Parenting Mantras: Respond Rather than React

Whether you are in those early newborn days, the throws of toddlerhood, the terrible teenage years, or anything in between, parenting is hard! Sometimes it is easy for me to make it about myself and my feelings rather than help my son through whatever it is that he’s going through. It can be hard to help when we don’t know what is wrong and start to well up with frustration, or when they are testing out age-appropriate behaviors that drive us crazy. I have found that there are a few parenting mantras I use in times like these that bring me back to the main goal: tending to my child’s needs and maintaining a respectful and healthy relationship with him.

Parenting Mantras: Respond Rather than React. 3 simple but effective tantrum hacks for mom. Wondering what to do when your child has a tantrum?

These simple phrases have helped me choose to respond rather than react to those challenging situations. Here are my top three in-the-moment parenting mantras:

1. He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time

Not sure where I originally heard this (if you know the source please let me know!), but it is easily my favorite and most used parenting mantra. This mantra helps me through tantrums because it reminds me that my son isn’t just being difficult, but experiencing very real and overwhelming feelings that he needs my help dealing with or expressing.

Sometimes it reminds me to help him solve a problem – maybe he is teething or dealing with a growth spurt and I haven’t caught on yet. Sometimes it reminds me to just be there to validate his feelings and love him through it – maybe he is missing his dad who is at work or is feeling thrown off by a switch in his schedule that day or week. Choosing to be there for him rather than just getting upset with him is much easier when I think of it in this way. It may seem like children, especially toddlers, just lash out for no reason, but in the two years I have been a mom I have found that has never been the case for us. Sometimes I may not know the reason, but I can be there for him and help him through it regardless.

Some questions to ask yourself for a perspective change:

  • Could something I can’t see be bothering my child?
  • Is it too close to bedtime or could he/she be hungry?
  • If I, as an adult, am so upset over this, how much more upset is my child?

2. You’re acting like a 2-year-old

This one came to me one day as I was watching my son make a mess with his food. He was being playful and I jokingly said, “You’re acting like a 2-year-old!” I thought I was so funny. But then, I realized how useful that reminder could be for me in some of the not-so-playful moments. And it sure has been!

This parenting mantra reminds me that my son’s boundary-testing behavior is completely age appropriate. That doesn’t mean it is always fun, or that I always respond with smiles and hugs. Sometimes I get frustrated and yell, or implement totally unrelated consequences – like taking a toy away because he is climbing on (and jumping off of) the couch.

When I put it in perspective that he is learning and growing from this behavior–and from my response to it–it makes it a lot easier for me to respond rather than react. I am better able to handle the situation in a calm and loving way while still being firm in discipline, rather than losing my cool or raising my voice.

Some questions to ask yourself for a perspective change:

  • Do other children my child’s age behave this way; Is this typical behavior?
  • Is the consequence I have in mind appropriate for the behavior (will it make sense to my child)?
  • How can I reassure my child that he/she is still loved and accepted, even when I don’t like his/her behavior?

Parenting Mantras: Respond Rather than React. 3 simple but effective tantrum hacks for mom. Wondering what to do when your child has a tantrum?

3. It’s not that big of a deal

I catch myself saying this to Jim often, as I tend to have a lot more patience than most people. Sometimes, we just need that in-the-moment reminder that our son’s behavior is typical for a toddler and it doesn’t need an overreaction on our part. Obviously, there are some cases that do warrant a reaction, such as one involving his safety or a lesson we have been trying to bring home. Most of the time, I will just say “he’s fine,” instead, which my toddler has started picking up on in a hilariously adorable way (“I’m fine!” *continues doing the ‘no big deal’ behavior*).

This parenting mantra is referring to those times where you can feel yourself getting frustrated over something your child is doing when it really isn’t that big of a deal. It could also be a situation where you are trying to exert control for no reason, such as telling them to stop xyz when really you could just let them go because it isn’t hurting anything. Maybe I’m having a bad day, I’m upset with someone else, or I’m frustrated with a project I am currently working on. This mantra reminds me that it isn’t his fault and what he is doing is totally fine. It’s me who is having the issue, and I need to be mindful of how I am responding to my son in this trivial situation. It is the perfect mantra to help me remember to practice grace, compassion, patience, and even self-care! It also applies very well when others (even strangers) are trying to correct your child in a way you disagree with. They usually mean well, trying to stop children from climbing or touching something without knowing your child already has your permission (my son is very active and capable!).

Some questions to ask yourself for a perspective change:

  • Am I getting annoyed or frustrated because of my own current mood?
  • Is this activity harmful or destructive in any way, to anyone, or to anything?
  • Is this an area where I can allow my child to make his/her own decision?

Parenting Mantras: Respond Rather than React. 3 simple but effective tantrum hacks for mom. Wondering what to do when your child has a tantrum?

These are my three go-to parenting mantras that I pretty much use on a daily basis. I didn’t sit down one day and think, “Hey, I think I’ll Google some parenting mantras and try to add them in my daily routine!” It was more of a growth process. I didn’t even realize that I was using them until I caught myself sharing one of them with someone else. Then I decided that since they have helped me so much, I’d love to share them with YOU and hope that they will work for you as well! One of the hardest parts of parenting for me is at the end of the day when I know I could have handled things differently based on the example I want to set and the type of things I’d like my son to learn. These parenting mantras help eliminate some of that stress because they actually help me IN THE MOMENT. They give me a quick reminder that I can choose to respond rather than react and, more importantly, my son will know that he is loved and respected based on those responses.

Call to Action!

What is your favorite parenting mantra? How has it helped you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!! Also, please let me know what you think of the ones included in this post, and if you plan on trying any out! One great way to keep them in the front of your mind is to write out a few sticky notes and put them places you spend a lot of time (or get the most frustrated!): the playroom, the car, the fridge, your work space. You don’t have to choose the same ones I did, but my challenge for you is to practice using a few parenting mantras of your own over the next month and see how it goes. Before you know it, it will become second nature and you will be a boss at responding rather than reacting in those hard times!

Print These Mantras!

Parenting mantras form

I decided to make these Tantrum Tamers easier to remember--now you can print them out (for free!) and put them where you will see them often to help you keep your cool in the midst of the chaos! The three parenting mantras are included plus three bonus questions to help shift your perspective!


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