When Barbara Dafoe Whitehead was a girl, her father gave her some rules for selecting a husband.

  • He should be a man of good character and conscience.
  • He should be a man who will make a good father and be a good provider.
  • The last rule was: No asthmatics. (Her father was a doctor and an asthmatic.)

Dafoe Whitehead has been married to a man who exuded all of these qualities for more than 40 years. The one area in which she rebelled: her husband is an asthmatic.

“Things are different now for girls,” says Dafoe Whitehead. “Both of my girls are single and in their 30s. In college, someone told one of my daughters that to think about marriage shows a lack of ambition.

“The reality is, we have left a lot of teaching about love, sex and marriage to the popular culture – reality TV, celebrity gossip, etc. Young women today hear messages of heartbreak and failure, heartbreak and cheating, heartbreak and lying. There isn’t a lot out there about being successful in marriage.”

According to Dafoe Whitehead, only 20 percent of young adults came from broken homes in the late 70s compared to 40 percent in the late 90s. Many women have personal experience with divorce. These young people gather a lot of misinformation along the way that, if acted upon, will significantly lower their chances of marital success.

“I believe there are five pervasive messages of failure that young women are receiving today,” Dafoe Whitehead says.

These misleading messages are:

  • Teenage sex has nothing to do with having a healthy marriage later. Two-thirds of today’s teens believe it is OK to have sex if you are in love. Unfortunately, the consequences of teen sex can last a lifetime–but the relationship usually doesn’t.
  • It is OK to have kids first because you can find a guy later. The highest percentage of unwed births today are to women in their 20s. Although they hope to find a guy later on, evidence shows that their chances of successful marriage, or every marrying at all, decline.
  • People should live together. The evidence suggests that living together does not increase one’s chances of having a successful marriage, but there is strong evidence that it increases the chances for divorce.
  • You cannot prepare for a healthy, successful marriage. There are many who believe having several bad relationships is the only way to have a good one, and that heartbreak is unavoidable.
  • Your chances of divorce cannot be changed. The mantra for today’s young people is, “Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.” They believe that a successful marriage is a roll of the dice. Not true. There is a lot you can do.

“The truth is, young women in their teens and 20s should have tremendous hope for a successful marriage in the future,” Dafoe Whitehead says.

A lot can be done in the teen years to prepare for a healthy marriage later.

Making a Love Connection is an excellent resource to help teens make healthy decisions. At the heart of its hopeful message is the issue of sequence or timing. Young women can significantly improve their chances of having a healthy marriage by finishing high school, waiting until after the teen years to marry and having children after marrying. This sequential order also dramatically decreases the chances of poverty or divorcing.

If you are looking for a committed relationship, don’t settle for any old guy, and don’t settle for living together. Most women want a committed relationship.

Marriage is typically a public ceremony, leaving no doubt regarding the couple’s commitment to each other. Moving in with someone is private, and the only witnesses may be the moving people. One young lady said, “I really didn’t care about wedding vows, but when I lived with my boyfriend we didn’t vow to do anything.”

If you want a healthy marriage, here are some things to consider.

  • Plan to complete your education in your 20s.
  • Marry before the age of 30. In general, research shows that people who marry in their 20s are distinctly happier than those who marry later.
  • Date with the intention and thought of marrying. Know what you are looking for in a mate and don’t date guys who aren’t marriage-minded. Frequent places where you are likely to meet the kind of person you’d want to marry.
  • Don’t wait until you are engaged to get marriage education. Get as much relationship education as you can, value the knowledge and share it with others. People who know better do better. 
  • Finally, consider a small wedding if you’re planning to marry. Many people delay the ceremony until they can afford a huge bash or a destination wedding that causes stress and fatigue. Focusing on the relationship instead of the big day itself has its perks. It allows couples to get a good emotional and financial start. Plus, it gives them more time together instead of creating debt and overwhelming tasks with the potential for conflict.

There is a commercial on television showing a father and his very inquisitive daughter sharing a meal together. Rapid fire, she asks why the sky is blue, why zebras have stripes, if turtles like cheese, why she has fingerprints, etc. For each question, the dad gets a little help from an insurance agent who is seated right behind him. However, when the girl asks her dad where babies come from, the agent asks for his check and quickly disappears.

