Q: We have a rambunctious toddler and newish baby. Both my husband and I are committed to never spank or hurt our kids, but we do yell more than I like us to. We apologize, and try to do better, but the fact remains that we yell, and I hate it.
It's usually in response to something surprising — for example, the 2-year-old has just poured a glass of milk in my lap — or something that involves deliberately hurting the baby, like pushing him down or trying to stand on him or something. How do we get better?
A: I suggest a few things:
1. Make sure you are always informed about what your kids are and are not developmentally able to do. When you know someone can't help something, it upsets and surprises you less, which means you respond to it more sympathetically. As in, better.
2. Remember that your reactions teach your children as much, if not more, than your actions and words do. So, when you yell at your toddler for toddler-handling the baby, you associate the baby with a negative experience for your toddler. Think love as you choose your words.
Think prevention, too; there's less to yell about when less goes wrong. Childproof thoroughly, supervise tightly (no phone, laptop, TV), and anticipate constantly with careful diversion and distraction.
3. As possible, clear your mind and schedule of any expectations other than being in the moment with your kids. There will be time for everything else eventually because everything else is secondary. Trust that.
4. There are great (and, of course, sometimes conflicting) books on toddler management out there, but different kids and parents are different, too, so yay to variety. Ask your pediatrician, skim some first chapters, and then pick one. Parents who adopt and work together according to a general template are more likely to stay on the rails when the Cheerios really fly.