We all know those “humorous” blogs and IG accounts that joke about what little a**holes kids are, how we are constantly losing our **it, and how pictures of our lives now should be used as birth control advertisements.
Well, I’m calling all of it big, fat, stinking, male bovine feces.
Because it’s not the children’s fault that the authors don’t like them.
Children are just tiny humans who mimic the adults they are around and are unable to filter the effects of their diets and environments well enough to maintain “good” behavior when one or both are negative.
Which is, ironically, how the people running those sites are acting. Like a koolaid drenched pile of 3-year-olds with keyboards and vendettas.
I’m a strong believer in the idea that most children can be likable. Even the stubborn little stinkers with a defiant scowl who stomp their way to their room and slam their door.
Because kids will be kids, but the most obnoxious kids almost always have a combination of things going against them. Everything from input they are getting from their surroundings, to hunger, to additives in their foods that dramatically effects their behavior, is a challenging them because they haven’t learned to moderate their responses to their physical and emotional feelings yet.
If you can try tweaking some or all of the areas below, your kids will be more rational, more gentle, have less aggressive tendencies, and respect others better.
1. Cut the Sugary Breakfasts
Post sugar meltdowns are a real thing. And equally real is the need to start the day with a good balance of fiber and protein. Not giving your kid this boost at the start of the day is a pretty sure fired way to send them into a downward spiral of headaches, meltdowns, blood sugar crashes, and eating more sugar.
A good breakfast that gets kids re-established after a 10-12 hour fast (8pm-6am) includes a protein source like eggs, nuts, or meat, a low glycemic index fruit (cherries, pears, apples) full of vitamins, and a carby fiber source of oats, potatoes or beans.
We love bean, cheese, and veggie egg scrambles with a side of fruit. This isn’t actually time-consuming when you the hang of it. 15 minutes of prep is all. If you don’t have that, then boil eggs ahead of time and serve them with nut butter on whole grain bread or a bowl of oatmeal. (Don’t use oatmeal packets. They are LOADED with extra crap. Just use 1/4 cup quick cooking oats with 1/2 cup water and microwave for 90 seconds, then sprinkle with brown sugar and salt.) Breakfast burritos are also super fast and easy — just dump scrambled eggs and cheese and beans into a burrito and your kids have the perfect meal wrapped up in their hand.
Check out this slide show of what other countries eat for breakfast to break out of the cold cereal brain!
2. Don’t Be A Smart A**
Your kids will act like you do. Show respect to others and they will too. Smart off at them and treat them like they are stupid and the world will know exactly what kind of parent you are next time you walk through the grocery store.
Kids don’t understand why you are being sarcastic with them. They don’t get why you think it’s funny to call them “stupid” or “dumb butts”. They don’t get why you snark off with a list of reasons that you don’t like them.
Don’t say those things.
What you speak is their identity. It is the only thing they know about themselves. Your negative words become their self-identifying beliefs.
Do you want a brat? Call your kid a brat. Do you want a gentleman? Praise your child for good behavior by calling them a brave little gentleman. Do you want a kind little lady? Tell your girl that her kindness was beautiful and royal. Stop the name calling and sarcasm and give your child something positive to aspire to instead of a negative identity.
Fill their identity with positivity instead of rudeness and they will spill positivity back out.
3. Regular Sleep Times
This one is hard because it requires that we sacrifice our whims.
But we’ve all been in Walgreens at 11pm when a 3-year-old was melting down on the floor from sheer exhaustion.
Once I was in that situation where the mom yelled at the kid for being an “annoying brat” and that she was “gonna leave her there all night” and then paid and walked out the front door to wait outside.
I was livid.
Children need 10-12 hours of sleep per day to function and grow well, but that won’t happen if we have them hopped up on sugar or are constantly changing their schedules. Blue light also keeps their minds from creating a sleep rhythm, so tv and phone/tablet screens in the evenings make it very difficult for them to fall asleep.
Start a 10-minute bedtime routine that happens at the same time every night. That way their minds are prepping for shut down before you put them in bed. The beauty of a routine like this is that when you have to be out later than bedtime, getting home and starting the routine signals their brains that it’s time to rest, so it translates into easier bedtimes even when the schedule is off.
Make sure that if they have sweets or fruit, they are after lunch and not after dinner so that no sugar is preventing them from resting. Fruit after dinner is a sure way to keep your kids awake since it packs such an intense load of energy.
4. Treat Your Partner With Respect
The most readily available example of decent moral humanity that your children will observe is the relationship between you and your partner.
This world is messed up. But if, in your home, two adult humans treat each other with selflessness, sacrifice, and respect, then your children will know to treat others the same.
Put your phone down and make eye contact when your partner speaks to you.
