Now, having been confined to the four walls of a very small abode for much of the last five days, it’s not easy to think of much else other than the negative — those behaviors in babies and young children that parents must simply find a way to move past, to overcome.
The two toddlers in this house have required a LOT of patience from their parents these days, who have encountered such obstacles as the little tykes refusing to eat, not sleeping more than 20 minutes at any given time, and bursting into tears out of the blue. See, the thing is, both of them are sick with the biggest colds they’ve ever had in their lives so far.
But even when the whole family isn’t quite so exhausted, and not so very stretched to the limit (and then some) because of illness or some other unusual situation, parenting has required a LOT of strategizing.
Some of it really might be seen as straight-up trickery. A lot of it is just surviving — coming up with the tactics that work well for both parents and children to make sure everyone behaves decently, sleeps OK, and (this is the BIG one) eats at least enough to make it through the day.
Babyhood, toddler times, and beyond can be tricky business in general, to be sure, but experience and a bit of research have led to the discovery of 25 parenting tricks only the strongest moms should actually try.
25 Now Or Never For Mealtime
Ah, getting toddlers to eat. This is something that may involve some planning, patience, and trickery, indeed.
The idea, I’ve found, is to keep a casual attitude, and focus on mealtime being positive. You offer a variety of healthy foods, and they eat what they are hungry for. Simple, right?
Ha. Except for when you’re frustrated they’ve refused everything on their plates, or thrown it on the floor. And except for when they won’t sit still or throw a fit when you put them in their highchair.
Some parents keep their cool and try to encourage good habits by making it a one-shot deal: Kids can eat what you serve or that’s it; no second chance later. They must wait for the next mealtime.
24 Bold Moves To Get Baby To Take A Bottle
It’s recommended that a bottle is offered to a baby (if parents plan to use bottles for feeding) once breastfeeding is firmly established — and not too long after this point, as is included at BabyCenter.com and in many a pediatric leaflet and parenting book.
The thing is, we didn’t think we would want or need to use bottles with our first baby. Then, all of the sudden, it looked like we would NEED to.
Our baby was already between 3 and 4 months old, and she absolutely REFUSED, as is common.
But there are things to try if that sweet spot in time has passed: moving around, going outside, changing the scenery, singing, different nipples / bottles… Might be the fight of your life though.
23 Stroller Naps For Siblings
I was not up for trying this tactic, personally. I NEEDED my second baby to be used to sleeping at home, in her bed — that’s when I could fit in work!
But I do see, all the time, parents taking on the trick of letting younger siblings do all of their naps, essentially, on the go.
Second siblings nap in strollers, front packs, and car seats. And big brothers and sisters (and moms) therefore get to be out for activities, play dates, errands, and more.
The problem? How do you then ever get the baby to nap at home in a crib?
22 Say No To The Word ‘No’
I quickly learned that a key parenting tactic, along with singing and dancing your heart out to fix many problematic situations, is the art of redirection.
And some parents choose to take this strategy, in essence, a step further. They elect to avoid ever saying the word “no.”
Seriously. And although it would be very tough to put into practice, I do get it. Imagine being a toddler, being told “no” to so many things, things you want to try or do on your own, things you don’t understand why you can’t do…
Plus, toddlers sometimes learn the word and it becomes the main one they use…
To avoid related frustrations, parents go for redirection or phrasing it differently instead.
21 Someone Not Mom To Offer Bottles
For young babies beginning to bottle feed (once breastfeeding is firmly established but not too long afterward, as we covered above) or older ones parents are trying to convince to accept this new form of feeding, there is a trick known to, well, do the trick: Having someone who isn’t “Mom” offer the bottle at the feeding time.
Mom equals breastfeeding. Mom offering a bottle instead of the standard mode of feeding can equal FRUSTRATING (or confusing, or just not at all working).
A dad, grandma, or other helpers may be perfect for the job.
This tactic is commonly recommended by nurses and pediatricians I’ve encountered and is also covered at BabyCenter.com.
20 Singing To Sleep
Once she wasn’t just a week or two old and was more “wakeful” and yet not quite old enough for sleep training and always going down on her own in a crib, it was more often than not quite a task to get my first little one to fall asleep.
After trying this and that, I quickly discovered THE thing that worked: singing to her. And I mean singing LOUDLY and for quite a while. I did Beatles medleys, Christmas carols, ’90s hits, and more.
If I (more or less) knew the tune and the words, I would sing it on loop if it did the trick of calming her down and getting her to sleep.
19 Swaying All The Way To Snoozeville
Singing was not actually all I did to get my first baby to sleep, both for the many naps she took during the day as a small baby and each night at bedtime.
While I belted out tune after tune, I also quickly got into — no joke — the best shape of my adult life. I was wearing her in a fabric sling or holding her in my arms while rocking, swaying, and dancing around the room.
