Way to Blow It #6: Lose It
Taking care of an active toddler requires a lot of patience. But there are times when Gabrielle Howe of Staten Island, NY, finds herself at the end of her rope when dealing with 2-year-old Thea. "One particularly trying day I completely lost it and yelled at Thea," admits this working mom. "She then tried to send me to my room!"
A Better Way: Time-outs aren't just for kids -- they work great for adults, too. "Give yourself permission to walk away," says Schulman. "Take a deep breath, count to ten, and then you'll be much more effective when disciplining your child." Walk into another room if you need to, as long as your child is safe in his crib or a childproofed room. "If you can't leave your child alone, then you should both go into another room," she adds. "Often a change of scenery will help you both cool off." If your husband or a friend is around, just say "I need a break, can you handle this one?" suggests Schulman. And remember that kids are expert at pushing your buttons, but if you can avoid letting the situation escalate by giving one warning and then an immediate consequence, it may help keep you both calm.
Way to Blow It #7: Wait Too Long
Recently I was stuck in traffic with my 2-year-old daughter, Ella, when she started getting fidgety and tried to wiggle out of her car seat. Frustrated by both the slow trip home and the endless rounds of "Row, row, row your boat," I told her that if she didn't put her buckle back on correctly, she wouldn't get to have a bedtime story that night -- a technique that works great when my daughter's procrastinating about getting into her pajamas or brushing her teeth before bed. This time, though, bedtime was hours away -- and the threat pretty much meaningless. Ella didn't stop playing with her seat buckle, and it seemed pointless to remind her about it hours later when she was getting ready for bed.
A Better Way: "Kids don't remember what they did wrong an hour after the fact, never mind the next day," says Barnes. "You want to show them the consequences of their actions as close to the bad behavior as possible." If your child hits a friend with a toy truck, don't cancel tomorrow's playdate -- just take away the truck.