Take time to think through responses and maintain controlled voice levels to show that adults can work through disagreements.
Don’t resort to name calling.
Compliment each other.
You will see these positive actions being re-enacted by your little followers.
5. Remove Rude and Violent Media
Do you want your kids pushing people out of their way and smashing their faces full of food? Or what about mooning people? Maybe kicking over another kid and then putting their foot on their neck? Farting on people’s heads? Smacking people in the face? Giving people smaller than them wedgies or swirlies?
Then why are you letting them watch their heroes and objects of day dreams do those things? Because it’s funny? Well, only until your kid is in suspension for it. Or until they are 15 and the most disgusting humans and bullies you’ve ever met.
Monitor what your kids are watching. Express disgust or disapproval over the bullies and crass characters. Try to choose shows that promote strong families, respectful treatment of others, and good manners.
6. Add Quality Time Snippets Throughout The Day
Kids need their “love tanks” filled on a regular basis. Without some physical contact and devoted one-on-one time, they are going to resort to fits and bad behavior in order to get your undivided attention.
But that doesn’t mean you have to block off full hours of the day to put everything aside. Include them in your activities, and step into theirs for short sessions.
- Put away media during meal times so that you are getting quality face time.
- Sit down beside them while they are playing and let them take five minutes to explain their game or activity to you.
- Include them in household chores.
- Sit beside them to work on projects or study.
- Use mundane tasks to teach them life skills like cleaning and cooking.
- Give them small tasks and talk them through the process.
- Make a picture or serve a meal together for a feeling of shared accomplishment.
- Take a couple of 5-minute breaks through the day to read them a picture book.
7. Watch Out For Behavior Altering Background Ingredients
We all know the common idea that red food coloring and sugar make kids hyper, but is it actually true? Well, yes and no. Sugar itself isn’t bad — high fructose corn syrup is bad, and massive amounts of natural sugars create a high energy burn followed by a sugar crash. Red food dye? Yeah. it’s bad.
And these things are found in way more common foods than you would think. Yogurt, crackers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc, contain chemicals and ingredients that are known to change aggression, anxiety, sleep and ADHD symptoms.
Here are some informational links about ingredients that can alter your kids’ behaviors:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Food Dyes (Here and explanation and compilation of info here)
- BHA and BHT (“The BHA-treated mice exhibited increased exploration, decreased sleeping, decreased grooming of self, slow learning and a decreased orientation reflex when compared to the untreated control animals. On the other hand, the BHT-treated animals exhibited decreased sleeping and learning, as well as increased social and isolation-induced aggression.”)
- Caffeine (found in all chocolate and coffee products) prevents sleep and aggravates anxiety issues
8. Be An Example Of Kind Play While Roughhousing
Roughhousing is much-needed part of childhood. I mean, this used to be considered a “duh” comment, but in recent years it has been so thoroughly off limits to touch other people, to wrestle on the playground, to roll around on the floor on top of each other, and other such things, that roughhousing has gone out of vogue.
But a book was recently released that has helped put rough play back where it belongs — in the lives of every child. :
“When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach them self-control, fairness, and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn’t everything. We show them how much can be accomplished by cooperation and how to constructively channel competitive energy so that it doesn’t take over.”
Need I say more? I think Drs DeBenedet and Cohen said enough for me to move on.
9. Be Generous With Praise
“Praise” and “flattery” are two different things. Gush over and love on your babies as much as you want/can, but also build genuine praise into their days!
“Praise” is warm approval and admiration. The best, most constructive praise focuses on character rather than appearance or accomplishment.
So shower your kid with “you were so courageous! How generous of you! What a patient, forgiving person you are! Did you know that what you just did was an example of meekness? You just showed a lot of sympathy and understanding, and that was very admirable!”
Use a lot of “Good job!” and “Well done!” and “I see you trying hard!” to encourage and uplift your children throughout the day so that they know they have your approval and interest and that they have a place at the very forefront of your brain. This will eliminate loneliness and desperation for attention while building a framework of strong character drives.
10. Speak Quietly
Some kids are just loud. I know that.
But create a quiet environment and encourage “inside voices.” Teach your kids to whisper so that you can turn down the volume when needed.
Some important things to make yourself do for this are to:
- Make eye contact and maintain volume instead of yelling louder.
- Don’t yell for your kids, but walk to where they are and then call their name.
- Don’t “talk over” your kids, but ask them to wait quietly while you finish speaking.
- Don’t escalate the volume with your kids, but instead counter a noisy environment by whispering in their ears or playing a “silence game”.
- Use silence competitions and timers to calm down a noisy home.