Where do babies come from?

That question can make adults squirm and respond with some creative answers. One answer even involves eating a watermelon seed that grows in mom’s belly. When one mom returned the question, her daughter replied, “When two people love each other, the dad buys a pumpkin seed and gives it to the mom. Then her stomach gets big like a pumpkin!”

It’s great that children are actually asking their parents for this information. While the topic might cause tremendous angst for some, there is no better person to answer than their parent. Instead of sidestepping the question or giving a crazy answer, use the opportunity to provide enough age-appropriate answers and muster enough boldness to encourage more questions in the future.

Many parents say they want to be the one to teach their children about sex. Yet teen and young adult surveys show that’s not the case. TV and the internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex. School, parents and peers are next on the list.

It’s great to start talking with your children about sex when they are young, even though some parents want to wait until their child brings it up. If you cringe and have a deer-in-the headlights look at the thought of discussing sex, your child may believe the topic is off limits.

Experts say parents should begin having age-appropriate conversations with their children around age 6. At this stage, children are often curious about their bodies and why their body is different from their sibling’s. They may even be hearing things from other schoolchildren. It is important that children have accurate information from the person they should be able to trust: their parent. So take a deep breath and wade in the water.

Young children often ask where they came from. For starters, a parent can ask their child where they think they came from. The child might actually be asking where they were born. With a serious sigh of relief, that is easily answered. Another option for 5- and 6-year-olds is to read a book. Baby on the Way or Where Did I Come From? are good examples.

For elementary-age children, focus conversations on correctly naming sexual organs and private parts, personal boundaries, pregnancy and building healthy relationships. If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Clarify the question and keep your answers age-appropriate, brief and simple. If they want to know more, they’ll usually ask. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. You can always say, ”Let me get back to you about that,” then make sure that you do.

The thought of talking with your child about sex may cause your heart to race and your stomach to flutter. But remember, they are only asking because they are curious. Parents are their first and best teachers.

The Science of Childhood: Inside the Minds of Our Younger Selves, is a Time magazine special edition. It examines everything from understanding child development and dealing with temper tantrums to the science of play and the secrets of birth order. It’s part of an effort to help parents and other caregivers better understand how children learn and what everyone can do to help children thrive.

Since 2015, the Early Childhood Coalition, which consists of 30 organizations, has been working through the local 2.0 initiative. Its goal is to ensure that everyone in the greater Chattanooga area can access high quality resources that support optimal development of children birth-5. The plan is to engage and mobilize the community through advocacy, communication and education so that all children can achieve their potential and live their best lives.

For example, Chattanooga Basics is one of the coalition’s initiatives. This initiative is built upon the reality that parents play the most critical role in providing a strong and healthy start for infants and young children. Chattanooga Basics is closely aligned with Boston Basics, which was developed out of Harvard.

The goals for the Basics are to help ensure that:

  • 80 percent of children show up to school ready to learn.
  • Every parent has access to information about how to help their child thrive.
  • Every parent knows about the Chattanooga Basics, teaching them creative ways to engage their child.
  • Parents have the necessary support to be the parent their child needs them to be.

The Early Childhood Coalition wants all community members to know the Five Basics so they can help all children to thrive. The Coalition is calling on everyone to learn the Five Basics and to engage children in conversations around them. The reason is simple: While parents are their child’s first teacher, the entire community can rally around them to assist them in their efforts.

The Five Basics are:

  • Maximize Love, Manage Stress – Babies thrive when the world feels loving, safe and predictable. Affectionate and responsive caregiving develops a sense of security and self-control.
  • Talk, Sing Point – Babies learn language from the moment they are born. They learn through loving interactions with their caregivers, not televisions or phones instead. Eye contact, pointing and real words teach the most about communication.
  • Count, Group, and Compare – Children are born wired to learn numbers, patterns, sizes, shapes and comparisons. What they learn about math in the first few years makes a difference when they get to school.
  • Explore Through Movement and Play – Children are born curious about the world. They are like scientists. Pay attention to your infant’s or toddler’s interests. Help them learn through play and exploration.
  • Read and Discuss Stories – The more we read with young children, the more prepared they become to enjoy reading and do well in school. Even infants enjoy the shapes and colors in books, so let them hold the book and turn the pages. Point to the pictures and talk about what you see.

