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Picking you battles - staying sane with a toddler in the house

When I first had T, J was only 18 months old so not quite into the Two’s yet. However he was teething and had difficultly dealing with not being the centre of attention – his world was turned upside down who can blame him. For a couple of weeks I was trying to get him back to being the lovely 18 month old that had been there on the 1st March just a week before T was born. But it wasn’t working and I was getting more and more stressed and worked up (lack of sleep and hormones).

A lot of wise women, including my mum and my friends with more than one child, kept telling me the same piece of advice “PICK YOU BATTLES“.  I didn’t get it – we weren’t battling he was just a toddler and I needed to teach him in a gentle way what was right and what was wrong. But it was fight and I was losing the will to carry on.

I discovered what they actually meant was decide what is most important and those are the things that I needed to deal with.

We were going through biting, throwing things at T, refusing to eat anything that was offered – all of which I know is normal toddler behaviour but a week before she was born we weren’t experiencing any of it.

So how did we go about picking our battles

  1. Decide what is important – for us anything violent was not something that we wanted and we knew that it was due to frustration and with the change of having a new baby sister however, it was making us unhappy I was worried that the hitting, biting would turn to T instead of me so it was the first thing we tackeled
  2. Decide how you will tackle it – there are so many different methods of parenting and each has their own way to deal with what could be problem behaviour – what you are comfortable with as the way you tackle it may not be something that I am comfortable with. For us we chose to go with a think about time. As a young toddler it was holding and talking through with J why we didn’t like him doing it as he go older we would sit him on a step or seat and talk to him about it as we could sit on the floor and be on level with him. I always validate his feelings as I know a lot of the problems come frustration or annoyance that something is happening but I also talk to him about why I don’t like it
  3. Be consistent – this was the hardest part for me, a lot of the bad behaviour would be in the middle of nursing T or whilst I was trying to help her go to sleep, my focus would be on her and at first I would just brush off the biting (well it was only a small nip would be my thoughts) but because I didn’t do the same thing every time he was getting a mixed message from me. Once I dealt with the same behaviour in the same way each time things improved
  4. See if there is anything else behind the behaviour – until a friend mentioned it I didn’t realise that a lot of things were happening at around the same time of the day – mid afternoon and mid morning were the worse – she suggested that he could be hungry and that the drop in blood sugar levels could cause problems. I brought the snack time forward and things improved
  5. Put in quiet time  – J dropped his naps very early he was only 19 months when it started but initally I wasn’t prepared for this and he just didn’t nap I also didn’t encourage him to have a rest and problems would arise in the afternoon, when someone mentioned to me a quiet time and I started to have a quiet time when T napped with him by putting on the TV and snuggling up (which also gave him some much needed 1 on 1 time) the problem diminished in the afternoon as he had had a chance to recharge his batteries.
  6. It’s a phase and will too pass – this was and still is my mantra with everything baby and toddler wise. You don’t see adults that eat with their hands, lay on the floor and hit their heads when they are told No, need to be fed every 2 hours day and night and behave like a toddler. Everything is a phase and it will pass, as each month passes J becomes more and more of a little boy an almost pre-schooler and a little less of a toddler and it is passing – just as T is starting to enter into it. But I know as we are going through it that it will pass and every moment is so short in the grand scheme of things. I’m learning to enjoy the good things and just remember the mantra.
Cerys Parker

Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.


    1. It’s very trying and the days seem long but in the grand scheme of things it’s going to be gone so quickly. I keep looking forward to what will come and often forget to look at the moment it’s something that I’m working on. I want to enjoy them being toddlers and not think of the what will they be likes of the future.

  1. Wonderful post Cerys. I really enjoyed reading this. I love the “this too shall pass” philosophy as well. It’s not always easy to remember when you’re in the midst of a “No I don’t want to…” battle, but everything is a phase and can be overcome with patience and with trying to see things from our children’s perspective.

    1. It’s my mantra – through every night that I have sat and cuddled, rocked and attempted repeatedly to lay mine back in their cots so I don’t wake up with a dead arm again I repeat it’s a phase it will pass

  2. Great advice, Cerys! With our first toddler, I had much more patience and was much more conscientious of my own behaviours in response to hers. I obsessively read all the parenting books I could get my hands on, and followed all the good advice just as I was supposed to. We are finding that the toddler tantrums are much harder to deal with this time around, partly due to their vast personality differences, partly due to the fact that there are two of them testing my patience now, partly due to the fact that I no longer read up on parenting books and it’s not as fresh in my mind as it was then, and partly due to the fact that I’m a little older and more tired than I was with #1! This post was a good reminder to have more patience and make more effort to deal with toddler #2’s behaviours more responsively. Thanks!

    1. I have read the books – the not saying No but it’s so difficult and with two I find myself saying No more than I would like despite trying not to.

      I never got to experience a toddler on their own as J became a toddler when T was born, it will be interesting when J comes out of toddlerdom and T enters it to see how it differs this time round.

  3. Thank you! My sister in law is visiting at the moment and my toddler’s behaviour has deteriorated to the point I need to bark at her every couple of minutes. Your post really helped, I won’t give in to the temptation to do it as often.

  4. A good post, well done. Toddlers are annoying, frustrating, amusing, loving and have a logic all of their own. Try and enjoy every moment of them, even the bad ones.

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