5 Tips for Taming a Strong-Willed Toddler

Awhile back, I shared my feelings of helplessness and frustration when my super strong-willed toddler threw the Mother of all Meltdowns. Since then, I’ve decided to really focus on identifying situations which might set her off again, and try to create a positive environment for her. Here are some things I tried, which have been fairly successful so far. I should preface these tips with this disclaimer: I am by no means a parenting expert. In fact, there are times when I’m so awkward in public with my kids that people probably don’t think they’re mine.

She loves helping me cook! Maybe she'll take over on making meals someday.

1. Ask them to help.  Chances are, they would love to help you with mundane tasks, like putting detergent in the washing machine, clearing the dinner table, or taking out the trash. Picking up toys is something my toddler avoids, but she often “helps” her daddy go collect chicken eggs, water the yard and clean the shop. It helps her feel a sense of purpose, and is a great opportunity to teach her new concepts. And as an added bonus, when she helps me cook, she always eats more of the dish that we prepare together than she normally would (she typically survives on air, milk, apple juice and honey sandwiches).

This didn't start out as finger painting. Oh well.

2. Let them make a mess. If it’s not dangerous and won’t cause permanent damage, let them get messy. Whether they want to play in the mud, finger paint with yogurt, or shoot edamame across the kitchen table, let them. I’ll swear up and down that they have to get “mess making” out of their system, and if you don’t let them do it while you’re watching, they’ll do it while you’re not watching (which are the dangerous, permanently damaging kind of messes).

Mud boots and Little Mermaid swimsuit while tromping through the wheat field? Why not?

 3. Give in to their wardrobe choices. Do I wish my girls looked like they just stepped out of a Children’s Place catalog? Sure. But that’s more about my needs than theirs. If it’s weather appropriate, I generally let her strut her stuff in any combo she chooses. As long as she’s comfortable and confident in her clothing, that’s all that matters to me.

Playing "Princess Fairy Alligator Hunting" in the living room. Her daddy was proud.

4. Say “yes” as often as possible. “Mommy, will you play (insert random game/puzzle/fantastical story here) with me?” As hard as it is sometimes to stop what I’m doing, I’m trying to say “yes” instead of “maybe later” more often. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think children should think you’ll cater to their every whim, but if there’s really not a legitimate reason for denying their request, then go ahead.

I am SO blessed to be her mother!

5. Remember how little they really are. My toddler is extremely verbally gifted, and I often forget her actual age. Even though she can carry on a conversation better than most school-aged children (and some adults), she’s not quite three years old. When my frustration level starts to rise, I remind myself that she’s still itty-bitty. And if I think our behavior challenges are tough now, I’m sure I’d gladly trade for them when she’s 15 and no longer fears the drudgery of “timeout on the stairs.”

Some days, I don’t follow any of the advice I’ve listed above, and I regret it at the end of the day. I have two amazing daughters, and it’s up to me to create a positive environment for them to thrive in. I’m sure I’ll add to this list as the months roll by, and I’d love to know your thoughts on parenting strong-willed children.


How Sticky Rice Taught Me a Life Lesson


Are you in the middle of a "sticky" situation? Maybe you need to let it dry.

Last night, I watched in part joy and part frustration as my girls got their “nom nom” on with the sticky rice I’d made. While I always enjoy seeing the girls devour my food, I realized that cleaning this mess (on the floor, table, high chair, everywhere) was going to be extremely difficult. After all, it’s called sticky rice for a reason. Duh. 

After several vain attempts at wiping, picking and sweeping, it hit me. The more I tried to fix the problem, the worse it got. It was just going to have to wait until the morning, when it was dry and easier to clean. Sure enough, one pass with the vacuum after I got up, and it was gone (well, I’m still finding random pieces in strange places). 

It’s funny how life can teach you lessons during even the most benign situations. Sometimes, we encounter sticky situations in our personal or professional lives that need to be left alone for awhile before we can find a solution. As difficult as it is to let a mess lie, it’s often necessary in order to avoid making a bad set of circumstances even worse. 

Dear Lord, Please Let My Daughters Be Awkward


It's hard to imagine that these gorgeous girls could ever go through an awkward period. But I sincerely hope they do.

Believe it or not, this is actually a prayer I’ve offered for my daughters. Strange? Maybe. Genius? Definitely.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish for them to be permanently awkward (although I would love them no less). Rather, one of my greatest hopes for them is to suffer through a few awkward years, and survive. The key word there is survive. I don’t want them to be scarred, or cope with their awkwardness through immoral, illegal, or otherwise dangerous behavior.

Let’s face it, life is easier for pretty people. Right or wrong, those with symmetrical faces, straight teeth and lustrous hair seem to sail through life a bit more easily. Studies have even proven that women with well-applied makeup are deemed more trustworthy!

My Awkward Survival Story

Having been through many awkward years, I can attest to the positive experiences that can result from these trials. I was always a head taller than my classmates, and suffered from terrible skin, fashion choices, hair styles and wore some awesomely large pink plastic glasses to boot. I remember a time in middle school when I overhead the love of my life (I was convinced we would get married someday) making hurtful remarks under his breath about the blemishes on my face.