You may be part of a faith-based community, a child-care provider, a human resources executive or a company CEO. Or perhaps you are the neighbor next door or a relative or friend. Either way, you can help prepare the children in our community for kindergarten.

A September 2017 report showed Hamilton County schools received the lowest possible composite score on an annual state student-growth assessment. While it would be easy to place blame on entities, perhaps the best thing our community can do is to intentionally engage parents and assist them in building strong, healthy families. By resolving to help children thrive and show up to school ready to learn, the scores will improve.

To learn more about Chattanooga Basics, the Early Childhood Coalition partners and what you can do to help, visit chattanoogabasics.org.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Technology, such as the Internet, smartphones, and social media, can have great benefits in helping your children form and maintain relationships. At the same time, if not used with limits and guidance by your children, such use may prevent them from developing the essential relationship qualities and skills that have allowed us to make real connections and build real relationships for ages.

There is certainly a place for children to have online relationships, but they are no substitute for the depth and breadth of flesh-and-blood relationships where your children are able to fully connect with other people and completely experience the meaning, satisfaction, and joy of deep human relationships.

Yes, children’s (and adults’) real relationships can be untidy, with hurt feelings, anger, frustration, and disappointment. But relationships are like two sides of the same coin; children can’t experience the beauty of relationships—love, comfort, and excitement—without also being willing to accept its occasional blood, sweat, and tears. I challenge anyone who can show me that online relationships can provide that.

To raise children capable of having healthy relationships in this world that is so dominated by popular culture and technology, you must be well informed and deliberate about your children’s exposure to both. Of course, the most basic way to prevent popular culture and technology from having an undue and unhealthy influence over your children’s relationships is to set limits on their exposure. You should establish clear expectations about the quality of the popular culture that your children are allowed to experience and the type and quantity of technology they are permitted to use. Just as importantly, you must create appropriate consequences to add “bite” to the expectations you set in the event of inevitable transgressions on the part of your children.

Another obvious preventive measure is to educate your children about the messages they’re getting from popular culture and technology. The more informed your children are about those messages, the less vulnerable they will be to those messages. As they get older, they will be able to make deliberate choices about what aspects of popular culture they expose themselves to and what technology they use.

Part of this education involves talking to your children about the unrealistic messages that popular culture conveys to them about relationships, for example, that love can be found in a matter of weeks (think The Bachelor) or that physical appearance is a healthy foundation for relationships (think Gossip Girls). You can also show them the differences between online and offline relationships, particularly what is missing from the former and present in the latter, for example, facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal cues (notwithstanding Skype and other video chatting), voice inflection (notwithstanding phone calls), touch, and smell.

So, you can’t just play defense against popular culture and technology. In fact, to raise children who are capable of healthy relationships in this digital age, teaching your children about healthy relationships may be your most important way to help them resist the unhealthy messages from popular culture and technology and ensure that they are capable of developing healthy relationships.

A good place to start in teaching your children about healthy relationships is in your relationship with your spouse. Let me say this clearly. There is no greater influence on how your children come to see relationships than your relationship with your “other half.” From a very early age, your relationship—good, bad, or ugly—likely becomes the template on which their future relationships are based. If you can show your children from an early age how a healthy relationship works, filled with respect, caring, and empathy, simply through your daily relationship with your spouse, you will instill in them a positive view of relationships that will be resistant to those that they receive from popular culture (this, of course, is more of a challenge for divorced couples or single parents).

Also, when you model the healthy use of technology as a tool for strengthening relationships, you provide your children with another template that will encourage the dominance of offline relationships, teach them how to use technology to foster healthy relationships, and make them less vulnerable to the allure of online relationships.

The most powerful way to override the inevitable messages your children will receive from popular culture and technology about relationships is to give your children the most quantity and quality of unmediated (meaning direct) social experiences on which they can build the competence, confidence, and comfort to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives. These encounters can include the spectrum of relationships including family, friends, educational, athletic, cultural, and spiritual.

This depth and breadth of flesh-and-blood relationships will also give your children the ability to compare those relationships and online relationships and, hopefully, see that the latter can’t hold a candle to the former. The more ways in which your children can experience the richness of offline relationships, the more they will come to value them and not be drawn to those gained through popular culture and technology.

