Working from home with a toddler sometimes feels impossible.
Some days, the sheer frustration of trying to send just one urgent email is more than enough to make me want to stab myself in the eye with a pen.
But then I realize something. It's not my toddler who has a problem. It's me.
While toddlers do have tantrums because they can't have or do what they want, I honestly believe they aren't driven by a desire to piss you off.
Doctor Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist of over 20 years and author of the must-read book, What Every Parent Needs To Know (which is based on hundreds of studies), explains that most tantrums are indeed genuine.
"Many tantrums are the result of genuine emotional pain, which should be taken seriously: the pain of impotence, deep frustration, loss, disappointment, and feeling misunderstood. Only some tantrums are primarily motivated by a wish to have control over a parent."
With that in mind, here 9 things you can do on the days your toddler is driving you nuts.
Toddler Tactic #1: Check Your Expectations
With three children and a business to run, I have a mammoth to-do list every day. I want to knock everything off as quickly as I can -- which obviously is not a toddler's idea of fun.
So when my toddler is driving me nuts, the first thing I have to do is check my expectations.
How can anyone expect a toddler to be patient and pleasant when we're spending most of the day tidying the house, doing 137 loads of washing, making three or more meals each day and entertaining any visitors that drop in?
Of course they're going to be a little (okay, a lot) upset when you are their only source of engagement and communication. You'd feel lonely too.
Toddler Tactic #2: Get Out In Nature
Spending time outdoors is exciting for your toddler. He's discovering the magic of nature, which we often forget about as boring grown ups. Heck, even the puddles we once loved jumping and splashing in are now seen as annoying inconveniences in our way.
But if you head outside and into the sunshine with your toddler, before you know it, you'll enjoy the outdoors too. Let your little one jump in puddles or run freely in a safe space. The vitamin D you'll both receive will be great for your immune systems and your moods.
Toddler Tactic #3: Slow It Down
We've become a society fixated on how to get from A to B, in the shortest, easiest and quickest route possible, without stopping to smell the roses.
Allow time for your toddler to have the freedom to explore and admire. If he gives you a rock or flower that he's picked, get down to his level and get excited about it with him. The joy in his eyes will be priceless.
Take your time, you just might find it helps you to slow down too.
Toddler Tactic #4: Get Creative
Just as we forget the delights of nature, we too forget the captivating activities we loved to do as tiny tots.
It doesn't have to be complicated -- painting or playdough can mesmerize toddlers for hours.
If you're feeling a little clueless about activities to do with your toddler, then you must check out my article, which is chock full of ideas: 17 Activities Your Toddler Will Love.
Toddler Tactic #5: Get Present
The biggest, bestest (that's a word, my kids say so) present anyone could give another human being is their presence.
If you tend to be 'in your head' or think about your to-do list often, your toddler will pick up on it. Constant calling, "mom... mom... mom," or escalating behaviours are a signal he's not feeling heard.
Spending some quality, undivided time with your toddler can fill up his cup again, providing more fuel for independent playtime.
But if a toddler's mama or dada cup is empty, they will keep finding ways to get your attention to fill it. They just love you and want to do lots of things with you - you are their world.
Toddler Tactic #6: Seriously, Get Some Help
If the budget allows, get some paid help in the areas troubling you the most.
If you're stressed out about cleaning the house, hire a cleaner once a week, fortnight, or month, depending on your budget.
You might not feel comfortable with the idea of having a cleaner at first. It may feel overly indulgent. But it's incredibly freeing and can take a load of pressure off.
In Australia, a cleaner costs $60-$70 for two to three hours work. You'll have all your home surfaces sparking, for half what it costs for an hour in therapy. That's what it will feel like too, bargain therapy.
Toddler Tactic #7: Take Care of Yourself
Whenever I'm feeling run down because I haven't had enough sleep, 'me' time or have put everyone else's needs first ahead of mine, I am not the best parent (or partner) that I could be.
A stressed, tired and self-sacrificing parent isn't a happy one. Talk to your partner, friends and family members to see where there are any opportunities for them to step in and help with certain things.
Toddler Tactic #8: Always Be a Trouble Shooter
Babies and toddlers can't eloquently verbalise their problems, so there's often guesswork involved on our part.
Being a trouble-shooter rather than taking things personally makes a huge difference. If you're holding a crying baby, you might run over a mental checklist in your head. Is his nappy dirty? Is he hot? Cold? Just wants a cuddle?
Even toddlers can't always tell you what the problem is, as they don't know how to put feelings into words, or understand his sore tummy is actually hunger pain.
Toddler Tactic #9: Embrace Pyjama Days
When my toddler is beside herself and nothing seems to be working, it's time for a pyjama day.
A pyjama day means saying no to doing and yes to trusting she needs me to have downtime with her. We stay in comfy clothes, prepare a drink and some snacks, before heading for the couch to watch her favorite shows. This is so much more peaceful and grounding, because what you resist, persists.
Usually within a few days, just when I start to think I can no longer tolerate the crankiness or restless nights, the clouds part and it all makes sense - my daughter pops a tooth, is sick or has another good reason to explain why she was so upset.
All you need to do is...
Trust your toddler. He isn't being naughty. Your toddler isn't capable of saying, "Gee mom, my head really hurts today. I don't like it and it makes me feel really grumpy and tired all the time."
By assuming he's being naughty or manipulative, he won't feel understood, resulting in even more of the behaviour you don't like.
Your new mantra: "My toddler isn't trying to give me a hard time. He is having a hard time."