HELP! Fanning the Flames: Summer Sanity Tips Parenting Toddlers
Are you fervently fanning the flames this summer, and we don’t mean just your brats, impossible burgers, shrimp, tofu, or hot dogs on the grills from your luaus, neighbourhood block parties, and family fiestas? In reality, we’re referring to the flames of frustration, fear, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, depression, stress, and worries that often plague us as parents. These struggles often seem to exacerbate as the summer heat intensifies and kids are home from schools and camps with less structure, more sugar in their little engines, and often reduced sleep due to family road trips, vacations, excursions to zoos and amusement parks, etc.
Whether you’re a foster parent, parent with a partner or spouse, step-parent, grandparent, single parent, co-parent, teacher, mentor, or coach, we’ll explore some reasons why these fires tend to fuel within your toddlers as far as tantrums, aggression, and acting out. In turn, we’ll then deliver some practical, evidence-based, mindful, and conscious parenting strategies to enable you to fade those fiery flames and stay sane this summer.
Just as our brand here urges you to keep it classy, that’s exactly what you’re striving to achieve as parents as far as patience, compassion, flexibility, empathy, and self-care. Are you ready to extinguish that parenting angst with us today? No bathing suits or SPF are required—thank goodness!
Wildfires: Common Sources Of Your Toddlers’ Misbehaviors
First, let’s briefly examine some common sources of your toddlers’ misbehaviors that can often ignite wildfires in your homes, cars, public outings, as well bath times, meals, and bedtime rituals as well as your children’s school, playground, and extracurricular encounters. Do you ever feel the urge to stop, drop, and roll? Check out our typical root causes of toddlers’ misbehaviors, if your child is fighting, striking, screaming, biting, sassing, or harassing you or others (or all the above)!
- Peer Patrol: Peer pressures and influences, even at such a young age, can increase your toddlers’ actions, words, and thoughts. Kids tend to learn from older siblings, neighbors, and peers, so be a member of the peer patrol and try to organize play days with positive influences, join community events at the local library or various religious/spiritual connections, link with family members and neighbors, etc.
- Media Mania: Be vigilant about all tech and media consumption in your life as well as your child’s. Limit his or her exposure to news and traumatic events. Even adorable children’s shows like Masha and the Bear and PJ Masks can contain some traces of violence and aggression.
Consider using PBS’ Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Doc Mc Stuffins to teach songs about how to be calm and to use your words. Both expose your child to diverse characters as well as emotional regulation strategies.
- Jazzy Genes: Not, the fashion apparel, jeans, but the hereditary kind. Take time to assess how both your own temperament and your child's temperament can often cause conflicts and flames to flicker. Fully understand and empathize with your child.
- Rat Race: Is your child overscheduled and overbooked? Are you feeling more “Insane in the Membrane” with mommy and daddy brain lately? This overload can be a major contributor to your child’s behavioral struggles.
Likewise, Race & Piquet (2015) posit how kids’ brains are today are wired to remain on high alert, regardless of whether they are faced with immediate threats. In fact, our kids are growing up “in a culture that constantly stimulates the stress response — fight, flight, or freeze”
For this reason, ensure your family schedules aren’t pack-ratted; do a self-check on parental expectations or pressures to perform, too. Get your Zen on as adults as well since kids emulate parental and caregivers’ energy levels and moods.
- Let’s Get Physical: Dig into the physical roots of any underlying issues. Is your child lacking sleep? My child’s doc recommends 9- 11 hours per night for my toddler.
Are you stressed and lacking self-care as a mama or papa bear? Is your idea of a healthy meal another greasy fast food takeout order? Is your child literally on a sugar high via candies, sodas, caffeinated items, etc.? Moodiness can often be related to digestive issues, so watch cheese and dairy overload that can often cause kids’ tummy tantrums! Be a gustbuster in a good way and consider probiotics, too.
Fire Extinguisher Positive Parenting Tools and Mindfulness Tactics:
After discussing some common sources of toddlers’ flames and furies, let’s look at positive parenting tips and tools to be more mindful:
- Go Green: Nature is a proven healer and calmer. Turn off the TV and gadgets to unglue your families’ minds and bodies from too much exposure to electronics, vitamin and mineral deficiencies or not getting enough fresh air and sunshine Ref. Allocate tech timeouts and enforce them as a whole family.
Engage in pro-environmental choices with your child like scavenger hunts for rocks and leaves, hikes, walks or strolls in the park, trips to an animal shelter or wildlife refuge. Swimming, soccer, corn hole, Frisbee, bike rides, etc. Of course modify for your littles one’s safety. Sidewalk chalk, butterfly catching, and bubbles are fun with toddlers!
- Mindful Meals and Snack Attacks: Aim for healthy meals and snacks. Cooking and preparing them together is really important. Something as simple as a healthy smoothies and adding chia and flax seeds can make a big difference in mood foods! Ready to beat Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray?
- Gumby Gumption: Be flexible like classic Gumby. Model tolerance and patience by making a conscious effort to understand and validate your child’s feelings. Use your words as a model to guide them to use theirs, too, when they’re frustrated. Try articulating, “I know, honey, it’s such a bummer when your balloon pops;” I’m sad, too, that we have to go home, but the timer said it’s time to go home!” Empathy helps to diffuse the negative, toxic toddler vibes!
- Be a Model: Along the same lines, be a model. Not the Tyra Banks or Heidi Klum caliber, but try to really what Sibonney (2019) advocates and distinguish between reacting to children from the centered state of who they are and from parental egos Ref .
- Chillax: In the midst of a child’s meltdown, try this technique on yourself and child called "Stop, breathe, and chill” from Francis (2008): use positive self-talk to replace "I'm going to snap!" with "I’ve got this” (p.10)!
