Establishing Rules Your Toddler Can Understand

It feels like every time I get my feet under me with this whole parenting thing, a new “phase” kicks in. Right about the time I start getting cocky and thinking that I’m killing the mom game (hah - is there such a thing?!) my son seemingly becomes a new person overnight and I’m left trying to figure out how to adjust and be the best mom to him I can be. Last weekend at Christmas my brother in law witnessed one of my son’s new favorite things - epic (and I mean EPIC) tantrums. My BIL expressed utter shock - “I’ve never seen him lose it like this,” he said. I laughed. “I know,” I said. “For a kid who was a textbook “perfectly” behaved baby...things have CHANGED now that he’s almost two.” For the most part, I’m able to see past the tantrums and not take them personally. I understand that these are normal and all kids have meltdowns (easier when we’re at home than when we’re in public) and that I need to just try and stay calm. Other times - aka last night - it took everything I had not to completely break down and cry after my kid kicked, hit, and bit me. 

So with all of that - I wanted to share one of my favorite resources that has worked well for our family and our entrance into toddler land. Moms on Call Toddler Book. Now - if you’ve heard of Moms on Call, you’ve likely heard that it’s a sleep training method, which it is in part - but that's not what we're talking about here. They also have tips and resources for other things - like safety, eating, health, behavior, etc. Once I found out they had a toddler book I purchased it immediately (you can find it here - not sponsored).

What I gathered from reading the section on behavior - is that it’s hard for kids this young to keep track of all the rules - i.e. don’t touch the stove, don’t hit, don’t color on the walls, don’t get it. So, it’s important to set a standard of only THREE rules that are easy to recite, repeat, and keep track of. They are as follows: 1. Obey mom and dad (I feel like “obey” is an outdated word so we like to say “listen” instead. 2. Don’t hurt yourself 3. Don’t hurt others. Then the key is to say these rules often (not only when they’re in trouble) and consistently. So everyday (mostly at mealtimes when we’re all sitting down together or right before bed) we say something along the lines of “We have three rules in this house and they are: Listen to mommy and daddy, do not hurt yourself and do not hurt others because we are Smiths and the Smiths are good to people.” It could also sound something like this if you want to keep it even more simple- “We are the Smiths - we are kind to ourselves and we are kind to others,” or “We are the Smiths and we don’t hurt ourselves and we don’t hurt others…” You get the picture. 

It sounds cheesy and weird, but we really like it. It helps both of us (mom and dad) to stay consistent with the “rules” and everything falls into those broad categories. We also like to drill in the “We are the Smiths” part - because it establishes that we are a family unit, we have an order and set of rules we all live by, it gives our son security, and I’m hoping it will be ingrained in his brain as he gets older that “We are the Smiths and we are good to people." Now, every time we say it to Shep, he says “Yeah!” excitedly right after - which is really sweet. 

Obviously, this is not the end all be all, and it doesn’t stop tantrums in their tracks. However, it has helped us establish rules and guidelines that he understands, and that we can consistently work toward. 

Do you have any toddler tips? Great book recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!

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