Misbehaving Toddlers: Tips, Tricks and Advice

Parenting a toddler can be challenging. But before you pull your hair out, let's focus on what's causing the behavior. What are the main reasons toddler misbehave? What common mistakes do most new parents make? Plus, we'll explore several real-life situations as well as the best ways to overcome a potential meltdown- from you or your toddler.

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Episode Transcript

Parent Savers
Misbehaving Toddlers: Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Susie Walton: Being the parent of a toddler can be challenging. You’ve read all the parenting books, visited all the websites, participated in the all parenting programs, and still your child is misbehaving.Today, we’re providing several scenarios to help you better understand your little one, and get them back on track. I’m Susie Walton, founder of Indigo Village, and this is Parent Savers.


Sunny Gault: Welcome to Parent Savers broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. I am your host, Sunny Gault. I’m your guest host. I’m also the host of our sister show Preggie Pals, which is focused on pregnancy. Are you a member of the Parent Savers Club? Our club gives you access to all of our episodes plus free bonus content after every new show, and giveaways and discounts. You can sign up on our website, parentsavers.com. I am a new parent, I have two sons. Sayer who is two and a half, and Urban who is ten months old.

Hillary Gardner: I am Hillary Gardner. I am a child and family photographer, StillsbyHill.com. I am thirty-years old, and I have one little girl who’s four named Lillyanna.

Sunny Gault: I didn’t know that was her full name! I didn’t know-you-

Hillary Gardner: Hillary Gardner?

Sunny Gault: No, no, no.

Hillary Gardner: Oh Lilly! Oh Lilly! [Laughter]

Sunny Gault: I know you.

Hillary Gardner: Oh, Lillyanna. Yes, Lillyanna.

Sunny Gault: Usually you just say Lilly, so I was lik-oh!

Hillary Gardner: Yeah. Usually we just call her Lilly, sometimes Lillyanna.

Sunny Gault: Ah that’s cute.

Hillary Gardner: She calls herself Lil, you know. [Laughter] Whatever she wants.


Sunny Gault: Before we get started, here’s Johner Riehl with the best apps for new parents.

Johner Riehl: Hey Parent Savers! I’m Johner Riehl, founder of FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com, and I’m here to talk about helpful apps for new parents. Today I want to talk to you about “The Moogies,” and this is a great app for two and three year olds to just keep them entertained and occupied. It really is an interactive cartoon; it’s not so much a game as it is a series of funny things that happen to these nine different animal creatures. The startup screen is sort of set up like a phone dial pad, but then within each one, a creature is doing a funny thing: maybe there’s a horse exercising, and if you touch on the exercise ball, it blows up real big until it explodes and the horse seemingly explodes into the screen in a funny way. Or maybe there’s a science laboratory that’s haunted by a ghost, and kids need to seek out and find each of the different places to touch within the screen to make the funny things happen. It keeps my three year old occupied for hours: they love playing with it, they love showing it to their friends. It’s called “The Moogies.” “The Moogies” is $0.99. It’s definitely one of our favorite apps that you should check out and you can get a link to it on this week’s episode page, but also listen to future episodes at ParentSavers.com for more great apps for new parents.


Sunny Gault: Today on Parent Savers, we have Susie Walton from Indigo Village, a virtual program that empowers parenting and child development-and Susie is helping us resolve some of the common issues we face every day with our toddlers, and oh my gosh I just feel like day in and day out is like this struggle!

Hillary Gardner: I agree!

Sunny Gault: My god! They do things that you’re just like “I didn’t even know I had to protect against that! What?”

Hillary Gardner: Or things that come out of your mouth, and you’re like “I can’t believe I just had to say that to make you stop!” [Laughter]

Sunny Gault: Right. Ok. Well the main point of today’s show is to give you guys a lot of different scenarios that you guys can use in your own life. But, before we dive into that, I just want to talk about misbehaving in general, Susie. So, what are some of the main reasons why toddlers misbehave?

Susie Walton: Why we all misbehave, but we’ll zero in on toddlers. [Laughter]

Sunny Gault: Yes, zero in on toddlers! [Laughter]

Susie Walton: It’s because, misbehavior is a form of communication. We have a mindset that misbehavior means that a child’s spoiled, or that we give in to them, or that there out to get us, or they come from a bad genetic makeup. You know, we have all these reasons, but really the reason a child misbehaves is a form of communication because one of their basic needs are not being met. Whether they’re not feeling powerful or loved or like they’re contributing members of the family; or like they belong. Now, that’s what they can believe and that is truth. We can’t do anything about that but what we can do is to help them feel more part of, or a contributing member. First of all, what’s important for parents to remember-misbehavior is a form of communication. We are the only species on this planet that need for than food, water, and shelter to survive. As a human being we have to have a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, a sense of contribution-or we will self-destruct. We read about it. We see it. So, if you guys can just even get that one little piece today, it’ll be huge. Your child still needs to go to bed, they still need to pick up the toys, they need to stop painting their sister; but you’re looking at is as a form of communication, not that they’re out to get you, or their spoiled brats, or something.