In addition to maximizing your children’s in-the-moment appreciation for face-to-face relationships, you can also actively teach them essential relationship skills. Early exposure to social skills and the basics of relationships, for example, saying hello and goodbye and please and thank you, shaking hands, and looking others in the eye, as well as compassion and concern for others, will prevent your children from avoiding real relationships due to doubt, shyness, or social discomfort and give them the competence and confidence to want to explore further unmediated relationships.

You want to give your children direct experience in relationships and the tools to build self-assurance in your children’s relationship capabilities. You also want to instill in them a skeptical attitude toward the messages they get about relationships from popular culture and technology.

When you accomplish these goals, you give your children a true gift, namely, they will see for themselves that real-life relationships are far more rewarding than those found online and they will make sure these relationships take precedence over the virtual kind. And that is a gift that will keep on giving throughout their lives. 

Article written by: Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

Author of: Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Child for a Media-fueled World; Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Children; Your Children are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids’ Values, and How You Can Protect Them; Your Children are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear From You; and more!

Taylor speaks regularly to schools, youth-sports programs and performing-arts organizations around the country.

Taylor received his Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College. He earned his Master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Colorado. He is a former Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at Nova University in Ft. Lauderdale. Jim is currently an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and the Wright Institute in Berkeley.

He writes articles in scholarly and popular publications, and he gives workshops and presentations around the world. Additionally, Taylor blogs on a variety of topics, including on his own website, drjimtaylor.com. He also appears as a guest on various internationally-known media outlets.

Imagine walking out of your bedroom on the second floor and seeing your two-year-old climbing the outside of the staircase. That’s exactly what happened to Hal Runkel, marriage and family therapist and bestselling author of ScreamFree Parenting.

“My son looked up at me with a smile on his face and said, ‘Hi Daddy!’” says Runkel. “He was over five feet off the ground. My anxiety level was off the charts, but I knew if I gave in to that anxiety, if I yelled or lunged for him, it would increase his chances of falling.”

From biting or refusing to eat, to asking about sex or learning to drive, our kids are constantly testing our anxiety. Runkel contends that more often than not, parents fail those tests by “screaming.” Anxiety says we need to control our kids.

“If you’re like me, the more you try to control your kids, the more out of control they become, and the more out of control I become,” Runkel says. “If you are yelling at your kids, you are saying, ‘Calm me down. I need you to change your behavior so I can change mine.’ When parents learn to manage their anxiety and teach children tools to manage their own behavior, there will be more young people prepared to launch into the real world. We have to remember, the goal is not to protect our kids in order to calm our anxiety; our goal as parents is to prepare our kids to live a productive life without us.”

Who Is In Control?

Runkel believes that good parenting is about parents learning how to take back their own emotional remote control. When a parent screams, they have lost control of the situation and handed the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the household.

“When parents focus on becoming ‘ScreamFree,’ calming their own emotional reactivity, they begin to make parenting decisions out of their highest principles instead of reacting out of their deepest fears,” Runkel says. “There are specific ways parents can do this such as:

  • See children as individuals in their own right, with their own lives, decisions and futures.
  • Don’t preach or threaten. Let the consequences of a child’s choices do the screaming.
  • Change your vocabulary. Avoid labeling children or pigeonholing how they see themselves. Labels can be very destructive.
  • See yourself as being responsible to your children – not for them. For example, when your child throws a temper tantrum in Walmart, you’re not responsible for it. But you are responsible for how you handle it.

According to Runkel, every child wants parents who can keep their cool, even when things get heated. They want parents who are less prone to knee-jerk reactions and more level-headed.

Runkel’s message is making a difference. For example, when Runkel and his family were eating out once, a young waitress recognized him from an appearance on The Today Show. She tearfully told him, “Thank you for giving me my parents back. They heard you on television, bought your book, and now we just don’t fight as much. They respect me, and I respect them.”

For more information on how to stop yelling at your kids, visit screamfree.com.

According to Dr. Kathy Koch, educator, founder of Celebrate Kids, and author of 8 Great Smarts, every person, young and old, needs to know they are smart.