My back was so sore. My leg muscles were pushed to their limits. My arms had never known such challenges. But it’s the trick that worked, and so I carried on…
18 Story Time For Mealtime
When our first was at a very opinionated toddler age, and had very little patience for staying put in that high chair long enough to consume much of anything at all, I did what I needed to do to get her to eat something — anything.
The activity that always seemed to help her just sit still for a while and calm her down was something that we really loved doing together: reading. Well, me reading, anyway, aloud to her.
And so on top of reading books aloud in the morning when we woke up, before all naps, before bed, and just for fun throughout the day, I started reading to her for most mealtimes, too, often the same book over and over again.
17 Bouncing On A Big Ball For Something Soothing
While caring for a toddler, I realized I would need another type of trick for getting my second baby to go to sleep when she was at that special age of babyhood when the sleepy brand-new newborn days have passed but not quite old enough for sleep training (and going down in a crib on her own before drifting off).
And so for this brief period when she needed my help to drift off to dreamland, I used a key tool to provide that soothing motion that can calm babies so dependably: the exercise ball.
Holding her in my tired arms, trying not to slouch too much as I sat on the thing, I’d bounce, bounce, and bounce until she fell asleep and I could put her down.
16 Tackling Sleep Training
Both Parents.com and BabyCenter.com offer info about sleep training, in case you don’t yet know just what that is. There are various methods and approaches, but the main idea is that you begin to encourage your baby to fall asleep on his or her own, without relying on you to get there.
Often included in sleep training is the “cry it out” method. The baby is left for longer and longer periods of time, even if crying, to be given a chance to fall asleep without having you there for aid.
Parents sometimes can’t stand the sound. Some moms have to leave the house and leave it to dad, or vice versa.
But sticking to it can lead to a lifetime of healthier sleep habits.
15 Saving On Childcare… By Working From Home
This is quite the trick, and one that I tried (am currently still trying, actually) myself.
See, if I had put my baby in daycare and returned to working out of the home, I would have been paying much of the money I made to have someone else care for her 40 hours each week — and I would be missing those precious early years with her, and her with me.
To continue breastfeeding around the clock, to bond nonstop, to enjoy having her, to follow my instincts, and to save serious cash, I found a way (some way, somehow…) to work full time from home while caring for her.
Easy? Um, no.
14 Wearing While Napping
Although it’s not really a very long time period, there is a distinct time span, I found, that babies are no longer those sleepy newborns easily drifting off after feedings and yet aren’t yet old enough for sleep training and going down on their own to drift off in a crib. During this age range, which lasted a couple months, my first baby would reliably fall asleep if I danced or walked with her in a fabric sling.
In order to keep her sleeping, I would just keep wearing her in it the whole time that she napped…
I would even carefully sit down in the rocker and prop my laptop on a side table, contorting my arms awkwardly to get work done while she dozed.
13 Out Of The House But For Sleepy Time
This trick really works, and so I strive for it. This week, with two sick toddlers and a family this close to having cabin fever, I long for the chance to put it into action… Sigh…
It is the approach of trying to always be out of the house, playing outdoors and so on, whenever you don’t need to be home (such as for naps and bedtime).
The amount of planning and packing this requires, alone, is quite intense, along with just the practicalities of getting out the door and back in time to be home when you do need to…
But fresh air and being in the world make for happier and better sleeping babies — and moms.
12 Skip ‘Baby’ Dining Supplies
I love those little plastic plates with dividers to separate the peas from the beans from the pasta. I think sippy cups are just grand for having something on hand to let babies and toddlers drink adequate water or milk.
But I do see why some parents I’ve met have chosen to skip them: They aren’t crazy expensive, but they aren’t free either. The spouts and other components have to be sterilized at the start, inspected and replaced often, and cleaned in all those annoying little nooks and crevices. And they take over your cupboards.
So some choose to skip the baby stuff and use regular dining wear, letting the porcelain fall where it may…
11 The Two-For-One Toddler / Infant Bath
There are so many necessary basics to fit into a day with a baby and toddler. And then, many choose to give a daily bath, as well (we do it as part of preparing for bedtime).
The first few we gave our second as a newborn were just her on her own in that little plastic infant tub.
But before long, we just went for it: We tackled bathing both our newborn and our toddler at the same time.
Sometimes chaotic, it at least provides plenty of fun and entertainment for both of them, saves on time (and water!), and generally gets the job done.
At first, we even just put the infant tub within the water of the regular tub.
10 The Buddy System For Checkup Time
For the first few years we had two babies in the family, we went in for regular checkups that were scheduled at separate times, since both kiddos had visits and vaccinations scheduled in those set recommended increments since their births and when they had first seen the pediatrician.
Then, both annual exams got canceled recently, and we rescheduled them to be at the same time on the same day.
The pro? You knock it out, only having to work your schedule around it, go in, and do the whole doctor thing ONE time. And they love the moral support of having a sibling there. But let me tell ya… It was one looooong visit.