Sunny Gault: Wow, and that does change the way you view things.

Susie Walton: It’s a whole different paradigm.

Sunny Gault: Well it is. Wow! Ok, well at what age would you say do children typically know right from wrong?

Susie Walton: Well they can learn it-they start learning it when they start climbing up on the counter and we put them back down. Or they start putting their fingers in the socket [Laughter], and you remove them. You know, they start learning by our actions. Toddlers aren’t out to misbehave, I don’t think. They’re just trying to figure out what this thing is that we call life. What’s ok, what’ not ok? Why is it ok to splash in the bathtub but not splash all our food in our highchair? Why can we hose outside but not take the hose in the house and not hose down the inside? So they’re just trying to figure out what’s right and wrong. It’s how we handle it that has the biggest impact.

Hillary Gardner: I think a lot of people forget, also, that we were there at one point, and we had to learn what’s right and wrong. We just know-we just take it for granted that they know that they’re not supposed to do that. “What are you thinking?” They have to learn that-

Susie Walton: And we can do that without having to punish them. We don’t have to spank them on the bottom and say “Don’t you do that!” We don’t have to do that, you just remove them. “That’s no ok,” and you keep doing it.

Sunny Gault: Yeah, that kind of leads me into the next point. And that is, at what point is some form of discipline necessary? Because yes, they are trying to communicate with us, but my kid will do something over and over and over again, and me removing him from the situation-it’s just not working-It’s just not working, he’s just trying to communicate with me, I get that.
Susie Walton: What’s he doing?

Sunny Gault: What’s he doing? If I, in the morning, can’t open his door, because I’ve got those little lockie things on the doors-so he’s got to stay in there until I come to get him up. And if I don’t get him up right when he wants to get up, he will start taking everything out of his dresser drawers and throwing it in his room!

Hillary Gardner: She did that last week!

Sunny Gault: Oh, god, and she’s four! So I’ve got what, another year and a half of this crap?

Hillary Gardner: I think probably more than a year and a half.

Sunny Gault: Ok, but it drives me crazy, and I say to him, I’m just like “Sayer, you can’t do this, honey.” Just like-but I don’t even know what to do-but just like it’s just not working, me saying “no” isn’t working.

Susie Walton: Ok, so first of all, because what I heard you say is you tell him “you can’t do this?” Then what can he do?

Sunny Gault: He can leave them in the drawer! [Laughs]

Susie Walton: Have you told him that?

Sunny Gault: No…

Susie Walton: Yeah, so the thing is parents, especially women/moms-a long time ago many of us learned it wasn’t OK to ask for what we wanted. So it’s almost like-and know what you want is a sign of healthy self esteem-so we learn not to ask for what we want, but we’re good at saying what we don’t want. And the thing is when you tell a child….So right now, everybody who’s listening to this broadcast close your eyes. And with your eyes closed, don’t visualize a gray elephant. Now open your eyes. You all saw the elephant, because the brain does nothing with the word “don’t.” So when we’re telling our kids “Don’t get out of bed,” “Don’t throw your clothes,” “Don’t splash,” “Don’t hit;” all they here is “Get out of bed!” “Throw food!” and “Splash!” and “Hit!” And you’re not allowing them to be cooperative because you’re not telling them what you want.

Hillary Gardner: I try and do-we have a very similar thing. Like, my daughter will just come up and she’ll just hit me, just out of the blue. And I’m like “We use our hands to color, we use our hands to clap, we don’t hit.” So should I just exclude “We don’t hit?” Just keep saying, like….

Susie Walton: What I want you to exclude is saying “We...” I want you to use the word, “I…,” “I am not OK with being hit. I’m OK that you’re mad, I’m OK that you wanted something; I am not OK with you hitting me. You’re going to have to figure out a different way of letting me know.”

Hillary Gardner: Oh, got it. Ok.

Susie Walton: Ok? Use the word “I…” Be accountable. Own your stuff.

Hillary Gardner: But I’m very like-I’ll tell her “You can’t come out of your room in the morning until the clock says whatever, you can read books…”

Susie Walton: “I want you stay in your room until the clock gets to here, and if you want you can read books or you can play with your animals.” Or she’s four…

Hillary Gardner: Yes.