“Smart is a powerful word,” says Koch. “When children discover that they are smart, they are more willing to engage with all of life, including school. Children who don’t think of themselves as intelligent don’t tend to engage. They say to themselves, ‘I’m not smart enough, so studying won’t help.’ Children who believe deep down they have a brain and they are supposed to use it are children who will have more joy and purpose, and their lives are more vibrant.”

When Koch taught second grade, she became concerned when she realized some of her children were already classifying themselves as not intelligent. Even some of the parents doubted their child’s ability to do well at a very early age.

“The wrong question is, ‘Am I smart?’” Koch says. “Stupid is a choice. We were not created that way. Early on in my work, I discovered research conducted by psychologist Howard Gardner from Harvard University, who found that all of us have one brain divided into eight parts, and there are eight different ways of being intelligent. The better question is, ‘How am I smart?’”

Eight Different Ways of Being Intelligent

  • Words – power of language – talking
  • Logic – power of questions – asking
  • Picture – power of observation – seeing
  • Music – power of sound and music – hearing
  • Body – power of movement – doing
  • Nature – power of patterns – collecting
  • People – power of people – relating
  • Self – power of quiet – reflecting

“There are many children who are smart in ways that don’t make school easier,” Koch says. “For example, if your child is self-smart or nature-smart, the classroom experience could be challenging for them. For a child who is picture-smart, when his teacher describes a historical reality, he pictures it in his mind. Many children will say, ‘You mean because I draw well, I am smart? I thought I was just a good drawer.’”

Additionally, body-smart children are athletic, can dance or can kick the ball through the goal post with both feet. Music-smart children aren’t just talented. Those who are people-smart think with other people, brainstorm, network and read body language well. For someone who is word-smart, words are a big part of their existence. They can gossip and tease well and often arrange conversations so they have the last word. They must be taught self-control.

I want to equip parents to recognize that their children do what they do because of how they are smart,” Koch says. “Then I can help guide them to help their children do what they do well. Children who know they are smart are more likely to flourish.”

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 25, 2016.

Did you know…

  • Babies can hear three months before they are born?
  • 80 percent of a child’s brain development happens in the first three years?
  • On average, the ratio of reprimands, warnings or scolding to praise or encouragement is 12 to 1 for children in low-income families?
  • A major study showed that by age 2, less-advantaged children were six months behind the highly-advantaged in language processing skills?

During a visit to Chattanooga, Dr. Ron Ferguson, adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), and faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard, shared these facts as he talked about an initiative he launched in Boston. His goal is to help parents engage with their young children and reduce the skill gaps that become apparent between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds by age 3.

“Looking at the research, I realized a lot of the gaps we struggle to address once children are older are evident by the age of 2,” says Ferguson. “We know we are never going to reach everybody through standard programs because capacity is limited, but imagine what could happen if everybody in the community felt a sense of ownership to do their part in helping children thrive.”

The initiative focuses on five evidence-based parenting and caregiving principles which are scientifically proven ways to promote brain development in young children. Moreover, the initiative is designed so every parent, caregiver, family member, friend or citizen can use and share it.

Here are the principles:

  • Maximize Love, Manage Stress. Infants thrive when their world seems loving, safe and predictable. When you express love and respond to their needs, they learn that they can count on you. Showing love and responding helps children learn to manage their feelings and behavior. Feeling secure in their relationships gives them the confidence to explore, learn and take on life’s challenges.
  • Talk, Sing and Point. From birth, babies are learning language. Initially, speech is just sound to a newborn. Day by day, they learn that sounds have meaning. This process depends on how much people talk to them. Talking, singing or pointing to what you are talking about provides clues to the meaning of your words. You are providing important information to their brains about how language works. As your child develops, talking with them and answering their questions teaches them about the world.
  • Count, Group, Compare. Becoming good at math begins long before a child enters school. Even infants are wired to learn simple math ideas, including small numbers, patterns and making comparisons. You don’t need to be a math teacher to prepare your child to be a problem solver. You can do fun and simple activities now to build math and thinking skills.
  • Explore through Movement and Play. Movement and play are good for children’s bodies, their coordination, strength and overall health. This is how children explore and learn, too. Each stage of development brings new opportunities for learning. For example, an infant might explore by touching, grasping, chewing or crawling. A toddler might explore by walking or climbing. Young children are like scientists, curious and excited to explore.
  • Read and Discuss Stories. Reading with young children consistently prepares them to enjoy reading and to do well in school. It is never too early to begin reading! Stories expose children to words and ideas that they would not otherwise experience. Books teach children to use their imaginations, and what they learn about people, places and things can be important building blocks to future success. Reading together creates lasting memories.

