Set them up for success

Child care expert Nanny Carrie shares from her bottomless bag of tips and tricks every two weeks here in The Mabelhood. Want advice from a professional nanny? Send your child related questions to

Q – I feel like I’m always nagging at my toddler and saying “NO” all the time. Anything I can do to avoid feeling like a nag?

If you're finding yourself in a vicious cycle of a toddler who is getting into mischief every 2 minutes, they're often bored and trying to get your attention to help them find something to do.  Try not to see it as a deliberate ploy to drive mama crazy.  When adults are bored, we doodle on paper, surf the internet, check for split ends, etc.  Your toddler is probably just looking for a way to entertain himself.

There are two ways to manage the situation and keep the “no’s” to a minimum.  You'll probably find you need to use both depending on the situation.

1) Set them up for success.  It's not fair to take a 2 year old into a doctor's office and expect him to quietly read a magazine for 45 minutes.  If you don't provide something for him to do, he's going to make his own fun. 

For the little guys: Bring special toys, colouring (stickers are great because they're less messy), and snacks are always a hit.  Go for a low maintenance snack like bite-size crackers or cereal puffs.  (Scraping muffin crumbs out of the carpet does not make a mama’s life easier!) Try to create an environment so that their activity is something positive and then be sure to load up on the praise for doing a good job.

For bigger kids: Save the electronics for special occasions.  You’ll be surprised how quickly a child can grow to love waiting rooms if it means they get to bust out the video games!  For the less technologically inclined, comic books and magazines for kids are a good bet.  (Steer clear of toys with small pieces and anything that will have you scrambling under chairs for escaped dinky cars and Legos).

2) Cut your losses.  Sometimes you need to get something done and you just can't arrange an activity to keep your little one out of trouble.  So let him wreak a bit of havoc (obviously ensuring it's not dangerous or too destructive).  In my house, sometimes that means letting my little guy dust the bathroom cupboard with my makeup brushes or empty ice cube trays into the sink.  They're not the best activities but it means I can keep the negativity to a minimum while he is safely occupied. 

When you do find you need to redirect your toddler, try using phrases like “uh uh uh”  or “don’t touch please” rather than “no.”  You can use these phrases for minor misbehaviours and save the firm “no’s” for occasions when they really count (running across the street, turning the dials on the stove etc.) and you can follow through with your request.  Then as they get older you can call out “no” with one hand on the phone and one hand making lasagna and they'll know you still mean business!

Nanny Carrie’s Tip: Keep a ‘busy bag’ filled with fun activities in your car/purse/diaper bag so you’ll always be prepared with something cool to occupy your little one whenever an unforeseen errand/appointment crops up.

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Author: Nanny Carrie

Nanny Carrie always knew she wanted a big family, so she made it her business to borrow everybody else's children until she had her own. You can find her embracing the organized chaos of life with five kids and loving (almost) every minute!

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