Susie Walton: Quit telling her what to do.

Hillary Gardner: We’re getting more to that point now. She’s much better now, trust me.

Susie Walton: “What can you do to take care of yourself in the morning?” And your son is two?

Sunny Gault: Two and a half.

Susie Walton: He’s getting there. “What can you do in your room that’s OK with me until I open the door. What are some ideas?” Because your kids are still in that-between two and five it’s a very power stage.

Sunny Gault and Hillary Gardner: Oh my gosh! [Laughter]

Susie Walton: Aaahh! [Laughter]

Hillary Gardner: The power! The power struggle, it’s just….Like I’ll say “We’re going to do this after you-“we’ll go somewhere or whatever. “Well I don’t really like that place anymore” Like she knows exactly- you know, and she wants to do it on her terms. And if I do something for her, just because we’re running late and I just have to, she’ll re-do it. She will take it apart; take off her shoes; do whatever, because she has to do it on her own pace.

Susie Walton: More often than not, you want to say-you’re going to want to ask them a question-question versus telling. Like, “When we’re done here, do you want to do this or that,” or “What do you have to put on your feet before we go outside?”

Hillary Gardner: Oh she says “Nothing.” That’s the response, because she knows what I’m trying- [Laughter] I give her choices; I was told “Give choices. Choices are great.”

Susie Walton: Well then you say, “Listen. It’s time to leave. Do you want to put on your shoes or do you want me to put them on?”

Hillary Gardner: She’ll say nothing. We’ve been through this.

Susie Walton: Well then you put them on.

Sunny Gault: Yeah.

Susie Walton: Don’t sit there and negotiate. Just put them on. Or “Do you want to put your shoes on in the house or in the car?” And not even all these choices, one of the best phrases-especially for a four year old, and a two and a half year old is getting there-is saying to them, “How are we going to make this work?” One night a dad was trying to get his four year old to go to bed, and it became a full-on power struggle; the little boy didn’t want to go to bed at all. So the dad was raising his voice and getting really angry, and you could hear it, so he stopped. And he said to his son, “This isn’t working. What are we going to do?” Four year old said, “Well Daddy, you could stop yelling at me.” Well, if Dad hadn’t been in the middle of my parenting class, he said he would have said, “If you listened to me the first time, I wouldn’t have to yell at you.”

Hillary Gardner: Was there a recording in my house? Because this is the exact situation and words…

Susie Walton: So listen, so listen. So the dad says, “You know what? You’re right. I should never yell at you.” So then he said again, “So what are we going to do?” The four year old said, “I could go to bed.” Dad said, “That would be great. Thanks for your help.”

Hillary Gardner: Oh my god. It’s like words of- [Angels singing noise]

Sunny Gault: There’s like light shining down on her. [Laughter]

Susie Walton: That’s a true story. The dad was in awe the next week when he came to my class, he was like “Oh, my gosh,” because he had a power four year old.

Hillary Gardner: Well and yeah, when you have to people who are both very-want what they want-and they’re not going to stop backing up against each other, it’s just like-hmmm

Sunny Gault: Right. Ok, so the original question was about discipline, you know? [Laughter]

Hillary Gardner: Sorry. [Laughter]

Sunny Gault: No, no, that’s fine. This is all good. But, at what point do you discipline them?

Susie Walton: To discipline is to teach. We start teaching the moment they’re born. 95% of what they learn is what we model. I tell parents of toddlers, especially toddlers, actions speak louder than words. They don’t need a lot of words. My granddaughter’s been throwing her diaper away from the moment she could hold something. Because I would take her to the trash, and now she just knows. Like “Please throw your diaper away,” and she just goes and throws it away.

Sunny Gault: Right.

Susie Walton: It’s like, when you have a child who keeps grabbing stuff. You just remove-I know you said you’ve been doing that a lot, Sunny-but just keep removing them. And removing them. Count: be entertained by it, “I wonder how many times it’s going to take?” Because one mom said, “Twenty times, Susie. Twenty times he pushed my limit, and he finally quit.” And I’m like, “and how are you?” [Laughter] “I was exhausted.” And I said, “Well, congratulations.” Because first of all, kids know by age three if you’re going actually going to stick to a limit that you’ve set.

Sunny Gault: Right.

