

When I was pregnant with Lucas, I “told him” that he had to pay me back for all the terror that William caused. The obedient thing that he is, he listened. :) Kidding aside, I think Lucas subconsciously recognized that William was a lot to handle. And he let William do his thing. He let him direct their play. They rarely fought ever because Lucas was so appeasing. You may have noticed that I rarely discuss sibling rivalry. Plus, whenever we were out, Lucas was his brother’s watchdog. He always made sure he was coming, even if I was walking at my own pace and William was lagging behind.

When I step back and examine their behaviors, William is much easier to manage now. I’ve noticed a change in him just in the past few months. I don’t know if it’s his occupational therapy, homeschooling, maturity, or what, but something is working for him. Perhaps Lucas noticed that things were a little too quiet, so he decided to fill the void. Not only has he been testing the limits lately, but he’s stopped letting William get his way. Sadly, they fight a lot more now.

I’ve also noticed a few other changes in Lucas’ development. For one, he’s been stuttering lately. I don’t think of it as a problem, but as a developmental speed bump. My niece has struggled with stuttering over the years, and my sister noticed that it’s just one of those things that goes along with their growth. It comes and goes. I can also tell that Lucas’ brain is moving too fast for his mouth. He knows what he wants to say. It just takes a little while for it to come out.

Lucas has also shown big progress academically. Because we homeschool, I see this with my own two eyes. His reading is coming along so well, and he’s at the point now where he reads the words he sees around him. When I read to him at bed time, he’ll point out a few words he recognizes. And he was watching TV the other day, and simply said to himself “fox.” He read the network logo.

What am I to do about all of this? Recognizing the problem and its cause helps immensely. But it still doesn’t get to the root of the issue. If I weren’t a Babywise mom, I might call it a phase and wait it out. But since I know better, I’m going to train this disobedience right out of him! It means my husband and I need to buckle down and tackle it head on. Consistency is the name of the game these days. We can no longer be lax with our schedule, room time, couch time, etc. We will also be looking for logical consequences that “hurt” a little more than a timeout would, because after your sixth timeout of the day, they start to lose their effectiveness! And thank goodness he still naps!

Wish us luck!

 

Help a Reader Out: Blanket Time

Thanks everyone for all your help with the comment I posted on Monday! Here’s another comment from a reader that I’m hoping you can help out with. This time, it’s about blanket time. Please reply with any advice you might have for this reader. The original comment is this:

I’ve been working on blanket time with my 22 month old for about 2 months now. We are up to 15 mins. She has specific toys she gets only during this time each morning. She does test me and try to get off the blanket and see if I correct her which I do and she obeys. But now she won’t play and focus on her toys. Do you think it’s a phase? She just lays there until the timer goes off. I do stay near to enforce the boundaries. Right now I give her 2 puzzles, blocks, and a sorting activity. She just isn’t enjoying it. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks.

My first thought is to say that this mom isn’t doing anything wrong. There’s no requirement with blanket time that our kids actually enjoy the time. Yes, it’s preferable if they do, but if they don’t, that’s okay. As long as she’s staying on the blanket until the timer goes off, that’s all we need to require. If I were the parent, I might switch out the toys to see if she is simply bored with the toys available to her. I wouldn’t stick with the same toys week after week if the child shows no interest in them. But all in all, if she’s staying on the blanket for the most part, I’d consider it a success! Just keep doing it and add a few minutes bit by bit until you get up to 30-45 minutes.

Does anybody have advice for this reader? It would be great to hear your experiences with blanket time.

Are Babywise Kids Smarter?

Source: whizbit.com

It’s been a long-held belief that IQ is a static thing. A person tests at a certain IQ level and maintains that level for the rest of their lives. Many say IQ is genetic, and there’s not much we can do to influence it.

I’ve been reading a bit about brain training lately, and I’m convinced that IQ is not a static measure of intelligence. Our brains are living, breathing organs that grow over time. Our brains have the ability to adapt and reorganize neural pathways and even build brand new ones. These neural pathways form the basis of our cognitive skills. And our cognitive abilities, quantified by IQ tests, measure our ability to not only hold knowledge, but also to process information. So because the brain is always adapting and building, our cognitive skills, and our IQ, never stay the same. The brain’s ability to adapt and grow is called neuroplasticity. When our brains are characterized by plasticity, they are by definition malleable, elastic, flexible, and pliable.

I can personally attest to this idea of neuroplasticity. In college, I could almost feel my brain growing. I learned so much in such a short period of time. I was surrounded by people who were educating themselves and professors who were experts in their fields. I was challenged intellectually like never before (or since). And not only was I taking in and storing information, I was learning the skills to study and process information.

So if our brains are so malleable, it seems entirely possible that parenting plays a huge role in the development of a child’s brain. And if that’s the case, is it possible that Babywise kids are smarter?