Research shows this type of support for early brain growth is a key to stimulating the start in life that all infants and toddlers deserve. It is also the foundation of kindergarten readiness.

Imagine what the greater Chattanooga region would be like in 2026 if, as a community, everyone practiced these caregiving principles with the children in their sphere of influence. In the meantime, plans are already in the works to reach as many families as possible. The great thing is, everybody can be part of this initiative to close the achievement gap and help all of our kids get off to a great start.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 11, 2016.

In a Wall Street Journal article called The Divorce Generation, Susan Gregory Thomas tells the story of her marriage. She met a guy, and they fell in love. Then, they moved in together. His parents warned them that being roommates and pals was totally different than being husband and wife, but they paid no attention. Instead, she and her boyfriend opposed their parents’ advice. They thought it was old-fashioned and sexist.

“Like many of my cohort, the circumstances of my upbringing led me to believe that I had made exactly the right choices by doing everything differently from my parents,” says Thomas.

Thomas thought her marriage would last forever. But nine years later, she found herself in the midst of an unwanted divorce.

A Generation of Divorce

“Gen X children witnessed the beginning of a divorce epidemic. This led to a divorce culture, which led to the conclusion that marriage can be a source of pain and loss,” says Dr. John Van Epp, clinical counselor and author. “These failed relationships convinced people to believe that relationships are good, but relationship definition is risky.”

According to a 2004 study by Generational Differences, Gen Xers were one of the least-parented and least-nurtured generations in U.S. history. Census data shows that almost half of them come from broken homes and that 40 percent were latchkey kids.

In a 2005 article by Kate Hughes in the Journal of Sociology, she states, “Adult children of divorced parents’ failed marriages and broken families brought a fragility that led to risk-diminishing strategies.”

“Many parents sent messages to their children like, ‘Don’t marry young. Establish yourself first. Be sure. Be REALLY sure. The goal is to minimize your risks,’” Van Epp says. “Consequently, Gen Xers took the messages of apprehension a step further to avoidance. Can we form relationships without defining what they really are?”

Family Structure Matters

Van Epp believes it’s a myth that lack of structure in a relationship is safe. Compared to children living with their own married parents, children 12-17 living with cohabitors are:

  • Six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems,
  • 122 percent more likely to be expelled from school, and
  • 90 percent more likely to have a lower GPA.

Additionally, the rates of serious abuse are:

  • Lowest in intact families,
  • Six times higher in stepfamilies,
  • 14 times higher in always single-mother families,
  • 20 times higher in a biological cohabiting family, and
  • 33 times higher when mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend who is not the biological father.

“Structure gives a framework to the relationship and defines the roles,” Van Epp says.

“People don’t understand that relationship dynamics without relationship structure increases their risk for experiencing exactly what they want to avoid in relationships. Whether married, single or divorced, you can teach your children about dating, partner selection and how to build healthy relationships that don’t create risks.”

The answer is not to avoid marriage, but to teach people how to do it well. This begins when parents build their child’s confidence (not apprehension and avoidance) about how to successfully navigate romantic relationships and establish a secure and lasting marriage.

Brooke Womack was sure there was an intruder in their house when she heard noises coming from their family room at two in the morning. In reality, it was just their toddler, Marshall, who had escaped from his bedroom and came downstairs to watch Veggie Tales.

“After nearly having heart failure, we told him to go back to bed,” said Womack. “It is funny now, but it was not funny at the time.”

Walking through toddlerhood with your child can feel like a never-ending roller coaster ride. One moment you are laughing hysterically at something they say or do and the next moment you are ready to pull your hair out as you round the corner to find them playing in the potty. How is it possible for a tiny little being to absolutely get the best of us as parents?