Susie Walton: You just taught-you just gave a beautiful example to your child-that when he’s in high school and someone’s trying to get him to do something he probably shouldn’t do, you just modeled twenty times of holding to your limit. And it’s all about modeling. That’s why I tell parents, too, when you’re setting limits with these kids; don’t set a limit you’re not willing to follow through with. I don’t care if you’re tired- because if you give in when you’re tired you’re teaching your kid when they’re in high school and they’re tired to give in to it what they shouldn’t be giving in to. So it’s always modeling. So discipline starts from the moment- because it means to teach.

Sunny Gault: Ok.

Hillary Gardner: I think a lot of people, too, confuse discipline with punishment. And that’s a huge problem in my personal opinion.

Susie Walton: Yeah. Discipline to teach. Disciples are teachers. We’re teachers.

Sunny Gault: That’s a good point.

Susie Walton: Where we get in trouble is when we try to be a parent while we discipline. When you’re disciplining, look at yourself as an educator; when you’re snuggling and having fun and playing with your child, be a parent there. But we are our kids most important educator they’ll ever have.

Sunny Gault: Sure. Sure. So what are some of the common mistakes that parents makes when it comes to their toddlers misbehaving? What are we doing that most of us are doing that we shouldn’t be doing?

Susie Walton: The biggest thing is that you’re asking them too many times, over and over again. “It’s time to take a bath;” “It’s time to take a bath;” “Hey! We gotta take a bath;” “YOU’VE GOTTA TAKE A BATH!” [Laughter] And then the kid starts crying, and you’re like gaaaah [Exasperated sigh] “I can’t believe I was yelling already.” So that’s the-the repeat part is ridiculous.

Sunny Gault: Ok.

Susie Walton: Tell them once. And first of all, touch is the road to a child’s mind. So when you want your child to do something, if you touch them between the shoulder and the elbow, for some reason you just touch them on the arm, they look at you; and you say “Bath,” or “Bed,” or “Toys,” whatever it is that you want. But, one word- because we talk way too much, too, especially us women-so just touch and one word. And if you forget, and I go “Sunny, time for a bath,” because I just forget, and you don’t respond: Instead of saying, “Sunny!” I go with no words-no words parents, mothers: no words!- I go pick up Sunny and I take her to the bathtub with no words. We get in trouble-“Ok, I’m going to have to carry you.” “NOOOO!”-and then the tantrums take place. Like we give them-like we throw gas into the fire on our way to the fire.

Hillary Gardner: Is it bad in that type of situation- sometimes I’ve noticed with my daughter when she’ll do that power struggle-I’ll try and turn something into a game to get her to distract….Right when I notice she’s starting to throw a fit, I’ll throw her over my shoulder and tickle her and do something to totally distract her and then it turns into she’ll totally listen.

Susie Walton: That’s fine. That’s fine.

Hillary Gardner: Ok, phew! I did one thing right!

Sunny Gault: You passed. You get an A.

Hillary Gardner: Yes!

Susie Walton: Just not all the time, but you know when you feel like you can do it and-that wouldn’t work if they’re already in full-on tantrum mode, but kind of like…and then you just do it.

Hillary Gardner: Yeah. So in the situation with the bath, for instance, my husband does baths. He’s in charge of the baths and whatnot. And I hear that power struggle going on in the shower that whole entire time. “Stop splashing me!” “Stop it!” And then it starts to yelling, “Alright, you’re getting out.” Like, how in that situation would be a good way to-when you’re telling, “Stop splashing me. Please stop splashing me. We don’t splash.” What would say?

Susie Walton: “I’m not OK with you splashing me.”

Hillary Gardner: Ok. “I’m not OK with you splashing.”

Susie Walton: “So your choice is, stop splashing or the consequence will be you get out.” Instead of saying, “If you don’t stop…”

Hillary Gardner: Yeah, I try not to do that.

Susie Walton: Because that’s a threat. Good.

Hillary Gardner: Yeah, I try not to do the ifs….

Susie Walton: “So, your choice is keep the water in the shower or the bathtub, or the consequence is that you’ll have to get out; because I’m not OK with the splashing.” If they splash one more time, we don’t say “That’s your last warning.” No, we get them out. They don’t need a last warning, we don’t need to count to three. Anyone who has that “one, two, three magic!” book, throw it away, man.

Hillary Gardner: My daughter goes, “Four, five, six!” [Laughter]

Susie Walton: Yeah, I know, really? What are you going to do? Beat them at three? “two and a half, two and nine eighths. JUST DO IT!!” [Laughter]

Hillary Gardner: I’ve been there. [Laughter]

Sunny Gault: Ok, so we’ve asked them to do it too many times, right?

Susie Walton: Once is all they need.