Babywise Moms are Typically Type A

We Babywise moms are typically type A personalities. We like things to be in their place, and we think nothing of making the effort to actively teach our children. From what I see on message boards and in my “real life” Babywise friends, we actively engage with our children, read to them religiously, think critically about what we should be reading to them, engage their imaginations, teach them basic academics before they enter school, and supplement school if we see that it’s lacking. I know of no Babywise mom who thinks it’s okay to plop her child in front of the TV and think nothing of the child’s cognitive development.

We Teach Self-Control

Another reason I think Babywise kids might be smarter is that they’ve been taught self-control. If I had to choose between teaching my child early reading skills or teaching self-control before Kindergarten, self-control would be it. If a child has no self-control, he’s not going to be able to sit and learn. His mind and body will be so busy doing other things, things guided by his impulsive brain, that his learning ability will be diminished. So much of early learning is about form and structure. Teaching a child to work diligently is immensely valuable. The habits of learning form the foundation of all future learning. And since Babywise kids are raised on a routine and are taught the benefits of structure, they are much more likely to work diligently than the child who is left to his own devices.

Babywise Kids Get Lots of Sleep

Does anyone disagree that sleep affects the brain’s ability to process information? We all know how we feel when we haven’t had enough sleep. Unless we’re loaded up on coffee, we’re in a fog all day. This very idea is addressed in Growing Kids God’s Way:

“Children who have established healthy sleep habits are optimally awake and optimally alert to interact with their environment. Having observed a generation of these children now, we see some common threads among the school-age population. In classroom settings, I have consistently found these children to be more self-assured, happier, less demanding, more sociable, inspired, and motivated. They have longer attention spans and become faster learners because they are more adaptable. Mediocrity among this population is rare, while excellence is common,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 253).

I love that the Ezzos describe these children as happier and more social. It’s not all about academics, folks. I don’t think the Ezzos would encourage us to give our kids 5 hours of homework every night for the sake of getting ahead. No amount of academic advancement is worth the risk of creating undue stress. In fact, when we push our kids too far too fast, we run the risk of burning them out. A child who’s burned out at age 10 may be academically ahead, but will it serve them well in the future? Will they even want to go to college? This says nothing of the effects on a child’s character when he believes he’s smarter than all of his peers.

It’s all about balance and priorities. And I think the Ezzos have it right in teaching Babywise moms to give our kids the skills and foundation to effectively learn. But they also place a huge priority on developing our kids’ moral foundation. In fact, they may even say that this moral foundation is more important than any skills that enable them to learn. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

If you are a Babywise mom, you can walk away from this post knowing that you’re giving your child the skills he needs to succeed in school. And not only can you trust that you’ve prepared him for school, but you can also trust that you’ve instilled important values that will serve him well in school and beyond.

Is It Obedience or Controlling?

Source: beinglatino.us

Many people outside Babywise circles hear the term “first-time obedience” and immediately (and wrongly) think that we are teaching our children to obey because we want to control them. They think we want them to act like little robots doing everything we say, simply because it’s convenient for us.

I’ll be the first to say that my life would be easier and much more convenient if my kids were robots and did every little thing I said. But I didn’t go into parenting expecting easy or convenient. Parenting is hard work! And that’s exactly as it should be.

There is nothing about obedience training that is convenient. In fact, I feel like if our first-time obedience slips, it’s more likely than not that it’s my fault, not theirs. If I forget to call their names before giving an instruction, then they will forget to obey me the first time. If I forget to get eye contact while giving an instruction, they will assume that I’m talking to somebody else. And if I don’t take the time to cultivate a loving relationship with my kids, they won’t have motivation to obey. There is SO MUCH that goes into training our kids — and ourselves — in first-time obedience. I could write a whole book about it! Oh, wait, I did! Haha.

I do not simply spout out my instructions to my kids and then discipline with a heavy hand if they refuse to comply. That, my friends, is controlling.

The line between obedience training and controlling is very fuzzy. It’s easy to slip from one to the other. You tell yourself that you have reason to believe that your kids are capable of obeying your every word. You believe in setting high standards for your kids, and so you set out to have them obey every instruction you give — without thinking whether it’s age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate, or just plain fair. This is where we set ourselves up for failure. It’s these tricky little expectations that fool us into believing that we could create robots out of our children.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want robots. I want children. I want my kids to be the unique individuals that they are. If that means that Lucas likes to sit in his chair with one leg hanging off the side, then so be it. If that means that William likes to chew on his sleeves, then so be it. They are not disobeying me when they do these things. Do these things sometimes bug me? Yes, absolutely. But I wouldn’t trade these quirks of theirs for a child guided by fear. I want my kids to love me and cherish our relationship. I don’t want them to fear me. If that means that I have to put up with their little quirks, that’s fine. Oh, and by the way, when they do these little things, they aren’t disobeying me.