11. Limit Screen Time
Screen time for kids has been shown to inhibit their ability to process emotions, to mess with sleep, and, regardless of physical activity levels away from screens, truly screw with psychological soundness in children.
The healthy limit for kids from 3-18 is two hours per day of total screen time. That’s movies, tables, video games, and phones combined. Here it says that “the kid who spends hours every day playing soccer and constructing tree forts and skipping over sidewalk cracks runs the same risk of behavioral problems as the kid who is couch-bound, so long as they’re both dedicating more than two hours a day to watching a screen of some type.”
And here we find that “Children with 2 or more hours of daily screen time are more likely to have increased psychological difficulties, including hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems, and difficulties with peers.”
So yeah. It seems like movies are a life saver, but they are actually CAUSING the emotional meltdowns and irrationality that we turn them on to combat. Hmm. Darnit.
12. Beware Of Discomforts and Growing Pains
They grow up so fast.
No, literally. Their bodies are growing ridiculously fast and they are generally very active.
Which means vitamin deficiencies, restless legs, muscle soreness, bone aches, head aches, and so on so forth are things your toddler may be experiencing and NOT be able to tell you about.
Make sure your kids are getting enough calcium and magnesium to keep them from getting cramped muscles. Be aware of whether or not they may need some Tylenol. Watch for new molars coming in with your toddlers, and teething pains with your babies.
Also, watch for environmental discomforts. While you don’t want to turn your kid into a diva hypochondriac, you also don’t want to force them to wear things that are too tight around their stomach, shoes that are making their toes ache, hair styles that are too tight and make their head skin hurt, (yes, that’s a real thing.)
Reactions to certain clothing materials may be causing itchiness that isn’t leaving visible signs, so if you are sensitive to certain materials, just don’t make your kids wear them. (i.e. wool, cashmere, etc) Some kids have sensory issues, so if they react violently to the lining of a coat every time you try to put it on them, then try a different style lining.
Also, if they are consistently grumpy after certain meals, there may be a food that is causing them indigestion or a sugar spike. Try something different next week.
In general, think of the things that make you grumpy, and try to make sure you aren’t ignoring those things with your kids.
13. Kids Get Hangries Too
Only thing is, kids usually don’t THINK they are hungry when they hit the nauseated, shaky, blood sugar crashing hangries that adults hit. So you might have to bribe them into eating with a bite of something sweet. Or set a bite of food on their tongue mid scream.
Yes. I’ve done both.
(don’t put choking hazard foods in a screaming kid’s mouth, please. But something small, soft, mushy… something to trigger their appetite.)
14. Teach Boundaries
For a kid to function well around other people they need to have a basic understanding of boundaries.
“This is yours. You may protect yours. That is theirs. You may not touch theirs.”
It’s that simple.
You teach these concepts and your children will not go grabbing toys, babies, faces, or animals that aren’t approved. They won’t obnoxiously force themselves into the space of other kids or assume that other kids will “share” (*ahem, surrender unquestioningly to the whims of the little dictator) with them.
To instill this, you need to stop sharing everything with your kiddo.
Uhm, say what?
Yeah. Don’t let them eat off of your plate. Don’t eat off of their plate. That’s theirs, this is yours. They can’t take the pen that you are using, they have to get their own. And you’re not gonna snatch something away from them that isn’t a danger to their well being because they are humans that deserve more respect than that.
Teach them kindness, and encourage sharing, but also teach them that strangers have absolutely no right to their bodies or belongings ever. Sharing is for friends who they trust, not random kids and adults.
This will give them a sense of security and a healthy understanding of who, where, and when they are supposed to be generous.
15. Teach Your Toddlers To Sit Still
This is a tricky one, but so powerful for waiting rooms, classes, boring errands, long lines, car rides, and so on so forth.
Take a few minutes every day to have your kids each contained in their own space with folded hands and absolute quiet. Consistency is key. A few minutes every couple days will gradually turn into a half hour several times a week, and then they will only need a little stretching for ceremonies and events.
Use this for youtube classes, for reading out loud, for classical music concerts (proven to be super beneficial to brain development), for recordings of lectures and stage productions, and for audio books.
This teaches your children to control their bodies and to focus their minds entirely on one thing.
And, in turn, this translates into kids who know how to sit down and be still when a situation arises where that is required… or desired.
We got to take our kids to a live production of Suessical The Musical last year because they were familiar with the idea of being still and quiet. They weren’t perfect, but we got through a three-hour stage production with it still being “fun” at the end.
Find ways to keep your children’s bodies healthy and comfortable, eliminate stressors, build positive self-worth, and teach self-control. But you can’t do any of those things without disciplining yourself. So, Mamma, choose 1 thing today and start the discipline of making it the new normal! Good luck! Love those babies enough to help them be likable!