Sunny Gault: Once is all they need, so what else are we doing wrong? Are we yelling too much? I feel like I yell all the time.

Hillary Gardner: I feel like we yell too much.

Susie Walton: Well, the thing is, you know-“Hillary, come here! I need you to come eat.” And then you’re like,”HILLARY!” And then Hillary’s like, “MOM!” and I’m like, “Don’t you yell at me! If you want me come and get me!”
[Laughs] So that’s another thing, too. It’s like, if we want them to do something go up to them.

Hillary Gardner: Yes, I have heard this: do not call to them from another room. Because we’re very guilty of this.

Sunny Gault: Oh, I do that all the time.

Hillary Gardner: “Lilly, bring me…” “Lilly, can you please go….”

Susie Walton: And there’s just no need to yell at them. Be more entertained by them. They’re not out to get us. They have a mind of their own. You know, there are no limits they need. But in general, relax with them, have fun with them. Because they’re hilarious. Aren’t they so funny?

Hillary Gardner: It’s true. If you-yes. It is so true.

Susie Walton: So you know, so I’m feeding into one more thing. The importance for you, parents, is to learn to take care of yourself. Because you know if’ you’ve slept eight hours, you worked out-them spilling their milk or them doing something doesn’t have that much impact with you. But if we haven’t slept, that’s when we start yelling and getting short with them. So it’s not about them, it’s us. If we can take care of ourselves, we are much more tolerant as a parent. And much more enjoyable. I always say if you’re kids are driving you crazy, there’s a 99% chance you’re driving them crazy.

Sunny Gault: Oh, yes. Yes. Sounds like my house. [Laughter] Alright. When we come back we’re going to talk about specific scenarios parents face every day with their toddlers. We’ll be right back.


Sunny Gault: Welcome back, everyone! Today we are talking about misbehaving toddlers, and our special expert is Susie Walton of Indigo Village. Alright, so let’s dive into some of these scenarios. Ok, most parents have this happen at one point or another: what do you do when your child says no and then hits you, kicks you, does something-I mean maybe not necessarily something in that order-but the whole rebelling in that manner?

Susie Walton: So, first of all, don’t provide your child an opportunity to say “No” if that’s not an opportunity that you want to hear, so to speak. Ok, so for me to say, “Sunny, are you ready for your bath?” You say, “No!” Then I say, “Well, you have to.” Then why did I ask? It’s important that kids know how to say no, so give to them when you’re ok. Say, “Hey, Sunny. Want a carrot?” “No.” “Ok” So I’m letting you be comfortable-but don’t ask when that’s not an option. So, “It’s bath time; do you want to hop into the bath or do you want me to carry you?” They might say “No, no bath.” Then with no words you pick them up and take them to the bath. We-I’m telling you guys-the reason that a lot of the hitting and stuff takes place is because then we say “Then I’m going to carry you.” You know, we start talking to them.

Hillary Gardner: What? Across my face I just can’t even tell you-

Susie Walton: Well, if you just pick them up with no words, you’re halfway to the bathroom before they even know where they’re going. Because you never spoke, you just followed through. If they do hit you, you just say to them, “I am not OK with you hitting me. I am OK with you being mad. I am not OK with hitting.” And I walk away.

Hillary Gardner: And I’ll say to her in that situation-like, exactly the same-“I’m not OK with you hitting me.” And I’ll say, “If you’re upset, use your words. Tell me how you feel. Do not hit.” But I don’t know, maybe that’s not the right thing.

Susie Walton: Well that’s a lot of words at that moment.

Hillary Gardner: Oh, OK. Got it.

Sunny Gault: Yeah. You just said “Use your words.” [Laughter]

Susie Walton: So the thing is, you guys- what you said Hillary is great, but that needs to be talked about at a calm time. “I’ve noticed sometimes, Lilly, when you get mad at me you hit me and you say things.” And then you say “It’s OK that you’re mad,” and then you have that conversation. But in the heat of the moment when emotions are going? So when kids get emotionally charged-or actually all of us- the blood leaves the logical part of the brain and moves into the emotional stem of the brain. The teaching takes place at calm times, OK? Like if you look at John Wooden, one of the all-time best basketball coaches’ ever-UCLA. If you watched him coach-he hardly coached during the game, his coaching took place at practice. In the game time, he’d sit there with his little program folded up and, you know, call timeouts-but they’re wouldn’t be a lot of teaching. Because you can’t teach in that moment. Right? When you hear of a child that does a lot of kicking, a lot of hitting, it usually means that they’re very kinesthetic. See auditory kids who learn by listening, they usually use their words. Kinesthetic kids, they show you how they feel by their actions. So the hitting and the kicking is-he’s telling you how he’s feeling, just through his body. So what- it’s hard to tell a kinesthetic child, “Use your words.” Because they’re like, “Why? I just hit you, don’t you know how I feel?” I mean, it’d be like telling and auditory child, “Don’t tell me how you feel, show me.” And they’d be like, “Why? I just told you I’m mad.” And I’m not promoting hitting but what I’m going to promote right now is kinesthetic kids-they’re the ones that kick, bite and hit-If they’re mad, tell them to grab their T-shirts, and stomp their feet and go “Mad! Mama! Mad! Mad! Mad!” But here, he’s grabbing his shirt, so he’s not hitting you. He’s stomping his feet so he has some action behind it. But he’s not hurting anyone. So teach him to do that; just hold his T-shirt or put his hands in his pockets-

