Tips for toddler, terrible twos, and threenagers

As a working parent, I feel guilty that I don't get as much time with my kids as I would like.

You are not alone - many working parents feel guilty about this. The good news is that psychology research shows that children with working parents do just as well as children with a stay-at-home parent. Spending quality time with your children is much more important than the amount of time you spend with them. 

Our advice: Put away your phone and all other distractions when you get home from work and interact with your kids. Focusing your energy on them, even if it's only for 30 minutes, shows them that they are important to you and solidifies your bond.

My husband does very little with the children since he works very long hours and I'm a stay-at-home mom.

Parents in your situation have made a trade-off: one works outside the home and the other works inside the home. The difficulty with this arrangement is that both jobs are exhausting. Parents who work outside the home are drained when they get back from work and those who work inside the home are drained because they are always at their workplace! It is easy to get sucked into a game of "I'm more tired than you/I work harder than you."

Our advice: Put away the scorecards and work to support each other. It is not fair to expect that your partner takes over at the house when they get back from work. It is also not fair that you have to do it all. Make sure to give each other a break by alternating weekend sleep-ins and evenings off.

My children are so exhausting! Sometimes it is hard to stop myself from screaming.

Parenting is hard work! Some days, we have a lot of energy and patience. Other days, we are tired and have a short fuse. Don't feel guilty about being exhausted and don't feel shy to ask for help and support.

Our advice: Walk away when you are feeling this way. Ask your partner (or other support person) to step in if you can. Otherwise, take a few deep breaths and return to the situation when you are feeling calmer.  It is also important to take time for yourself. You are a better parent when you feel rested and happy.


My toddler won't listen to me.

This is one of the most common concerns that I hear from parents. Toddlers and "threenagers" are notorious for this type of behavior. Refusing to do what you want doesn't mean that you have a bad kid or that you’re a bad parent.

Our advice: Don't ask a question if they don't have a choice. Make it clear from the beginning that you expect them to follow your instructions (e.g., "It is time to put away your toys" is better than "Can you please put away your toys?"). This will reduce their defiance, but won't eliminate it. You need to be firm and consistent if your child still refuses.

My child has a meltdown every time I say 'No'.

Punishing our children is one way to show them that we do not approve of their behavior. Punishment can be effective, but it becomes ineffective when children think that they are always in trouble. When this happens, they can feel defeated and lose the motivation to behave better. 

Our advice: Focus on rewarding good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. Reinforce your child when they do something good. You can praise them ("I'm so happy that you put away your toys") or give them something they like (just make sure that the size of the reward matches the size of their effort). We especially like a principle of positive parenting - catching your child when they’re good. Watch this video to learn more.