How to get your preschooler to listen without yelling

No one really wants to have to yell at their kids to get their attention, right? The thing is, children's brains transition much more slowly than adult brains do, which means even if they hear you talking, you don't necessarily have their attention. Here are four easy ways to get their attention without yelling, while also building connection and strengthening your bond with your child.

1. Be silly
Getting down on their level and being silly and playful invites them from their world of fun and imagination and into your world of fun.

  • "I can't remember, are your eyes purple? Do you have purple eyes? Can I see them?"
  • "Are my eyes opened or closed?" (Then keep one eye open and one eye closed like you're winking at them.)
  •  "My tongue! It's stuck out! I can't get it back in! I need some one to poke my tummy so my tongue will pop back in my mouth!"
2. Be curious
When you take time to notice what they're engaged in or mention something you admire or love about what they're doing, it gently shifts their focus to you.

  • "I see you're coloring a rainbow. It looks like you used all of the colors and made it really big and bright. What is your favorite thing about this picture?"
  • "It looks like you're having fun playing with your Paw Patrol toys. What kind of adventure are they on?"
3. Gently touch their shoulder, cheek, or chin
Getting down at eye level or lower disarms children and helps them instinctively know that you are not there for a power struggle or to control them. Gently touch their shoulder, cheek, leg, or chin to get their attention while asking a question about the activity they're engaged in. "You're paying really close attention to this LEGO project. What are you building?

4. Sing or whisper
If you need their attention right away, and can't get close to them, try singing their name or even whispering if you're close enough that they'll hear it. This is a low-pressure way to get their attention and help draw them to you.

5. Instead of counting to three, have them count
Many parents use the 1...2...3... method to get their children to listen or obey. Instead of counting to get your child's attention, help them access the logical and problem-solving parts of their brain by inviting them to count.

  • "How many fingers am I holding up?"  (If they answer and then look away quickly, do it again, or quickly change how many fingers you're holding up so they pay closer attention.)
Children can easily get lost in their own imaginative world and focused on their own agenda - and that's a good thing, it's one of the things we love about them! As a Peacemaker Parent, you can gain their attention without getting harsh or yelling, and draw them back into a trusting, safe, and peaceful "real world." 

Want to learn more about Peacemaker Parenting Preschoolers? Our upcoming LIVE workshop will fill your parenting toolbox with trust-based, peacemaking parenting tools, especially for the preschool years. 


Peacemaker Parenting Tool: Find the Yes

In the fast-paced world of parenting, it's easy to find ourselves uttering those familiar words: "No," "Don't," and "Stop." But did you know that these seemingly harmless words can trigger a cascade of stress-inducing reactions in both your child's developing brain and your own? In this blog post, we'll explore the power of "yes" and why telling children what to do, rather what not to do, can be a game-changer in cultivating harmony in your home.

When we constantly resort to "no," we unwittingly release a slew of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters in both our children's and our own brains. These chemicals can immediately interrupt crucial brain functions, leading to diminished logic, reason, language processing, and communication. To make matters worse, a disapproving frown when saying "no" can release even more stress hormones, contributing to increased anxiety and irritability. Ultimately, this can undermine the precious bonds of connection and trust between you and your child, which ultimately can result in more power struggles!

Of course, we're not suggesting that you should never say "no" to your child; that's simply unrealistic. No is a complete sentence and children do need to learn it! (Though you may have noticed your young child has most definitely learned the power of "no!" and you hear it quite often!) 

Rather than relying on "no", we suggest a powerful alternative: the art of finding the "yes" and telling your little ones what to do rather than what not to do.

Here are some practical examples to illustrate the shift:

"Find The Yes" is just one of the valuable tools we're excited to share in our upcoming Peacemaker Parenting Preschoolers workshop this month. If you're THE parent of a 3-5 year old who is seeking to parent with peace and purpose while breaking generational cycles of harsh parenting and physical punishment, this workshop is designed specifically for you.