Hillary Gardner: Would that work for like a, not even two year old?

Susie Walton: You mean, like your husband? [Laughter]

Hillary Gardner: [Laughter] No! I hope he’s not listening. No for, like my nephew for instance-he has two older sisters. He’s almost two; his sisters are fourteen and nine. So, he sees them-he repeats a lot of their behavior-so the nine year old’s like, stomp off when she’s upset. So now, he’s started stomping off and hitting-well she doesn’t hit-but now he’s started doing some of a lot of that. So is that something my sister could sort of incorporate?

Susie Walton: Yeah, sure. Ya, grab the T-shirt. Grab the bottom of it and go “Mad Mama! Mad! Mad! Mad!”

Hillary Gardner: Oh, OK. OK.

Sunny Gault: OK. A tantrum in public- because this happens regardless-if I try to go out inevitably something’s going to happen. So this is everything. Fom you’re at whatever store and they just have a complete meltdown, you’ve got your list of stuff that you’ve got to get done, and it’s just an all out, drag out, tantrum-to eating in public. You know, I mean, my little guy is very active. And if I make him sit for a specific amount of time, he will get restless. So, in general how do you handle those? Because you feel also that as a parent you’re being judged by other people when you’re out in public…

Susie Walton: So, first of all, you’re not being judged. All the other parents are looking at you going “Oh, my god. Thank god that’s not me.” [Laughter]

Hillary Gardner: That’s why I always say, “I’ve been there.”

Susie Walton: The only parents I ever judge are the parents who are grabbing their kids and spanking them in public. Kids are having a tantrum and the mom’s sitting there-I’m thinking “Oh, my god. You poor woman. Hang in there-it happens to all of us.”

Hillary Gardner: I agree.

Susie Walton: They’re not judging you; they’re just like, “Oh, I feel so bad for you.” So don’t worry about the judgment part. OK?Also, make sure the timings right when you take them. Make sure they have food in their stomachs, they’re not ready for a nap and you’re trying to throw in a market at the last second. Make sure you haven’t been throwing them in and out of the car seat for like five times straight. Like, they have to have some run around time in between to get some of that exercise. You know, carry a snack that you know that they like, carry it in the little thing.

Hillary Gardner: You know, what I have found works with Lilly now that she’s a little older, I’ll go “Can you help me?” “Can you help me find something that’s purple?” Like I get her involved. We had one meltdown at a store where I was like, not knowing what to do; and I have a bad back, I can’t lift my daughter a lot of the time. And then, she had fractured her clavicle, so we had two double whammies against us, and I had to go to Costco-had to, had to, had to. She wanted to sit in the front of the cart, but I couldn’t lift her not only because of my back, but you couldn’t lift her by her arms, because of the clavicle-so I had to lift her by her waist. She didn’t want to sit in the back of the cart, she wanted to sit in the front of the cart. Literally, threw herself down on the floor, spread her arms out-like freaking out because she wanted to sit-and I’m like “I don’t know what to do!”

Susie Walton: What’d you do?

Hillary Gardner: I’m like, “Honey, we gotta get up!” And I gave her hugs and I’m like, “Calm down. We can walk or you can sit in the back.” “I want to sit in the front!” And I mean I’ve never had to deal with that. I’ve been really lucky where she’s never really thrown a big fit in public. And I’m like “I don’t know what to do!” And moms are looking at me and I’m like “Oh, my god.”

Susie Walton: That’s when you ask them-but see it takes a village. That’s when you ask another mom and say, “Listen, she wants to be in the front. I have a bad back, would you be willing to put her in the front?” You ask someone.

Hillary Gardner: I know, but I feel bad!

Susie Walton: Well, you can’t!