I suppose that’s our litmus test for whether we are requiring obedience or trying to control our kids. Are we trying to train their little quirks right out of them? What is our motivation in our obedience training? If you’re like me, your main motivation in obedience training is to work on the big stuff. We want to create good, moral people, not people who sit straight in their chairs or don’t chew on sleeves. The little stuff doesn’t matter.

But maybe, on the other hand, it does matter. Because if your parenting is guided by training the little stuff, then your relationship will suffer. When you harp on their little quirks — the qualities that define who they are as people — you’re telling them that you don’t accept your children for who they are. You’re telling them that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. I find that utterly terrifying, both as a parent and as I look at it from my child’s perspective. I want my children to accept and adopt my values because they’re important, not because I’m trying to control their every move.

And you know what happens when we try to control their every move? They rebel, big time.

Think about the following quote when you ponder your reasoning behind obedience:

“Obedience teaches children to have self-control in all matters of life. Obedience moves children from extrinsic [external] motivation to intrinsic [internal] control. Eventually, a child will no longer need a fence on the outside for his own protection, because his parents have helped him a moral and ethical fence on the inside,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 96).

So do your work to build that “fence” inside of them, but stop there. Accept and embrace their little quirks!

Okay, I’m leaving…

Source: school-crossing.com

How many times have you been in a store and overheard a parent say these words to their child? “Okay, I’m leaving.” Some will go so far as to say, “We’ll see you when you get home,” or “Let’s hope they leave the lights on for you tonight.”

Often, these words are said in jest, but not always. You can imagine a child who’s engrossed in whatever toy or book has caught his eye. If he hasn’t been trained in first-time obedience, he has learned that it’s okay to ignore his parent’s voice. Then what is the parent left to do?

My issue with the “Okay, I’m leaving…” crowd is that it’s a giant, empty threat. Our children know that we wouldn’t leave them in the store. This empty threat might work the first two or three times, but after that, our kids figure us out. They know that these words are meaningless. They know that we won’t walk too far away or turn a corner and leave their sight.

The problem with this scenario is that the child isn’t listening to the parent in the first place. By issuing empty threats, we are only making it worse. Whenever we say something we don’t truly mean, we are teaching our kids that our words mean nothing. We are teaching them that it’s okay to say something you don’t mean. We are teaching them not to listen.

So what is a parent to do in this situation? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix in parenting. The solution is to train your child to listen, to obey. Before you enter the store, explain what you expect, and have the child repeat it back to you. Give the child some empathy and say that you know how hard it is to tear ourselves away from the things that interest us. If you still have an issue with the child not coming when you need to leave, simply pick them up (if they’re little) or take them by the hand. Then if you meet resistance, use your stern mommy voice, and simply say, “It’s time to go.”

If you’re having this problem with a child who’s too big to pick up or guide sternly by holding a hand (perhaps beyond the age of 6 or 7), then you might have bigger problems on your hands. And rather than leaving the child home whenever you leave the house, work on your obedience training at home.

Desperate Times

Source: naturallysavvy.com

Sometimes desperate times do call for desperate measures. No matter how much we may understand that threatening and repeating tactics will ultimately fail, there are times when we resort to these measures. And that’s ok.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the idea that parenting is the most important job we will ever do. When we realize that we truly do have the power to shape our children, it’s easy to set super-high expectations for ourselves. When things go wrong, it’s not pretty. Forgiveness — from ourselves and other moms — doesn’t come easily.

That’s what makes parenting so hard. Yes, it’s an important job. And yes, women are highly critical of each other. While I’d love to ask moms to go a little easier on each other, the least we can do is forgive ourselves.

And the truth of the matter is that sometimes counting to three really works. Sometimes bribing our kids works. And sometimes it’s on the fourth time that we repeat an instruction that we get obedience. If the day has gone horribly wrong, and in the middle of cooking dinner, you realize you’re out of the most critical ingredient, it may be one of those times that you need to bribe the children to obey during a quick trip to the store. It’s better to bribe and maintain emotional stability than to run the risk of being sent over the edge by a child running wild in the produce section.

Besides, there’s a difference between knowing and doing. We may intellectually know how we want to train our children and what behaviors we expect of them, but actually implementing these parenting ideas consistently is a different endeavor entirely. Again, that’s ok.

There’s one crucial thing to remember about this: don’t do it often. Sometimes we need to call upon our most desperate measures, but the other 98% of the time, we need to diligently train our kids in the behaviors and attitudes we expect. If your attempts to train go horribly wrong, it’s probably a clue that you’re using desperate measures a little too often.

But before you even think about criticizing yourself for this, remember that you deserve to be forgiven. You are your harshest critic, so go easy on yourself every now and then.