The Right Tools in Parenting

This morning as I was preparing breakfast, the two bigger kids (ages 8 and 5)  wanted to build a train track, but the chest of train tracks was in their little brother’s room, and since I had a crying baby I couldn’t lift it and bring it out to the spot they wanted to build the train track on.  Therefore, the oldest decided she could not wait for me to get the train tracks and she would do it little by little herself. After one trip into the bedroom to get tracks, she started saying, “But (little sister) NEVER helps!  She never does ANYTHING to clean up or help!  I guess I will do it all by myself!” and started yelling at her little sister to help her.  In return, her little sister, who just turned five two weeks ago, promptly did a great version of “NANAABOOBOO” and started with the wonderful name-calling that every four and early five year old seems to know how to do.

I actually felt amused, because it provided me this great moment of epiphany:  My oldest was using the wrong tools to try to get her little sister to help!  First of all, yelling at someone never works; second of all, even asking and reasoning with a four or five year old to help is not going to work because they are moving beings not reasoning beings; and third of all, every four or five year old is going to react to being yelled at by their sibling with a version of “nanaabooboo” because that is their level of maturity.

So stop to think!  How many times do we use the WRONG tools in parenting?  When you go to discipline a child, do you ever stop to think if this tool that you are about to use is the right one for the age of your child?  Do you understand where your child is developmentally? 

Or are you flying about with no tools?  Reacting by yelling is essentially flying without a toolbox.  Yelling typically results from frustration, so double check if your expectations are truly in line with your child’s age.  Are they?

The younger child did end up helping her big sister get out the train tracks.  I gave the older one ownership of the problem (she could have waited for me to help her or she could do it herself happily or she could turn it into a game and involve  the younger one in carrying the tracks).   I guided the older one when she got stuck in frustration, and helped involve the younger one.  This is the job of a parent; it is not to say “work it out” until you are certain they have the tools to “work it out”.

Yelling and blaming and spewing frustration at your child are not parenting tools, even though we have all been there and done these things.  Be easy with yourself, and forgive yourself for these things that are reactions and not guiding.   Being a gentle parent is so important, but luckily our children give us many chances to show better sides of ourselves!

Remember movement, games, reasonable expectations, a cheerful attitude on your part, restitution on the child’s part if something did not go well.  There are wonderful tools for a wonderful future adult.

Much love,



6 thoughts on “The Right Tools in Parenting

  1. Although I’m not quite there yet with sibling squabbles (I’ve got a 13 month old and a little one coming any day now), I know its so easy just to shut yourself out of a problem you don’t want to get yourself involved in and say “work it out.” Even with my son getting frustrated over something that he is having a difficult time doing — my husband and I have found that we don’t have to rush in and do it for him, but rather calmly demonstrate how he might get what he needs or wants (if its okay for him to do so!). +Chelsea

    • Yes, and these things take the time to be able to step back and observe before you step in so you know if you are providing the right amount of guidance or too much or too little.

  2. My just two year old son does a few things on a regular basis that drive me crazy, such as destroying books (right in front of me) and running up to and banging on people’s doors as we walk. I know he does these things because they drive me crazy, but it amazes me how in the moment I just lose my tools and struggle with holding back or letting run the chicken with its head cut off. All that inner work and my little boy can still set me off! You have written some good reminders here about guiding and restitution. I will work with them tonight. You are right, too, that children are forgiving. I see with my own son how generous of heart he is with me when I reconnect with him and apologize. I’ve learned so much from him.

    • Have you seen the tripping into toddlerhood post? That may be helpful as can use the search box for the blog and type in toddler and see what comes up… A two year really is just seeing what happens without forethought, but still needs your example and gentle guidance — along with good environmental control and rhythm, LOL.
      Many blessings,

  3. Very good point, Carrie. I realized one day this past year my own reaction to someone losing their cool in any situation. If I see someone yell and lose it, though I’m sympathetic, part of me begins to dismiss their concern. It’s almost like I think, “Okay, this is your issue — not so much about me.” It made me think about how children react when their parents yell at them. I’ve sometimes thought that maybe it would actually be good for me to yell at my children, if I’m doing it with consciousness maybe it would wake them up a bit, but I’ve since realized that it really is never the best solution.

  4. I would love to hear more about children making restitutions. I know you have mentioned it here before, but I am unclear on how one would go about having her child do this. Somehow I think it is more than just forcing the child to say “sorry.” 😉

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