Hillary Gardner: I tell this to my clients, “I can help you. I’ll carry your kid. I’ll do it.” But with my own kid…

Susie Walton: I know. Quit trying to do things on your own, parents out there! It takes a village. Anybody at Costco would have been more than happy to help you with that baby and get her back up in the thing.

Hillary Gardner: Yeah.

Sunny Gault: You know what sometimes I will do if I feel bad to ask for help I’ll make a bigger deal out of it than what it is, and usually people will feel bad and just offer to help. [Laughter]

Hillary Gardner: “Oh, my god! You don’t want to get in the cart? What am I going to do?!”

Susie Walton: Oh, my god. I would love to see that, Sunny.

Sunny Gault: It has happened. I have done it.

Susie Walton: That is funny.

Sunny Gault: Ok, so that kind of covers going out in public. So, what if your kid is jealous of other siblings?

Susie Walton: That means they’ve lost their place in the family dynamics. They don’t know where they belong. So they get jealous. So you want to find them their own little-like they become the keeper of the time. Or they become your kitchen assistant. Expecially the older ones…

Sunny Gault: They need a role. They need a specific role.

Hillary Gardner: Specific responsibilities.

Susie Walton: Well they need role play. A specific spot-especially the older ones when they get dethroned by the babies. It’s called dethronement. So, basically you have to find a new place for them to belong. And stay away from saying like, “You get to be a good helper to your sister.” Stay away from the word “Good.” Keep the sister out of it. They want something more.

Sunny Gault: They want something that’s uniquely theirs.

Susie Walton: Yeah. Like “The Supervisor of the Dog.” Give it big names.

Hillary Gardner: Like if the baby wasn’t there, what would they be doing? Kind of like that?

Susie Walton: Well, no, because if baby wasn’t there they’d be running the show.

Hillary Gardner: Well, like their “job,” not involving the baby at all is what I meant.

Susie Walton: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Kitchen Assistant is a great one. And when it comes to jealousy; if they’re saying, “Well, I wish I could ride my bike as good as Hillary,” you say, “Well, do you want to ride your bike that good?” Or “I wish I could spell like my brother,” you say “Do you wish you could spell better?” Because sometimes they say that kind of stuff just to see how you respond, because they think that you might like the other child more because they can do something better.

Sunny Gault: Right. Right.

Susie Walton: So you just say, “If you want to practice your spelling words, I’ll help you. If that’s so important to you,” or “If you want to practice riding your bike, I can help you with that.” And they’ll say, “Nah, I’m going to go throw a baseball or something.” So they were just kind of checking you out to see how you felt.

Sunny Gault: Because they’re testing us, too. Just as much as we’re learning our roles and trying-I feel like he’s testing me all the time!

Hillary Gardner: They’re all testers!

Susie Walton: They’re trying to figure out what’s OK and what’s not OK.

Sunny Gault: I know that a lot of parents have sleep issues: like their kids don’t want to sleep? You know, or it’s nap time? I fight with nap time quite a bit. You know, and what I do now; we have a set nap time, it’s one o’clock, and he goes down, and you know-he’s good once he’s down, it’s getting him down. So what I’ve been doing is we eat right before- so I’m hoping to fill up his belly, make him nice and comfortable-make sure his diaper’s changed, do all that kind of stuff; and then put him down. But, inevitably, unless he’s just really tired, it will take him a half hour and I will hear hitting on the walls, I will hear stuff coming out of drawers-you know? So what do you do?

Susie Walton: So he’s not in the crib?

Sunny Gault: Oh, no, no, no. He escaped out of the crib at eighteen months, so I had to-

Susie Walton: Ok. Well the thing is, my granddaughter does the same thing. I was just there yesterday; it took her an hour to fall asleep. She’s in there jumping, kicking the crib- because she’s in a crib still-jumping around, kicking, singing. I ignore it until I hear some crying and then I go in, because she’ll either have to get her diaper changed or threw her binky out-pacifier-sometimes everything out of her crib’s gone. Blankets, everything-and then I put it back in with no words, I give her a binky, I lay her down and I go, “It’s time for sleep.” Well now she’s mimicked me, as I walk out the door she goes, “Time sleep. Time sleep.” [Laughter] And I’m like “Oh, my gosh!”

Hillary Gardner: How do you not laugh? I have a really hard time not laughing when.

Susie Walton: I have to turn my head so I can’t laugh!

Hillary Gardner: I know! I know.

