Your kids respond to music and sounds and get distracted just like we do. Saying “stop” or “no” is not as effective if you have the TV in the background, nursery rhymes playing off a device, or your child is holding a stuffed animal that talks or makes noise. When your child starts moving independently and you’re trying to shape behavior and teach lessons, try turning the TV or music off before you do. A stern voice in silence beats yelling in noise.
Do you say the word “no” and then pick up your child, give them their favorite toy to distract them? Do you say “no” and then move them to their play area? You might not realize that you are unintentionally giving them rewards and attention for their problem behavior. When they are exhibiting bad habits, try picking them up and taking them to an area with no toys using slow, deliberate steps (so it doesn’t seem like a “fun” game,) or try saying “no” and then sitting with them for a few seconds in silence.
Think about this…
If your child grabs an object, such as your phone and screams when you take it away and your next step is to immediately give it back… what is that telling the child? That is telling them that SCREAM-ING will ensure they get what they want. Praise them for exhibiting positive behavior with words like “You let daddy change you so fast!” Or “You turned the page on the book!” Make sure to smile so the baby can recognize your body language.
Family restrooms are generally ubiquitous in libraries, airports and many public spaces, but they can be hard to spot if you’ve spent your life ignoring them. Going into a family restroom allows you privacy and quiet while you change your baby at your own pace. Remember, even though it says family restroom, you can still enter if it’s just you and the child. The reason this is important is that since men’s restrooms often have changing pads, you might never think about using the family restroom. Family restrooms generally are less noisy and let’s just say… they have a more pleasant smell than a large public restroom. Additionally, family restrooms often have a seat that you can strap your toddler into if you really need to go yourself and have no other option.
Unconscious Bias Check: Look at the image above. Do you notice something off about the sign with the changing pad? Do you notice that it is showing the image of (only) a mother changing the child. I’ve changed my daughter dozens of times when I am outside of the house and I felt a major anxiety about it because it just seems like something men normally don’t do.
While this tip might seem obvious, I want you to think about it. If you are alone with your child and they need to be changed, which sign would you choose? With so much going on, how quickly would you process that the picture of a woman in a skirt changing her child is also a place that you can go to. While many family restroom signs feature a man, woman a child, sometimes you have to fight through those moments where the world simply forgets that you’re capable. I hope you remember this tip and that you have a great traveling experience with your child.
Every day I wake up and ask myself “how other parents do it”. There are parents out there who have children with special needs, complicated family and/or housing relationships, have a variety of other parenting challenges, but they persist and make it work. Their situation does not compare to mine, I have the luxury of time, a loving and supporting partner and only one child. I also have family and friends who take their time to provide support. Despite all of this, I am still tired and I do not know what tomorrow brings. From the daily stress to the challenges of finding quality childcare, parenting is not easy in general. I have tons of bad days.
I write these tips as if I “know” what I’m doing, but so many of the things I’ve put together are a combination of what I’ve stumbled upon, or what other people have shared. I just decided to sit down and write them out… and the truth is, there are times where I forget my own advice…
True Story: Our daughter is moving around the house and shouting, with her arms straight back “Naruto Run” style. My wife is putting away the food as I leave my plate on the table.
My Wife: Can you grab your plate and wash it
Myself: I’m watching her. She’s going to run into something. How am I supposed to watch her and get the dish at the same time?
My Wife: Oh I don’t know, didn’t you write a tip about this?
Myself: (thinking that she’s making fun of me) – Ha. Very Funny.
My Wife: It was the first piece of dad advice you ever gave.
Myself: Oh dang. I can use the baby carrier to hold her.
My Wife: You literally made that tip number ONE.
I make mistakes all of the time and my daughter keeps me busy and it can be hard to keep up, especially when we’re traveling and she decides to stay awake for the entire plane or train ride.
I suppose the one thing that works for me is that when I am tired or stressed out, and I feel like my energy level is low and that I just can’t take it anymore, I calmly say , “I’m going to make this 1 percent better.” It sounds dumb, but I feel like making that moment just… one percent better with a smile or playtime, or a game can have a snowball effect that leads to future calm. Even if that moment to relax is in the form of a more restful night’s sleep or one less headache, or a momentary reduction in stress. Focusing on the ability to become slightly better can be the self-fulfilling prophecy of happiness. It doesn’t always work, but in a moment where I feel like I have no answers, I feel like it gives me a chance to take control of uncertain situations.
What strategies do you use when you’re facing parenting stress?