Gentle Parenting Ideas from a Toddler’s Perspective

April 30th, 2010 by Dionna | 23 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Consensual Living, Eclectic Learning, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.

(In a world where toddlers are able to speak and write in complete sentences, this post would not be necessary. In our world, however, parents of toddlers spend much of their time asking “what? what did you say? and what did you put in your mouth?!” in response to garbled sentences shrieked at decibels even dogs struggle to hear. At least, that’s what it’s like at our house. This post is what I imagine Kieran would say if he only had the skills.)

Dear Mama and Papa,

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I dug in the dirt (trampling only one of mama’s broccoli seedlings), played with a dandelion popper (whacking papa in the glasses but only scratching the lens a little bit), pooped on the back porch stairs (it was as big as my arm!), and played with friends on the swingset (I cried when the swing broke, but I’m hoping papa will fix that soon).

I was really proud of you guys, by the way.
*When I trampled mama’s seedling, she could have yelled. Instead she made up a new song that we sing in the garden together: “we walk in between the rows, in between the rows, in between the rows. When we’re in the garden we walk in between the rows.” It helps me remember not to walk where we planted the seeds.
*When I accidentally hit papa in the face with the dandelion popper, he could have made me feel bad and told me not to play with it anymore. Instead, he just showed me that the tip of it is sharp and asked me to be careful.
*When I pooped on the stairs, you could have said something that would have embarrassed me. Instead you talked to me about how it feels good to squat and poop, and we brainstormed ways I could squat and poop in the potty chair.
*When I cried after the swing broke, you could have hushed me and told me that “big boys don’t cry.” Instead mama held me and hugged me, then we talked about how we could fix the swing.

2010-03-13 01On the flip side of the good parent coin, there were some moments that left a lot to be desired. Maybe it’s because I tend to be more toddler-esque in some situations, but that really doesn’t excuse your behavior. You are the adults, you know. Plus when you get angry, your faces and voices scare me.

And when I am frightened of you, I just shut down. I can’t do whatever it is you are yelling at me to do, because I am scared of you. Please, mama and papa, don’t yell at me.

I have identified six problem areas: brushing teeth, getting in my car seat, eating, grocery shopping, getting a diaper change, and picking up toys.

In those six situations, I’ve noticed that you get stressed more easily and are more prone to raising your voices.

To help you parent me more gently at those frustrating moments, I thought of a few ideas you can try.

Gentle Parenting Ideas (A Toddler’s Perspective)

Brushing Teeth

Please be patient with me on this one. You’d put up a fight if someone was ramming something in your mouth, too! Instead of turning it into a power struggle, try putting yourself in my shoes: let me brush your teeth too.

Getting Into My Car Seat

I know it’s frustrating when I want to play in the car and you’d like to leave – but you’re preventing me from playing when I’d really like to stay. We both have needs and desires! Perhaps you could build in a few minutes to our routine so I could play. Or make it a game: strap me into a spaceship and help me do a countdown as we pull out of the driveway!


Sometimes I get overwhelmed sitting in my booster seat when all I want to do is run around and celebrate the fact that papa is home from work. And sometimes I’m just not that hungry – I am learning about my body’s hunger cues, so it’s probably best not to force me to eat. It’s nice when I have the option of eating at other times, and grazing is a great way to keep me on an even keel all day.

Grocery Shopping

For some reason you’re never happy when I put random things in the shopping cart. Instead of getting angry, maybe we could make it into a game: you can look and see which things don’t belong. We might have fun putting them away together at the end.

If that doesn’t sound good, you can always hand me the things that are supposed to go in the cart (or have me look for them if they are low enough) – I love to help!

Diaper Changes

Here is another situation where I feel helpless and out of control. To give me a little control, I’d love to run around naked for awhile before getting a fresh diaper. I also like it when I have a baby doll that I can change too.