Susie Walton: Because once she does fall asleep, like your son? She’s out for two hours-but it can take up to an hour. But I’m not giving into her and letting her get out of the crib because she’s tired. [Laughter]

Sunny Gault: Yeah. So if my kid is going crazy in his room and it’s nap time, it’s ok just to leave him in there. Just let him- because he’ll crash, eventually. My walls may get damaged, but he’ll crash.

Susie Walton: You could say to him “When you’re ready to go to sleep, just put yourself back in bed.”

Sunny Gault: Yeah! Because he’ll fall asleep on the floor, he’s so exhausted he’ll just fall asleep.

Susie Walton: So “go to sleep back in bed.” So, I have a story that I want to tell you. So, I tell parents, bedtime is bedtime at night, and I used to say if they’re seven or eight and they’re not tired, say “OK, well read in your bed, and fall asleep when you’re ready.” Well last year this man, this dad in my class, he goes “You know, I actually have a three and a half year old, and every night it has been horrific. He’s pounding on the door when we shut the door. He ends up falling asleep eventually, but all the books are on the ground, the lights are on, and he’s right by the door. He goes, “So the next night after your class I went to my three and a half year old and I said, ‘Listen, from now on you’re in charge of putting yourself to bed. I’m going to shut the door when it’s time for bed, and you can go to sleep whenever you’re ready. But what I’d really appreciate from you is if you’d turn off the light and be in bed when you’re done.’” The very first night, it gets quiet. He goes in there: the light is out and the boy’s in bed. Because the dad told him-but three and a half, that’s pretty young. So you can just tell your two and a half-I don’t know if he’ll get it yet but-“When you’re ready to fall asleep, just get back into bed and go to sleep.”

Sunny Gault: Ok. Well thank you Susie!

Hillary Gardner: Thank You!

Susie Walton: You’re welcome, of course!

Sunny Gault: Thank you for providing us with this information.

Susie Walton: Absolutely.

Sunny Gault: For more information about Susie, about Hillary and I, and more resources on this topic; you can visit our website at ParentSavers.com. After the show, for our Parent Savers Club members, we’ll explore a couple more scenarios submitted by our Facebook friends.


Sunny Gault: Before we conclude today’s episode, here is blogger David Vienna of The Daddy Complex.

David Vienna: Hi Parent Savers! This is The Daddy Complex. I’m David Vienna, father of twin boys, and if my experiences taught me anything about parenting, it’s that I know nothing about parenting.That vintage 1976 wool rug that you discovered at the thrift store? Roll it up! That limited edition Army of Darkness figurine of Ash, complete with chainsaw hand? Pack it away! The antique chairs your parents passed down to you in the hopes that they would one day be passed on to their grandchildren? That succession stops with you; unless splintered chairs are the new trend. Childproofing your home protects your kids, but I defy you to find a way to protect your home or anything else from your kids. Which is why it’s best if you just stop getting upset about damage done-and maybe, if something needs to get replaced, get the cheap version-it’ll get damaged again. Last year we purchased a new minivan. We love it! It makes it super easy to haul around two toddlers, a dog, and whatever groceries/luggage/jet pack prototypes we may have. And don’t get me started on the sounds system. Anyway, I don’t know when the title of “New Car” officially wears off, but the fit I’m about to relay happened at about the three-month mark. And three months is by no means old! It still had that “New Car” smell. One holiday weekend as we drove north for a visit with the grandparents, our son Wyatt got a tickle in his throat, coughed twice, then projectile vomited a bottle’s worth of milk all over the back of the passenger’s seat and inside the door and the floor mats and his car seat- just all for a little turning of the knife? He wasn’t even sick! He just coughed too hard and then did an impression of a dairy fountain. So, just three months after we purchased the minivan, I had to shell out a chunk of change to have the thing detailed. But because I already accepted that everything we have is subject to destruction by the boys, I wasn’t upset. It’s just part of raising a toddler. Or in my case, two incredible destructive toddlers; there’s simply no way around it, your children will destroy stuff. There are entire blogs dedicated to this truism. So getting mad about it proves about as useful and worthy as screaming at the moon. And once your tot shoves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into your new Blu Ray player, if you don’t keep some perspective, you’ll go stark raving mad and do just that. Check out more of my terrible advice at thedaddycomplex.com, The Huffington Post, or on Twitter @thedaddycomplex. You can also view episodes of “Fighting with Babies-” my puppet web series for parents-at thedaddycomplex.com/fwb. And be sure to keep listening to Parent Savers for more fatherly tips.


Sunny Gault: Thanks for listening to today’s episode. Don’t forget to check out our sister show Preggie Pals, which is all about pregnancy- and The Boob Group, which is all about breastfeeding. This is Parent Savers: empowering new parents.

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