9 Reaping Rewards
The simplest form, I suppose, of this trick is the “star chart,” and let me tell ya, it WORKS.
I was talking to our fam’s pediatrician one day about how in the world to get the desired behavior that we just weren’t getting from our toddler. And that’s when he recommended an awesome form of positive reinforcement.
To paint a picture: Mom wants toddler to stay in bed at night. Toddler will not. Mom gives shiny sticker on a chart every time toddler does stay in bed (and we took it further by offering a new toy once X number of stickers were collected).
It takes extreme patience (and a child old enough to understand the concept), but oh, man. Thank goodness for it.
8 The Immediate Bag Restock
Parenting babies and toddlers can be about the stuff.
Just to leave the house, you need a fully stocked bag big enough for an adult’s weekend getaway.
And that’s why I make getting out each time easier (possible?) amid the last-minute diaper changes and tantrums and shoe dramas — by almost ALWAYS restocking the bag as soon as we get home.
Diapers to replace what we used, replenished snack supply, more spare clothes as needed…
It is rough in that I’m usually battling the clock, with tired and/or hungry toddlers needing meals and naps as soon as we get home, and it can be tricky to remember to do it, but then I’m never caught without what I need on the next outing.
7 The No-Pants Approach To Potty Training
I’ve read this one in parenting books, and my second baby has actually adopted the approach herself in an effort to teach herself to use the potty (and ditch those diapers!).
Basically, it’s potty training by just not having anything on the little one’s lower half while they’re at home.
Some people try to tackle it in one (intense) weekend, with plenty of paper towels and cleaning supplies on hand.
For others, it’s more of a gradual thing or general approach.
But the idea is, the child doesn’t like the accident on the floor or trickling down their legs, and getting quickly to voiding in the potty is simpler (and the only option).
6 Giving Zero Attention To Tantrums
First of all, it is NOT easy to pretend that there isn’t a tiny person (who you care very deeply for) screaming at you or even throwing themselves down on the ground.
But because behaviors that get attention from parents tend to be repeated, a good trick for handling tantrums can be to completely ignore them.
Rather than responding, letting things escalate, or reacting really much at all, you simply go on with your business, and hopefully, the little one moves on and calms down.
It is NOT easy. You’ll need to remember to breathe, or sometimes remove yourself. And never forget: Redirection and distraction are your friends.
5 Make Them Think They Have The Power
This one is all about being crafty and quick enough to make kids think they are getting to decide something. Really, you’re getting them to do what you want (or what they need to do).
"Giving students in my elementary class the illusion of choice,” shared a parent quoted at Telegraph.co.uk. “If you ask 'do you want to start your work?' Or 'isn't it time we got something done?' I modify it to - 'Would you like to do your assignment with a pencil or blue pen?'”
They focus on the choice, instead of resisting doing what you want them to do.
4 Channeling The Power Of Laughter
"Have a toddler that is in a bad mood? Sit down with them, look them straight in the eye, and say 'You're mad, so don't laugh.' Just keep repeating it as seriously as you can,” shared one parent quoted at Telegraph.co.uk. "I've done it for 15 different cousins over a couple of decades, and by the fifth repetition of 'DON'T LAUGH' they are busting a gut and rolling on the floor.
Sure, you may take the chance of making them mad by making comedy of their sadness, but really, distraction with something silly can be a real winner.
3 Talk To Them Like A Real Human
Although you might feel silly saying, “I see that you are upset that your sock is purple,” or “… Daddy won’t let you chew on his wallet,” truly just acknowledging that a tiny child’s feelings are real and you understand them (and the act of giving them the care and focused attention) can do the trick to turn a frown upside down.
"If you want to calm someone down, sympathize with them whilst describing what's upsetting them in descending orders of magnitude,” shared a parent at Telegraph.co.uk.
"‘I understand why you're angry ... You're right to be frustrated ... This would annoy me too.’ As they accept the acknowledgments they want they should also accept the declining emphasis on emotion and become calmer."
2 Be Fab At Flattery
“Many people (I would say most, maybe almost all) are surprisingly susceptible to flattery and being told what they want to hear,” said an interviewee at Telegraph.co.uk. "People tend to shy away from this strategy, thinking it will be too obvious and clumsy, but just try it.”
Although it seems obvious, the positivity can really pay off when it comes to parenting.
"It's as if being flattered or hearing people agree with you gives people a rush of pleasurable hormones to the brain,” notes the quote contributor, going by zazzlekdazzle.
1 Win Arguments By Lowering Voices
Yelling has a way of leading to yelling, and although it will not always be easy if a little one is screaming or raising their voice at you, if you stay strong and calm, it can often be a win-win for everyone who is involved.
At Telegraph.co.uk, commenter TheR1d3r is quoted as saying, "In an argument speak softly. It forces active listening which leads to active thinking. When they are listening and thinking they are not yelling, arguing, or talking."