Picking up Toys

Please remember that I haven’t internalized the value of having a clean play space yet. When you ask me to pick up toys, I’m much more likely to “help” if you make it into a game, otherwise I just don’t see the point. Maybe we could see who can put the most puzzle pieces in. I also like to throw things, so making “baskets” with my toys is always fun.

I appreciate all that you two are doing to parent me gently, I know that I can try your patience.




Stay tuned for more posts on these topics. I’m going to work on more ways to parent gently in these common problem areas. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27)

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28)

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment (coming Thursday, April 29)

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)

23 Responses to:
"Gentle Parenting Ideas from a Toddler’s Perspective"

  1. kaila

    This was informative and fun to read! Great idea to write it coming from Kieran’s perspective!! His picture is great too, so serious!

  2. I love this Dionna, we struggle in some of those areas too.

    1)Teeth Brushing, have you tried a spin brush, Jairden thinks that they are just the coolest thing ever.
    2)Jairden is notorious for grabbing bites of food on the run just so we get food into him. I did the same thing with my older boys and everyone would tell me I was giving them bad habits, but you know what, they sit at the table and eat now. The advantage to feeding him more often is that you keep his blood sugar level helping his brain to function. We don’t have set times to eat at our house, we eat when we are hungry.
    3)Diapers are a huge struggle for us, I wish we could EC more. We often give Jairden some sour cream on a spoon, while he eats it one finger full at a time we change his dipe in like thirty seconds. He always gets to run around nude after his evening bath.

    We haven’t figured out a good solution yet to the carseat, I don’t grocery shop with my kids, and the big kids usually pick up toys being a good example for Jairden. He loves to slam dunk things also but tends to get a little wild. We have had a few injuries from flying toys:)

    Thank you for the reminder on yelling Kieran, I grew up with a yeller and it is a really hard habit to break, but I am really trying:)

  3. I love that you are able to put yourself into his shoes in all these situations to shine a new light on finding solutions that work for all of you. That speaks of a great mama. I find changing perspective is all that’s needed sometimes to get a little cooperation. Keep it up!

  4. When I was doing daycare and it was time to clean up first we would sing

    Clean up, Clean up
    Everybody, Everywhere
    Clean Up, clean up
    Everybody do your share!

    Then I’d get out the bucket the toys went in (we played with the food a LOT so this is my best example…) and while some of the kids would pick up no problem without any guidance, I’d usually say “Wow! who can find me THE BANANA!?” And they’d all look for it, we’d do this til we were done, and a lot of times they’d find something else to pick up along the way.
    I also did the “WHO CAN GET THE MOST IN THE BUCKET?!?!” and we’d all hurry. I know a big thing for them was that I always picked up too. I always played with them so it was only fair for me to be helping too.

    My class of 1 year olds picked up better than the 2’s-preschool, it was impressive.

  5. oh! and also!

    we had a lot of kids that loved to throw the things in, but I ended up with some injuries so we’d start doing things like “tip toe cleaning up” and we’d whisper when we found something and say “gently, gently” when we put it away. We were working on gentle touches a lot then because we had some hitters, but yeah, it helped a lot by making it fun to do it gently instead of boring. :)

  6. I love this post! I really, really love that picture of Kieran too. Thank you for the reminder to consider your child’s viewpoint when you’re frustrated.

  7. Sarah

    Great article! Every parent has less than stellar parenting moments, but as long as we learn from them it’ll be okay.

    For teh teeth brushing we have different flovours, apricot, pepermint, watermelon (it’s the only fluoridated one) so only our big girl can use it. The girls get to choose their flavour and then they brush first and I check to see if they missed any thing. Then they check to see if I missed anything. It was amazing how much stuff got left behind on my nose lol – the girls think it’s hilarious to brush other areas of my face as I make horrible faces at them.

    For the car seat there is much less struggle if we have time – to let them buckle themselves, to climb in on their own, to drive, to choose which carseat they’ll use (the girls are the same size so can interchange). The only rule I have is no shoes on the seat! lol I hate mud on my seats – esp the drivers seat.

    Grocery shopping is actually pretty fun most of the time – we use the car cart, the girls drive halfway around the store and we choose a treat that they open and eat while I shop – then if that isn’t enough they go on a scavenger hunt for certain items. Then once in the line they’re usually relaxed enough to just sit still or at least stay close. Then I get my treat – a triple espresso lol

    Parenting can be difficult, and frustrating and worst guilt inducing – but as long as you show them love and respect they’ll weather the rough moments nicely.

  8. Lisa C   edenwild

    Aw, sweet post from a child’s view. Children are so innocent, if we can just remember they aren’t trying to make things difficult for us.

    I’m grateful for the things that are easy for us. But somethings he doesn’t like. He doesn’t wear diapers half the day, and I almost always have to put them on him while he is standing and wriggling about playing. I try to be super gentle brushing, I stop if I hurt him and wait for permission to re-enter. I tell him which teeth I am brushing and sometimes make a whirring sound like an electric toothbrush. I’m using the Montessori method for toy organization, and he’s picking up on the idea, slowly.

    I love that you made up a song for the garden. I like your idea for the grocery store. I think it’s important to remember that they want to do the same things we are doing, but just don’t know how yet.

  9. Ruth Ann

    I am continually flabbergasted by you Dionna!! Since you were raised by the Queen of all Yellers ( me!!) you have certainly learned to do things the RIGHT way!! I am so impressed!!! I wish I had someone to lead me down this path when you were little,it would have been a lot nicer!!!


  10. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Kaila – thank you! Feel free to leave some suggestions of your own – I know you are a gentle mama!

    Megan – we need to get a spinning toothbrush. I’ve suggested it to friends, but Kieran hasn’t put up *that* big of a fight w/tooth brushing, so I guess I’m leaving it as an “in case” tool ;) How old is Jairden? Kieran hated diaper changes all his life until the last several months – we’ve started to let him “pick” a toy to bring in, or read a book. He’s also been fascinated the last couple of weeks with changing his own baby doll (the doll swims in one of his cloth diapers, but my sister has all of his small ones for her 4 month old LOL). I’m going to do some more posts on all of these categories, hopefully they will give you more ideas!

    Acacia – it really IS healthy to switch perspectives! I often find that helps me get out of a really crappy parenting moment and into a more cooperative one.

    Sarah – I hate to burst your bubble, but 1 yr olds WILL clean up more ;) It’s the two year old’s burst of independence that makes them stop. HOWEVER – I love the idea about tiptoeing and gently – totally using it for the post on cleaning up!

    Nicole – thank you!!

    Sarah – what awesome ideas, esp. the toothpaste flavor ones. We’re currently using Strawberry Tom’s of Maine, but I’m open to other brand suggestions. I normally order from Frontier – they’ve got a great selection (and good co-op prices!).

    Lisa – take heart – at least by going nakie, I bet you’ll have an early potty learner ;)

    Mom – don’t be silly. You must have done something right since you have 2 very gently parenting daughters (and one who is a gentle aunt)! :)

  11. Sarah

    Dionna – I also use toms of Maine – The Fluoridated one I believe is colgate – we really only use it in an emergency – our one daughter doesn’t have the most stellar teeth – so sometimes I let her use it when she wants it.

    For diaper changes try letting him do it himself. lol You’d be very surprised at how quickly they learn to do it themselves – esp if it’s velcro or snaps (or disposable) – or get a pull on style. For potty training our older daughter I try to stay out of the way as much as possible – all I do is check her hands (look and sniff :s )after she washes. Fights are virtually non-existent.

    Lisa – try letting him brush on his own – and if you floss, let him do that on his own as well. Both our girls will sit still for almost 20mins to floss their teeth, then they brush in 2 seconds flat, but as long as there’s nothing visible I leave it at that. In the long run it’s much better to create a happy association, than to keep these baby teeth sparkling clean. His brushing will improve quickly and pretty soon you won’t even need the spot check. As for the nakieness – we let the girls go naked as long as no one else is over, but any messes they clean up – much more likely to use the potty b/c who wants to stop playing to clean? I have a bucket of towels they use to dry the floor then they use a wipe afterward. It’s fast and easy – and if I’m ever concerned the floor isn’t clean enough, all I have to do is give them a bucket and tell them whatever they do don’t get any water on the floor :p lol My floors sparkle!


  12. Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)   ALotofLoves

    The playing in the car thing was funny. My kids LOVE to play in the car after we get home. I often just let them out of their seats and give them five minutes or so to “drive” the car and play with the buttons. That’s usually all the time they need to transition from car to house.

  13. curlymonkey   curlymonkey_

    Love, love, love the picture! Great post

  14. Melodie   bfmom

    I really love this. It reminds me of the healthy baby handouts from the public health unit that are written as though the baby has said it. When I was a new mom and all hormonal reading them made me cry. “I need your affection. I like to be close to you. When I cry please pick me up, breastfeed me, or rock me.” (sniff sniff) :)

  15. Paige @ BabyDust Diaries   babydust

    I love this post Dionna. It is one of my favorites of the carnival. I find it so powerful to think through your child’s point of view. If more people could do this it would really change the way they parent.

    I have to admit that both my husband and I cried at this line: “And when I am frightened of you, I just shut down. I can’t do whatever it is you are yelling at me to do, because I am scared of you. Please, mama and papa, don’t yell at me.”

    BTW, picture is priceless!

  16. Amber   unlikelymama

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Saving it for later. Thinking of interactions from a child’s point of view really puts things in perspective. Thank you. Making games out of anything seems to be the golden ticket for the toddler years!

  17. Parsnip Milkdud

    Why is that woman holding that typewriter sideways?

  18. Corrie Kolbe   newwife777

    To Parsnip- why not??

    Dionna- wow!! Loving the toothbrush idea! That has been a HUGE fight in our house lately. We’ve let her “do it herself” the majority of the time, but now she is addicted to toothpaste, I believe… and, okay, this is going to come off snarky, and I DON”T mean it to, but what is wrong with the flouride in toothpaste for toddlers?
    Also, I like the comment about letting the kids play in the car and choose which seat they’re going to ride in. DS is about to transition to an RF seat out of the car carrier thingie, and I’m thinking that he and DD will probably have the same strap adjustments, as they’re the same in almost everything else! (Even though he’s only 6 months and she’s almost 24 months.) Hmmm hopefully allowing her to choose which seat she wants will stave off some of the unhappiness. (But that, too, is weird, because it doesn’t happen EVERY time, you know??)
    Thank you for reminding us to see things from their perspective. How often we just steamroll right over them!

  19. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    I love this idea of considering things from my toddler’s perspective! It really makes you think.

    I love your ideas, too, and will have to adopt those. One game that’s working well for us currently is pretending the opposites of things, which I think was Amber Strocel’s idea on one of my posts. If it’s time for a potty break and Mikko doesn’t want to go, I take a doll (Bob) and pretend Bob is going potty in all the “wrong” places: on the couch, on the cat, etc. Eventually this leads us, with peals of laughter, all into the bathroom and the “right” place. It helps to be very exaggerated and shocked at Bob’s antics.

    Whenever I feel I need Mikko to do something, I find it works better when I let go of my timeframe and allow some extra grace for a game and delays. It’s when I get worked up about getting things DONE that we both get frustrated. It’s hard, though, to play games all day when it doesn’t come naturally anymore!

  20. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Thank you everyone for the awesome comments. I’ve already started writing the series about gentle parenting ideas during our problem times (tooth brushing, shopping, etc.), and I will incorporate your ideas into the post. Keep them coming!

  21. BethanyBob   bethanybob

    “Plus when you get angry, your faces and voices scare me.”

    I wish the other adults in the house would realize this. I’m guilty, too, but I’m also the only one looking at gentle discipline sites to try and change my behavior.

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