I was crushed…by my crush. Now imagine if I’d had clear, glowing skin. He might have actually liked me, and maybe we would have dated. Then, we might have stayed together in high school, and later gotten married. I shudder at the thought of this, considering what he’s doing with his life now (a big, fat, nothing). (P.S. I’ve never quite forgiven him for his cruelty.)

In addition to being an acne-prone adolescent, I was also a huge nerd (still am). I was captain of the Scholar’s Bowl team, sat in the front of the classroom, and was always the first to raise my hand when the teacher asked a question (I must have been quite annoying). Believe it or not, most guys don’t like smart girls. (Idiots.)

Fortunately for me, I survived these awkward years, and even had brief stint in college when I was almost hot. I say almost because my biggest modeling gig was as a butt model for jeans at Sheplers. Yes, a butt model. I was flattered until a friend of mine noted that they “didn’t want to see my face.” Ouch. (Some friend.)

So what lessons have I learned from the awkward times in my life?

– Humility
– Empathy
– Resourcefulness

What mother wouldn’t want this for her daughter, to be more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside? I honestly feel that these attributes are best earned the hard way, through overcoming adversity and knowing what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. I hope my girls don’t hate me someday for this prayer. (They’ll probably hate me someday either way.) And if all else fails, I’ll stick some thick plastic frames on them, dress them in outdated clothes, and force them to learn random trivia (for all of those Scholar’s Bowl matches). Oh, who am I kidding? They’ll still look cute. I guess they’ll just have to learn the lessons above by listening to their momma. :-)

Two years ago, I wrote about my need to be liked (by everyone, at all times, in all situations). It’s not quite as important to me anymore, but I still struggle with being a “yes” woman.

Cat Poland

I’m convinced we all have addictions. And I’m not just talking about drugs, booze or the “addiction of the year” (a la Tiger Woods & David Duchovny). I’m talking about subtle addictions. The kind that most people will never (or will never admit) realize in themselves.

Do you want to know mine? Lean in real close and I’ll tell you. Approval.  

What? You didn’t hear me? I said APPROVAL.

There. I said it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

And the really sick thing is that I want your approval for admitting that I have an approval addiction. So, don’t enable me! (Unless you really feel the urge, then I won’t hold it against you.)

So…I showed you mine, now show me yours.

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The Upside of the Domestic Life

I love spending all day with this gap-toothed smile. :-)

Yesterday, I shared what was on my heart about the underbelly of being an at-home mom (The Downside of the Domestic Life). After some concerned questions from friends and community members who thought I was really struggling with my new role, I thought I’d share what I love about this gig (it far outweighs the bad, trust me).

To be honest, one reason I haven’t proclaimed my positive experiences from the mountain
tops (except this one day) is because I don’t want to rub it in the faces of my fellow moms (or dads) who don’t have the opportunity to do this, or who wish they’d done it when they had the chance. I’ve always been one to self deprecate,

My partner in crime! We love having messy fun together.

and downplay my success or happiness.But, I’ll set those tendencies aside for a moment
and just say, “I love my new job!” I’m lucky to have a supportive husband and family, and although we’re living on a (very thin) shoestring budget, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything (except sushi, and wine, and pedicures, anyways…)

  • I love letting the girls sleep until their bodies tell them to get up, not before they’re ready because I have to get out the door (there will be plenty of time for that when school days come).
  • I can spend time getting them dressed, and not rush the process. Before, I would get so annoyed when Anna wanted to put her shoes on by herself (I’m not proud of this). Now, I just sit back and watch her work, and celebrate with her when she puts them on the right feet.
  • I love watching Erica learn new things, and knowing for a factthat I was the first one to hear a new word come from her mouth. I delighted at hearing “uh-oh” the other day. She’s the world’s happiest baby, androlls with whatever crazy adventure we take her on.
  • Anna is a hoot! She is so smart, sweet and funny. Despite some of the challenges we’ve had, I truly enjoy her company. She can carry on a conversation like an adult (probably better than some adults) and she’s a true companion. So far today, we’ve hunted alligators in the living room, finger painted with shaving cream on the kitchen counter, and made jello surprise (with fruit mixed in). These are small, mundane things, but when you feel like you’ve missed out on so much, you savor every experience.
  • I finally feel like a homeowner, and not a house guest. This is my home, and I’m finally making it my own.
  • My kids smell like me and my house. If you’re a working mom, or have ever been a working mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
  • I actually enjoy cooking, and this new freedom allows me the time to experiment with new recipes. (Never mind the fact that home cooking is an absolute necessity to making this new budget work.) Last night I made a kick-butt quiche with a homemade crust and I’m pretty darn proud of how delicious it was.
  • I might actually get to know this man I live with. We’ve been like ships passing in the night for the last couple of years, and I didn’t realize how much we’d grown in separate directions until my focus was at home. (And, I think he’s really cute, so that helps.)

There you have it, my list of reasons why I am having the time of my life. I know it won’t last forever, so I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts.