Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

During nearly the first two years of my daughter’s life I got used to doing everything for my little one. I’d grown accustomed to dictating the food she’d eat, the outfits she’d wear, and control the pace in getting to the places we’d go (because she didn’t walk confidently until around fifteen months). While it is tiring doing everything for someone else there is something far more exhausting; it is far more draining having someone suddenly pushing back every step of the way, in every possible scenario. My husband looked at my frustrated face and simply said, “We just have to outsmart her.” I knew he was right, but it doesn’t always come easy. It takes patience, and test runs to find just the right things to do or say to make a once difficult scenario easier, but in time we both discovered some things that really worked. When we aren’t yelling, demanding or pleading, everyone is happy and everyone wins. 

  1. Offer to help when you are aware they don’t want any assistance

One of the things that worked well for me is asking clearly, “Do you need me to help you?” I don’t think there has been a single instance when she’s come back with a fight or projected additional stubbornness after I’ve asked that question. My daughter likes to climb in her car seat on her own, but sometimes she dawdles as means of controlling the situation, not caring mommy is standing in the rain while she takes her sweet time deciding if she wants to get into her seat at all. The moment I take a step forward and offer to help her if she can’t do it she is in that seat like a flash of lightning.

  1. Tell them you know they are really amazing at doing it all on their own

If there is a day my child is being stubborn about something I know she can do, but she simply doesn’t wish to be told, I’ll change the tone. For instance, if she doesn’t want to pick up her toys or put on shoes, instead of demanding as is my first thought, I’ll stop and say, “I bet you can do that really fast because you are so great at it!” Typically, she feels empowered by these words because I’m letting her know I’ve noticed her doing something very well that I’m proud of, and is happy with being praised, even if it’s over cleaning.

  1. When possible, allow a few choices

I love picking out cute outfits for my child, but there are times here and there when she’s just not in the mood to wear a certain ensemble, or she is fixated on that pair of purple pants that are sitting inside the washing machine. I take out three outfits, lay them on the floor, and tell my daughter, “These are some pretty choices. You can wear whichever one you want. What do YOU feel like wearing”? Nine times out of ten my child will become interested in choosing her own outfit, and lose her fixation over the purple pants or the outfit I previously attempted to make her wear.

  1. Ask for assistance

There are days when I’ve listed ten food options and my child says, “No thanks” to every single one. While I don’t want to wish to dangle the golden carrot of dessert as a consistent motivation for eating what I’ve made, it happens; however, I did find that often my child will respond to items she can help put together. I ask, “Will you help mommy make your meal,” and she is very eager to be of assistance. She happily stirs the oatmeal, drops the hot dog into boiling water as I watch her with my eagle eye, grabs condiments from the fridge, and carefully picks out her blueberries and strawberries from their containers all on her own. She feels proud helping make her own meals, and is therefore excited to eat what she’s put together.

  1. Bedtime is not the end of the party; it’s a time to get comfy!

“OK, get in and get super cozy,” are the words I use every night before bed. I don’t give my daughter a warning that it’s nearly time to stop playing. Instead, I tell her we are brushing teeth and getting comfy. She doesn’t see bedtime as the end of play, and therefore does not see it as something to avoid. Sometimes she falls right to sleep, other times she plays quietly with toys or her Hello Kitty guitar before nodding off, but she goes in without a fight, and falls asleep within fifteen minutes. I recall always viewing bed as a threat of no fun. Seeing sleep as relaxing, cozy, and most importantly, not forced, works wonders in our house.

Of course, every child and what they respond to is different, but after many hair-pulling moments in my experiences as a first-time parent, I’ve developed my own way of outsmarting my little smarty. Kids are very intelligent, and not always so easy to outwit, but one thing I’ve discovered is negativity is responded to with negativity, and while there are times as a parent that I do need to yell, attempting to persuade with a positive statement is often a lot more productive, and nurturing to their autonomy than participating in a constant standoff.


Toddlers aren't all terrible! Parents just need to learn the art of the outsmart. Here are 5 ways to positively motivate a toddler.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Marisa Svalstedt

Marisa Svalstedt is a stay-at-home mom living in her hometown of Bethel, Connecticut, with her husband, and their daughter. She received her MA in English from Western Connecticut State. In addition to writing Marisa enjoys photography, modeling, and crochet.

Brothers Fight Hard and Love Harder

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two boys play outside, one lifting the other on his back

The last few years have been a whirlwind. My head has sometimes been left spinning; we have moved continents with three boys, three and under at the time. Set up home and remained sufficiently organized despite the complete chaos to ensure everyone was where they were meant to be on most days. Living in a primarily hockey town, the winters are filled with coffee catch-ups at the arena, so it was no surprise when my youngest declared his intention to play hockey like his school friends. Fully aware that he had never held a hockey stick or slapped a puck,...

Keep Reading

Stop Putting an Expiration Date on Making Memories

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and son in small train ride

We get 12 times to play Santa (if we’re lucky). This phrase stopped my scroll on a Sunday evening. I had an idea of the direction this post was going but I continued on reading. 12 spring breaks 12 easter baskets 20 tooth fairy visits 13 first days of school 1 first date 1-2 proms 1-2 times of seeing them in their graduation cap and gown 18 summers under the same roof And so on and so on. It was essentially another post listing the number of all the monumental moments that we, Lord willing, will get to experience with our...

Keep Reading

When Your Kids Ask, “Where Is God?”

In: Faith, Kids
Child looking at sunset

How do I know if the voice I’m hearing is God’s voice? When I was in high school, I found myself asking this question. My dad was a pastor, and I was feeling called to ministry. I didn’t know if I was just hearing my dad’s wish or the call of God. I was worried I was confusing the two. It turns out, I did know. I knew because I was raised to recognize the presence of God all around me. Once I knew what God’s presence felt like, I also knew what God’s voice sounded like. There is a...

Keep Reading

Go Easy On the Parents Who Refuse to Skip Naps

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two little boys and their sister walking down a gravel road, color photo

Greetings from a mom who is done with napping children. It’s great to have the flexibility during the day for longer activities, meeting friends for playdates, or day trips to faraway places. It’s a new life . . . the life without naps. The freedom to make plans and keep them. But not that long ago, I was something very different than the flexible, plan-keeping, up-for-it woman I am today. I used to be the mom who refused to skip my child’s nap. Yep, that one. Here’s the thing, for a lot of parents, It’s so much more than just a...

Keep Reading

My Heart Isn’t Ready for You to Stop Believing in Santa

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy standing in front of lit christmas tree

“My friend doesn’t believe in Santa anymore, Mom,” my son said out of the blue the other day. We were driving in the car, and when I met his gaze in the rear-view mirror his eyes searched mine. Immediately, my heart sank.  This sweet boy, he’s our first. Thoughtful and smart and eight years old. A quick Google search tells me that’s the average age kids stop believing in Santa, but as his mom, I’m not ready for that—not even a little bit.  I can still hear his barely 2-year-old voice going on about reindeer as we lay together on...

Keep Reading

Motherhood is a Million Little Letting Gos and Fresh Hellos

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with child on her lap by the setting sun and water

I missed my grocery-shopping buddy the other day. Mondays are usually the days my littlest and I knock out our grocery list. In the past, we’ve dropped the kids at school and then headed to the store. I grab a latte, and she chooses a hot chocolate. But that day, they were all in school. That day, she sat in her kindergarten class, and I went to the grocery store. Alone. A new rhythm. A changed routine. A different season. I listened to a podcast on the drive. My podcast. Then I grabbed a drink. Just one. I got the...

Keep Reading

Dear Kids, This Is My Wish for You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother hugs three kids

To my kids, The world you’re stepping into is unlike anything I experienced at your age. It’s fast-paced, interconnected, and sometimes overwhelming. But within this chaos lie countless opportunities for growth and joy. My wish for you is that you find the perfect balance between embracing the modern world and staying true to yourselves. Change is one thing you can always count on. Embrace it because it’s often the motivation for growth. Embracing change doesn’t mean letting go of who you are; rather, it’s about evolving into the best version of yourself. Remember, you don’t need to have all the...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Stay Wild

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter on beach, color photo

I can’t really put my finger on it. Or manage to find all the words. But there’s just something about that girl. Maybe it’s the way her hair sits tangled. Curled up at the end. The way she moves. Dances. As if everyone was watching. Or no one at all. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine It could be the way she smiles. With her heart. The way only she can. The way she cares, loves. For everyone. For herself. You see, she is beautiful in the way only wild things are. The way they...

Keep Reading

You’re Becoming a Big Sister, But You’ll Always Be My Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Pregnant woman with young daughter, color photo

The anticipation of welcoming a new baby into the world is an exciting and joyous time for our family. From the moment we found out we were expecting to just about every day since, the love and excitement only continue to grow. However, amidst all the preparations for the new addition, I cannot help but have mixed emotions as I look back at old videos and pictures of my firstborn, my first princess, my Phoebe—for she will always hold a special place in my heart. As the anticipation grows, my heart swells with a mix of emotions knowing we are...

Keep Reading

Cowgirls Don’t Cry Unless the Horse They Loved Is Gone

In: Grief, Kids, Loss
Little girls Toy Story Jessie costume, color photo

The knee of my pants is wet and dirty. My yellow ring lays by the sink—it’s been my favorite ring for months. I bought it to match Bigfoot’s halter and the sunflowers by his pasture. Bigfoot is my daughter’s pony, and I loved him the most. The afternoon is so sunny. His hooves make the same calming rhythm I’ve come to love as I walk him out back. A strong wind blows through the barn. A stall labeled “Bigfoot,” adorned with a sunflower, hangs open and I feel sick. I kneel down by his side as he munches the grass....

Keep Reading