Toddler Behavior is Normal

Does it help at all to know that being in perpetual motion, throwing food on the floor, being curious and constantly saying the word “no” are all part of normal child development? The very behaviors that drive you crazy are what a child needs to do in order to advance to the next developmental stage. The stubbornness that keeps your child from minding you is the same quality that helps him or her get up after a fall and keep trying.

There is no question that parenting is tiring and often very frustrating, even more so when you lose your cool and find yourself throwing your own temper tantrum.

Coping Tips for Parents

Here are a few suggestions to help you regain your composure.

  • Learn the developmental stages. It is easy to take behavior personally when you think your child is intentionally pushing your buttons, but when you know the behavior is developmentally appropriate, it’s easier to deal with the behavior without getting emotional.
  • Pay attention to the environment. Provide safe surroundings. Taking away things that require you to constantly say “no” encourages your child to explore and learn in safety. And, it sets the stage for desirable outcomes.
  • Be the parent your child needs you to be. Your child is counting on you to keep them safe, which means constant supervision. They also need you to be the adult. Constantly screaming at a child rarely accomplishes anything. The way you talk to and discipline your child is teaching them about relationships.
  • The purpose of discipline is to teach. When giving your child direction, get on eye level with him. Use your child’s name and keep your instructions simple. Tell him what you want him to do versus what you don’t want him to do. For example, “Jimmy, please put your blocks away.” Avoid asking your toddler, “Why did you do that?” Instead, talk with them about what they did in the simplest of terms. You’ll defeat the purpose of your conversation if you are long-winded.

Surviving the toddler stage may seem daunting, but these years actually go by very quickly. Before you know it, your little one won’t be so little anymore. Take the time now to learn and apply good parenting/relationship skills with your children. You’ll find those toddler tailspins really can turn into treasured memories.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 24, 2013.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic.

It was a typical morning around the house. Between dressing and feeding the kids and making herself look presentable, this mom wondered if she even knew who she was anymore. She enjoyed her children, but always felt like she lived in the mommy fog and had no time for herself. She felt guilty about being away from her kids even for 30 minutes here or there, but sometimes she asked herself, “Where does a mother go to resign?”

Between endless laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning spit-up and spilled milk, keeping up with schedules, bath time, chasing children, and preparing meals, many moms wonder exactly when they will get time for themselves. They feel that if one more person says, “In the blink of an eye they will be grown, so cherish every moment,” they aren’t sure how they will respond.

So, how can a mom recharge her batteries without feeling guilty?

First, understand that taking care of yourself isn’t optional; it’s necessary. You can’t give what you don’t have. If you are always running on empty, irritable and have a short fuse, everybody knows it. It impacts your relationship with your children and tends to bring out the worst in them … and you.

Here is some wisdom from moms who have been down this path before:

  • Plain and simple, ask for help. Healthy people ask for what they need. If you don’t have extended family around, barter with friends or find surrogate grandparents who would be willing to help. Avoid the trap of believing others are too busy to help you.
  • Share the load. One mom shared that she has two children with special dietary needs. For a period of time, she alone made sure everything was in order for every meal. When she finally included her husband in the process, it allowed them both to care for their children’s needs. Not going it alone has given her the freedom to be away without having to worry about them.
  • Create margin in your family’s life. You know your family situation better than anybody else, so evaluate your current set of circumstances. Your children don’t have to be busy every moment. You don’t have to do everything everybody else is doing. Commit to doing what is in your family’s best interest.
  • Do something daily that fills your soul and makes you smile. There are lots of options, from enjoying the outdoors to silently soaking in a tub. Believe it or not, this will help you feel better about yourself and your parenting.
  • Avoid wishing away the moments. Life is short. Instead of wishing time away, embrace where you are and make the most of every moment. Every season has its challenges. Instead of viewing the challenges negatively, surround yourself with people who can help you walk through them, embrace them and successfully reach the other side.
  • Be grateful. In the midst of dirty laundry, food prep, smelly diapers, children pulling on you, fights over toys and lack of sleep, acknowledge your blessings. Even if you feel like you are living in a never-ending fog, gratitude can change the way you feel and think about life in general.

A mom’s role is not easy. But remember, moms have needs, too. If you want to care for your family well, take good care of yourself. Believe it or not, that is what will help lift you out of the fog and prepare you for whatever comes next.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on October 16, 2016.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!