Lessons My Toddler Taught Me About Meltdowns

My toddler seemed to be having fun. Everything seemed great–but then she saw that her brother had one of the 20 yellow fish toys they’d been happily sharing for an hour. She began to melt. We were outside in our yard, but we were living in a busy neighborhood and the screams and flailing became really intense. My mind immediately went to “What on earth will my neighbors think of us?!” and I became dysregulated myself. The logic I tried to use to help her was not working and things were just ramping up. So I carried my three-year-old upstairs to a quieter place to try to figure out what was going on–also to hide from the public eye, because who wants that kind of pressure?! I was trying to stay calm but to be completely honest, I was in tears too. I did not grow up in a community that “navigated” toddler meltdowns with much grace–they weren’t really allowed and moms who navigated or tolerated them with anything besides punishment were often shamed. I didn’t really know what to do, but I do remember mustering all of the willpower I could and I decided that even if I didn’t know what to do exactly, I wasn’t going to lose it with my kid in this moment. The screaming lasted longer than I’d ever seen–20+ minutes. Nothing I mentioned seemed to help. My child was not interested in breathing, or I spy, or hugs, or connecting with me. She was just loud. But then I got a clue and she said something I won’t ever forget– “Help me, Mommy!” That was something I needed to get me through not only that meltdown but every other toddler meltdown I’d experienced with my children from that day on. I stayed nearby. Reminding her I was there when she was ready and that she was safe. It lasted a long time, but she settled and crawled into my lap. Sobs became less and less until they stopped. We re-connected and after a snack and a juicebox, we went back to playing. 

Surely I’m not the only one who has taken a big ole toddler meltdown personally–right? (pssst, if you’re wondering the difference between a tantrum + a meltdown read here)

The intensity of demonstrated emotions can be a super huge burden to bear–especially if toddler emotions were met with punishment when you were a kid. Your toolbox may feel a bit empty as you find yourself in the middle of these instances. But the thing I took from that experience I shared above is this:

 A meltdown isn’t any more fun for your toddler than it is for you. 

I used to think a toddler who was screaming and yelling was doing something that they really wanted to do and just needed a lesson in self-control to learn how to control what they desired to do. That isn’t the case. I repeat: that is not the case! 

That recognition of the frightening struggle a child is having during a meltdown opened my eyes to some other mindsets that have helped significantly as I’ve navigated more and more of these big feelings with my kids:

  • A meltdown doesn’t feel any better for your toddler than it does for you–they are out of control 
  • When meltdowns happen, your toddler doesn’t know how to immediately get out of it
  • Trying to force an end to a toddler meltdown doesn’t teach or help them with anything–suppression isn’t the answer
  • One of the only things a parent can offer a toddler in the thick of a meltdown is a calm body of quiet support
  • When a toddler is in meltdown mode reasoning is not an effective strategy
  • Don’t set a time limit in your mind– you’re in this for the long haul with them and your love won’t waver. You are both safe
How does this help? Well, when we can get ourselves into such a posture of peace that their behavior doesn’t shake us, it helps everyone. And for as icky as it can feel for everyone during a meltdown moment, they do always end. That is another big one – These big feeling moments are loud and can feel so long, but they do not last forever. Being a calm and safe body in the middle of a feelings storm for your child is one of the few tools they can actually use to pull themselves out–remember that, mama. It’s a tough job–but you’re helping your child way more than you know when you’re able to keep, or reclaim your peace through these intense moments.

Want to hear more about what each of these things look like in practical everyday life? Do you have a particular struggle you’re trying to navigate that you want some coaching in? We have a toddler workshop coming up that will cover these things and more and we’d love to have you join us! 

How to Help Kids Brush their Teeth

Encouraging toddlers to cooperate during toothbrushing can be a challenging task. However, it's important to prioritize their trust and avoid resorting to forceful measures that can harm both their dental health and your relationship. As parents, it's important to understand the reasons behind their reluctance and find creative ways to make toothbrushing a fun and enjoyable experience for them, while nurturing their trust in our leadership and guidance.

