10 Things to Try with Toddlers

1. Sign Language: Before they learn to speak, babies are routinely frustrated. How would you feel if you were hungry, gassy, and sitting in your own urine all day?

I’m looking at YOU Phish fans.

Teaching sign language helps our little ones feel understood. Like the first time I heard Adelle or discovered Red Velvet Oreos. It’s happening. Communicate with simple signs for sorry, more, again, please, and thank you and watch their eyes light up when you all connect in this way.

Make a sad face when your babies are upset and laugh when they’re happy. Sign along with songs and they will, too. This helps them communicate and bond with adults and older children.

They don’t cry or scream as much. And neither will you.

2. Play time with Daddy or some other guy: I know, all that “throwing them in the air” bullshit snatches your last nerve. But listen to them laugh…

That kind of play, within reason – put the knives away – teaches kids to a) trust themselves, which builds self-esteem, and b) trust the main man in your lives, which builds a stronger foundation of emotional support.

Move them outside, sometimes that’s safer, and think happy thoughts as they scream, jump, rough-house, and tumble in the grass. Releasing energy is good for them. Try not to freak, a bruise or a bump won’t kill anyone.

Activity that leaves you frazzled actually helps them get stronger and sure of themselves, which leads to more confidence in school and fewer chances a bully will step to them. Plus they go to bed earlier when they’re tired, and that leaves plenty of time for you to engage in some rough-housing of your own with Daddy…or some other guy.

3. Time Out: We all need a break. If your little gifts from God want to argue the merits of cleaning up toys or whether it’s appropriate to put French fries in their bellybuttons, put them in a quiet place, and tell them to enjoy some alone time.

They’re probably sick of you, too.

A good standard – time out should last a minute for every year they’ve been alive. Added bonus: Time out will help them live another year.

Say that last bit with a smile.

4. Give everything 10 “chances” before giving up: Tell them this is how Daddy and Mommy made it past the honeymoon.

Children don’t typically enjoy new foods right away. If you have a child remarkably advanced in this area, good for you. Keep it to yourself.

Finicky appetites are normal. Giving up because Junior doesn’t like potatoes or anything green and suffering through 18 years of making different meals for everyone in the house? FUCK THAT.

Zachary cried the first time I gave him a cupcake. I suspected he’d feel differently one day. I was right. Same goes with EVERY OTHER TYPE OF FOOD. If a meal is healthy, tasty, and does NOT cause anaphylactic shock? Eat it or go hungry, bedwetters. Mommy’s got a life to lead.

This isn’t just good advice with food. If kids turn their noses up at exercise, museums, sporting events, types of music, or anything new, don’t give up. Try it again. Then try it again. And then try it one more time.

5. Celebrate holidays you don’t observe: When I was an at-home mom, I celebrated everything. I’m not black, but could “What up?” with the best of ‘em at Juneteenth Day. I’m not Mexican, but was all “TASTE THIS GUACAMOLE” at Cinco de Mayo.

Communism never interested me, but I rocked a pole dance for May Day.

Wait…what were we talking about?

Every month, I experimented with different foods (read: ordered out) and played music from whatever ethnic group we were hijacking. Added bonus: Cocktails are tasty in any culture. These celebrations provided a fun and interesting break in our routine.

Because really, how many ways can you make strained carrots and chopped-up cheese sticks seem interesting?

6. Yoga: The day you realize your two year-old can easily do stretches you haven’t mastered in over a decade is a bad crazy day. Take the challenge there, Spring Chicken. Show her who’s boss.

7. Meditating: Teach your kid a mantra for when she’s pissed off or stressed out. Have her close her eyes. Take deep breaths. Relax.

She might even fall asleep.

8. Have FUN: Laugh out loud every single day. Run in the rain and play in the mud, get dirty. Sing in the car and make silly faces. Let your kids pick their own mis-matched clothes. Help them feel empowered and encourage within them a “find the fun” attitude. Even if you’re related to investment bankers or economists. Every day. No excuses.

9. Write down all the shit they say:

“Yessir, Captain Mommy!”

“I’m are kind and loving.”

“I have no entire clue.”

“So just you know.”

“I’m not haffing you!”

These are gems you don’t want to forget. Ever.

10. Create a haven: Lots of people believe the world is a tough, rough, and rude place to be, so we must teach our kids to be strong from the very beginning. I totally agree.

However, I am against the idea that in order to do this, we have to be tough, rough, or rude ourselves. Kids who feel loved and supported are wicked strong, which is why our home should be our haven. Our inner circle is a retreat from all the nastiness in the world. A safe place where we can be ourselves.

My family will never be too sensitive, not with me at the dinner table or Instagram on our cell phones. We tease, poke, challenge. And still avoid hurting each other. That boundary is different with everyone, but as long as everyone feels safe to be themselves, they can and will go out into the real world – and conquer it.