5 Ways to Regain Lost Ground with a Young Child

Establishing boundaries toddler tantrumsGuest Post by Louisa from Everything is Edible

A little while ago I discovered I had became that Mum.

You know the one, the one who is completely ignored by their kid.
Who has no power, or authority to get their child to do, or not do anything.
The one on whom television shows are based.

It was scary.

BUT, all was not lost and after a couple of weeks of “hardcore” parenting, I regained lost ground.

These are my top 5 tips for parents who may find themselves in a similar place with their little ones.

1. Believe in yourself

Remember you are the grown up, you do know what’s best for your child and they are capable of listening to you and following your instructions. Remember that the tantrum will stop and you can handle it.

2. Get a rewards chart

If you are going “hardcore” then a positive setting will be of great benefit.

I am a big fan of Little Billies which I’ve talked about before. Whatever you use, make sure the behaviours you are working on are clear, age appropriate and that you have taken the time to make sure the child knows what they are. Then look for ways to reward your child and lavish praise on them. Give them stickers/magnets at every chance you get for the first few days/week. As things begin to improve you can slow down a bit on the rewards but make sure they are still a regular feature of the day.

3. Be united

If you have a partner/husband, you will be most effective if you are a united front. Not only will it make it easier for you to regain authority without being the “bad cop” but it ‘s also very reassuring for children to know  their parents are on the same page, even if they don’t like it much. It gives them security as children, and a great model to work from when they are adults and parents themselves.

4. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it

This applies as much to the everyday little things as it does to the “big” things. I found myself giving in or letting go of lots of the little “come here’s”, for example, because I was just so tired and they really didn’t matter. Eventually this became what my daughter Bliss expected from me, so when I did try and follow through, she didn’t respect it. Now, before saying “Bliss, can you come here please?” I try to stop and think about whether I really care if she’s going to come or not. If not, I don’t say it. If I do, I follow through.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for being flexible, and for teaching your child that you can change your mind. But when you are trying to regain lost territory you need to spend some time holding your ground as they come to realise  you mean what you say.

Of course, when it comes to the big things like “if you don’t do x we are going to go straight home”, for example, then you must follow through.  It is OK to up and leave a function, play date, excursion if you feel it’s necessary. BUT if you aren’t going to follow through, or if it’s a time when either you don’t want to leave or it would be considered rude, don’t make the threat.

5. Make sure they know you love them

When they are tantruming, don’t leave them – toddlers especially, need to be able to resist the rules while knowing that you aren’t going to leave. It’s frustrating when they won’t let you soothe them but get more hysterical if you walk away. This is perfectly normal development in children of a young age. It’s an emotionally difficult experience for your child who wants to exert herself but needs to know you still love them. And remember, they will calm down, eventually.

As always, focus on the behvaiour not the person. What you did was wrong but, I love you. There’s a great line at the end of this Olivia book where Olivia’s Mum says to her “I love you anyway”. It’s become a little family joke of ours and certainly lightens things up after a spill – especially for Mum and Dad!

Kids love boundaries. It makes them feel safe when they know they aren’t the ones in control, that someone bigger and stronger than them is the boss. I failed to be consistent and clear with my daughter because I was tired, emotional and pregnant, and it wasn’t good for any of us. After a couple of weeks doing these 5 things we’re in a really good place. And my girl?

Well, put quite simply – she’s delightful!


Louisa Everything is EdibleLouisa has a background in Early Childhood and is Mum to two wee ones, Miss Bliss and Little Bear.  She finds life with her kids fun but frantic, and feels so blessed to be Mum to her two. Louisa loves to-do lists, so much so, her husband had a pre-child one framed.  However, these days her to-do lists never seem to get finished. Louisa writes most days at Everything is Edible.

External Articles

11 Reasons to Use Boundaries with Your Children

How to Teach Boundaries to Children with Activities

Boundaries With Kids by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend

Be A Fun Mum Links

Choose Which Hill to Die On: The Terrible Twos

Guard Your Mouth: Three Gates

Treat Your Kids Without Spoiling Them

Childishness or Foolishness?

Little Billies, Toast and the Terrible Twos

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  • Reply
    Kelly Be A Fun Mum
    January 27, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Louisa, I needed this reminder. Things are starting to settle down a little for me after some very hard weeks. Weeks when I was just surviving. I’m just starting to get back on the horse, so to speak, and I’ve been thinking hard about what I expect from my kids (and why) so I can make sure I’m clear and consistent. Thank you for sharing your story with us here at Be A Fun Mum. x

    • Reply
      January 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      @Kelly Be A Fun Mum, That’s such a helpful way of putting it – thinking about what we expect and what’s reasonable to expect and whether there is a match is something I’ve got to keep in mind all the time. xx

  • Reply
    January 27, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Great tips. Sometimes when things get a little hectic and stressful, we tend to let things slip a little. It helps to take time out once in a while to assess what’s not working and figure out how to get things back on track. Appreciate your sharing.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Thanks Louisa,

    Always a great reminder – it is nice to have some easy steps to think through when things aren’t going to plan. I especially have to remember the “don’t say it if you don’t mean it” principal. I’m glad you and Bliss are getting back on track!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Parenting is not so hard really – when you have servants to do all the chores, are independently wealthy and get eight hours sleep every night! But in the real world, being a strong, loving but fair parent is so difficult. When you’re at the end of your tether, emotionally, kids seem to know it, and go for the jugular.

    I love your five strategies, Louisa. Number 4 especially. Thanks so much for sharing them with us!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      @BookChook, ha ha ha – you gave me a good chuckle Susan 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement too.

  • Reply
    February 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Great article. I really like number 4 because so often I say things when I know I’m not going to follow through and I’m a real push over. Thanks for the advise.

  • Reply
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