- Power Plays: I actually created this mantra called “1 and Then Done” when my kids struggles to leave a playground, party, or anywhere fun. They get to choose one more activity before we leave while I set a quick timer or alarm on my phone. Giving choices over food, clothing, one more item for play, and other daily activities can help to alleviate many of the battles. Bringing stickers to distract is also a cheap and accessible way to curb the mini meltdowns, especially in public places. Wait staff really appreciate getting stickers from kids, too!
- Mind over Matter: Of course kids’ excessive questions can be annoying and redundant, but experts such as Chopra (2008) strongly advise us not to avoid answering a child’s whys: “Why do I have to share? Why do I have to say thank you? Why do I have to forgive my sister? The deeper meaning of our daily encounters sets the foundation for our children's choices and values. And, if we take the time to explore how words make people feel good or bad, or how forgiveness allows us to love and to let go of hurt, we are providing our children with deep life lessons” (p. 62).
- Love and Limits: Setting limits is so critical because they reinforce “I'm the adult here. Stevenson says that as early as 9 months, children need to know consistently what behavior is acceptable and what is not” (Southgate, 2002, p. 210). Build bridges with kids, not walls!
- How To Tame Your Dragons: Choose your child’s favorite character. My preschooler loves dragons, so when she’s mad, I allow her to cool off, find a quiet place, engage in some deep belly breathing, and “tame her dragons!” It’s less punitive in lingo than a timeout and works super well!
- LOL: As parents, maintaining our sense of humor is beneficial, so we can remain calm, nonjudgmental, and more objective.
- School Days: Don’t stop learning. Check out a parenting book at the local library or listen to a podcast or webinar, etc.
- Scent of a Woman/Man: Calm your kids and selves with aromatherapy like holy basil, spearmint, and lavender, etc. Home spa day? Foot soaks are also fun and therapeutic.
- Meditative Mamas and Papas: Add breathing exercises, mini meditations, body scans, and child yoga poses to your parenting toolbox. One expert also suggests introducing finger breathing to kids: “Line up each fingertip with the corresponding fingertips of the opposing hand. Draw the fingers close together and with the inhalation expand the fingers, stretching them out while keeping the tips connected; with the exhalation, let the fingers draw back together. Allow the fingers to follow the breath in and out, expanding and contracting” ref.
Make breathing even more kid-friendly by allowing children to choose a stuffed animal and place on their bellies as you count how many times the animal rides up and down aligned with their breathing ref. Let’s OM out!
- Holla for Hearing: Similarly, teach mindful listening. I like to use freeze dances, “Mother May I” and Simon says with my daughters.
- Rose Parade: We’re not talking about the holiday parade, but make “Rose, Bud, and Thorn” part of your mindful routine, as recommended by Race & Piquet (2015).
No, this tip doesn’t involve secret gardens, but it entails debriefing each day with your kiddos to recall their “roses, something good over the course of the day.” Then discuss the challenges, mistakes or “thorns.” The buds are the teachable moment or cool to work on, so a child can bloom and grow.
- DIY: Any type of art, puppet shows, games, and crafts are effective. I also like to make calm boxes and gratitude jars with my girls. What will be your go-to DIY to fan the flames?
- Find Your Tribe: Connect with other parents and caregivers (Southgate, 2002, p. 210). Who’s on your team? Perhaps starting your own positive parenting group or tribe will be your way to cultivate connections?
- Stay in the Bubble: Teach kids about boundaries by having them learn to stay in their own proximity bubble. This tactic can reduce physical behaviors.
- Mother Goose on the Loose: Make sure your toddlers’ clothes are comfy, easy to put on and take off. Check out our sales items to sizzle and stay sane this summer!
From Sizzle to Fizzle: Fanning the Flames of Tumultuous Toddlerhood
In sum, think of parenting not as a paradigm but as a dance. Like learning choreography, parenting takes practice. Sparrowe (1997) suggests how “We don't bring up children, we dance with them. And as we share in the dance we learn not to step on each other's toes, to lead sometimes and to follow other times, to pay attention to our partner's needs, and to sing along” (p. 78). Let’s dance with our little stars and families today in a more positive and mindful way!
Chopra, M. (2008). Conscious Parenting. Scholastic Parent & Child, 15(5), 62–63.
DORMOIS SULLINS, R. (2019). Getting Your Child Un-Stuck from Anxiety and Inaction. Exceptional Parent, 49(3), 26–28. Retrieved from http://www.ep-magazine.com/blog/getting-your-child-un-stuck-from-anxiety-and-inaction
Francis, M. (2008). peaceful parenting. Scholastic Parent & Child, 15(8), 10.
Gale, M. (2017). How Busy Working Parents Can Make Time for Mindfulness. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles, 1–4. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/11/how-busy-working-parents-can-make-time-for-mindfulness
RACE, K., & PIQUET, S. (2015). Stress at Camp? No, Never.. Camping Magazine, 88(1), 26–29. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/articles/stress-camp-no-never-three-mindful-practices-create-kinder-happier-healthier-campers-counselors
SIBONNEY, C. (2019). The Problem Isn’t Your Kids, It’s You. Today’s Parent, 36(3), 30. Retrieved from https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/conscious-parenting-the-problem-isnt-your-kids-its-you/
Southgate, M. (2002). The Wonder Years. Essence, 33(6), 210.
Sparrowe, L. (1997). The Heart of Parenting: Bringing up conscious kids is a practice in itself. How can we nurture their spirits - and renew ours at the same time? Yoga Journal, (135), 78.
Vietze, D. L., & Hildebrandt, E. J. (2009). Multiculturally Conscious Parenting: Promoting Peace and Teaching Tolerance to Young Children. Encounter, 22(4), 33–37.
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