Understanding the Challenge:
It's not uncommon for young children to resist brushing their teeth. Not only do they not understand the importance of dental hygiene (no matter how many stories we tell or lectures we give), there can be other reasons why they protest teeth brushing:

  • Sensory sensitivity: The sensation of toothbrush bristles and toothpaste foam can be overwhelming for some children, leading to discomfort or aversion.
  • Autonomy and control: In toddlerhood, children are beginning to assert their independence, and toothbrushing may be seen as a task imposed on them, leading to resistance in toddlerhood (and beyond!)
  • Boredom or lack of engagement: Brushing teeth can be seen as a mundane chore, lacking excitement or stimulation.
Peaceful + Playful Approaches to Helping Children Brush Their Teeth
  • Make It a Game: Transform toothbrushing into a playful activity by turning it into a game. Use your imagination to create scenarios such as pretending to be a toothbrushing superhero or a silly dentist. Encourage your child to make animal sounds while brushing different parts of their mouth or play their favorite music during the process. These engaging activities help distract them from any discomfort and make the experience enjoyable.
  • Lead by Example: Children often mimic their parent's behaviors. Allow your toddler to observe you brushing your teeth regularly, demonstrating the importance of oral hygiene. Make it a joint activity by brushing your teeth together, taking turns, or even letting them "help" brush your teeth. This creates a bonding experience and reinforces the habit in a positive manner. You can even play a tooth-brushing themed "Follow the leader" and let the copy your moves.
  • Choose Kid-Friendly Toothbrushes and Toothpaste: Invest in toothbrushes designed specifically for toddlers, featuring vibrant colors, appealing characters, or favorite cartoon themes. Additionally, select a toothpaste with a pleasant taste, specifically formulated for young children. The enticing toothbrush and toothpaste options can make brushing time more exciting for your little one. 
  • Establish a Routine:  Creating a consistent routine around toothbrushing helps children develop a sense of structure and expectation. Set aside specific times each day for brushing, such as after breakfast and before bedtime. Ensure that the routine remains consistent, even when traveling or during busy days. This familiarity will make toothbrushing feel like a natural and non-negotiable part of their daily life.
  • Provide Choices and Autonomy: To foster a sense of control, offer your child choices within toothbrushing routines. Let them select their toothbrush or toothpaste flavor from pre-approved options. Additionally, allow them to choose whether they brush their top or bottom teeth first, before or after their bath, or in your bathroom or their bathroom. By empowering them to make decisions, you turn brushing into a task they feel they have some say in.
  • Keep it short: Even adults find being poked and prodded in their mouths to be an overwhelming experience. While the ideal brush time may be two minutes, it is okay to build up to that over time. Gradually increase brushing time by incorporating enjoyable elements such as songs or timers. Singing while brushing or pretending to chase "green grimies" makes the process more engaging and establishes a time limit, ensuring your child knows when it will end. Visual times may be helpful for young children. Start small and gradually increase by 5-10 seconds each day.

  1. When you notice your toddler putting things in their mouth, swap it out for a toothbrush. This introduces the toothbrush in a neutral and no-pressure way and allows them to chew on and experiment with it.
  2. Bring a stuffed animal or doll and let them brush their toy's teeth before they brush their own.
  3. Swap turns - let them brush your teeth, then swap and you brush their teeth.
  4. Play a silly song or a Daniel Tiger Short while they brush their teeth. 
  5. Make silly noises as if the germs are scared and running away from the toothbrush.
Helping toddlers develop good oral hygiene habits can be a challenging but essential task. By understanding why they may resist brushing their teeth and implementing playful and practical strategies, you can transform toothbrushing from a chore into an enjoyable routine. Remember, patience, consistency, and creativity are key in guiding your little one toward a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

What I Wish I'd Known When I was Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers

As I write this my boys are staying up a little late to read. Elijah (7.5) is reading a LEGO Ideas book and Ezra (9) is Charley and the Chocolate Factory. There's a soft glow peeking under their doorway, and as I reflect on this day I can't help but think of what bedtime looked like a few years ago, anyhow desperately I longed for them to go to sleep so I could...just breathe. 

I'm filled with gratitude for the years of hard work David and I put into learning to parent with gentleness, grace, and peace. The toddler and early preschool years were especially difficult for me (hello postpartum anxiety), and there were plenty of times I said "I can't do this anymore!"

But here we are years later, and our entire family has affectionately started referring to this summer as "The Summer of Peace." Our home is filled with peace, even as we navigate big changes for our family and while David and I finish the manuscript for our book. These are the days I longed for, hoped for, and prayed for when our boys were young. And as I reflect on those early years, there are a few things I wish I'd known. 

What I Wish I'd Known When I was Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers
  1. I wish I had known that the fruit of my labor would show up sooner than I thought, and in the most unexpected ways. I saw little glimmers of it every now and then, like when our then three-year-old told his two- year-old brother, "You're in my space, please play somewhere else." and the two-year-old replied, "Oh okay!" and moved to the other side of the train table. But many times it felt like my efforts were in vain because I didn't see that much fruit as soon as I wanted. Looking back, the peace, honor, emotional intelligence, assertiveness, and teamwork that we cultivated actually did reap a bountiful harvest! But not always, and not perfectly. And I wish I hadn't expected it to be always or perfect.

  2. I wish I had known that I would never regret choosing to parent with gentleness and peace. When my children were younger I had a lot of fear of messing them up. We started out spanking and parenting pretty traditionally, and were very quickly convicted that treating children as less worthy of honor, respect, and protection than adults was not aligned with the way of Jesus. But even with strong convictions, I still feared it wouldn't "work". I wish I had known then that I would never regret treating my young children with honor and dignity. Watching them grow in honor and respect, not out of fear but out of love for others, has been a beautiful journey.

  3. I wish I had known that laying a foundation of trust creates a safeharbor for complex conversations. As our children get older, conversations become more challenging. Because we worked so hard to become safe for our children no matter what, they know that tricky and complex conversations are inherently safe to have with us. It doesn't necessarily make those talks easier or less uncomfortable, but it does create safety and vulnerability. Trust really is the key that unlocks healthy, flourishing relationships.

  4. I wish I had known that I would enjoy collaborating with my kids. There is so much pressure on parents to control their child's behavior, and when they were small I felt that pressure heavily. Looking back, I wish I had known how truly delightful it is to problem-solve and collaborate with kids. They're naturally creative and curious, and they come up with some of the most out-of- the-box solutions to problems. Letting go of my desire to control them and their actions freed me to enjoy them for who they are, and it allowed me to genuinely appreciate their problem-solving skills.

  5. I wish I had known that connection is correction. We've heard it many times from many places: connect before you correct. And there's wisdom in that for sure. But it took me a long to recognize that connection is a form of correction because it models for our children what we expect from them. It models conflict resolution, reconciliation, emotional regulation, and kindness in the face of adversity. Is it the only form of correction? No. But it is probably one of the most under-appreciated ways of correcting a child's behavior, and I wish I had realized its power long before I did.
If I had to do it over again, here's why |would: 
In general I don't like using my children as examples of why Peacemaker Parenting "works" They are not my report card, they're not my trophies to show off. They are their own people, and ultimately they do and will get to make their own choices. So I hesitate to share their stories too publicly. Yes, we enjoy a beautiful, trust-based relationship. Yes, they are generally well-behaved kids. Yes, they know how to bring peace to their own conflicts and rarely need us to coach them through fights or disagreements. But none of that is why I'd choose Peacemaker Parenting again. Rather - it is because parenting with peace and gentleness forced me to confront my own emotional immaturity and surrender it to Jesus. It tested how deeply I trusted Jesus to be my source of peace, my identity, and my strength, and it helped me realize just how truly gracious He is to me.

If you're in the thick of it with toddlers, I want to invite you to join our next workshop: Peacemaker Parenting Toddlers. It's specifically geared at providing a model of Jesus-Centered parenting for parents of 15-36 month old children, but the truths and tools will be applicable for preschoolers and early childhood as well.

Read Older Updates Read Newer Updates