Archive of ‘Love’ category

Parenting your Toddler

The toddler years are exhilarating and exhausting. Your little one’s budding personality, interest and excitement for all they are learning, as well as their neediness and desire for independence are bound to make for both amazing and trying times. Following are a few tips about development and how to best raise a capable and confident child based on Positive Discipline, The First Three Years.

Jennifer Alley, LPC

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

Feeling a sense of belonging and significance is a basic need.

  • Engage your toddler by giving them helpful tasks that are age appropriate (holding the clean diaper while being changed, helping put toys into the bath tub, etc). Welcome and encourage their innate desire to be helpful.

We all have mirror neurons that fire when we see an action performed.

  • If you want a kind, compassionate, thoughtful child, you must demonstrate this in your own behavior by being patient, loving, and caring toward your child and others.

Your child will have feelings. Your job is to help them develop their emotional intelligence.

  • Help your child understand emotions by using words to label the feeling(s) they are experiencing. Validate their feelings (there is no such thing as a wrong emotion, only actions that are not), and then provide appropriate ways for them to express their feelings (ie. scribble with markers or run around the backyard, cry, etc).

Use positive time outs for children over the age of three and a half.

  • Little children are not capable of recognizing and managing their emotions so sitting in time out to think about what they have done wrong isn’t fair or helpful. A positive time out, however, can be a great way to teach your child to calm down when s/he is angry or upset. Click here to learn more about positive time outs.

Children do better (and will be more cooperative) when they understand what is expected of them and what will happen.

  • Even if your child is preverbal, take time to explain what will happen or what is expected from them. This is particularly important if you need to do something quickly or if things will be out of the norm for the child.

Say no with actions instead of words.

  • Instead of telling your child no, ask yourself what you do want to have happen and then tell your child what you want. If you must say no, use distraction and redirection (it is helpful to remember that “no” is an abstract idea that little ones don’t really get until they are about four). Toddlers aren’t trying to be disobedient- they are exploring their world and following their developmental intuitions to do so.

Be firm and kind while focusing on love and relationships.

  • Provide opportunities for your toddler to explore their world by creating safe places for play. Use distraction and redirection instead of yelling, slapping, or spanking. Repair with hugs, kisses, and apologies when things don’t go so well

Remember that your child is working toward autonomy.

  • Remind yourself of your child’s developmental abilities and calm yourself before responding. Make time to enjoy the process of raising your little one. Avoid power struggles by offering limited choices (all of which are acceptable to you) and giving them opportunities to say no when appropriate. Teach by doing and being kind and firm.

Remember in moments when there are impossible messes, tantrums and meltdowns, you are shaping little hearts and minds, and with a little patience and grace, there is sure to be a heartwarming, sweet and tender moment right around the corner.

Keeping Your Relationship Alive

After having our first child this past summer and experiencing a series of life transitions and stressors, I became keenly aware of the impact these events had on my relationship with my husband. While we used to spend much of our free time playing and enjoying each other’s company, connecting through conversation and shared interests, our relationship quickly shifted into almost one of a business- complete with to do lists, caring for our daughter, and navigating the challenges at hand.

Certainly, we still loved and cared deeply for one another, and we both are very committed to our relationship. However, the stress was taking its toll on the fun side of our partnership, and it was easy (especially with little sleep and lots to do) to be short with one another and to put our relational happiness off until things calmed down.

We soon realized, however, that things would likely not slow down anytime soon. And, we both enjoy being connected and having warmth in our relationship. We also recognized that we were neglecting our individual and family self care plans, which include exercising, connecting with friends, and making time for spirituality. In addition to   incorporating more of these activities, we also began practicing a principal that my husband deems one of the most important lessons of having a successful partnership: being gentle with one another.

The truth is, life can often be full of stressors and challenges. And having children certainly is a major transition. But a relationship can still thrive if both partners are committed to nurturing their relationship and intentional about practicing their love for one another.

couple embrace in keeping their relationship alive

In thinking about thriving relationships, I was reminded of Gottman’s Five Magic Hours. Marriage researcher John Gottman found that couples in positive relationships invest an extra five hours each week in their marriage in fairly specific ways (even though it may look different for each couple). Following are his tips for incorporating the magic 5 hours into your relationship:

Using the MAGIC 5 Hours to Help Keep Your Relationship Alive

1) Partings: Before you leave in the morning, be sure you have learned at least one thing that is happening in your partner’s life that day.

Time: 2 minutes/day x 5 working days= 10 minutes

2) Reunions: Engage in a stress-reducing conversation at the end of each work day.

Time: 20 minutes/day x 5 working days= 1 hour 40 minutes

3) Admiration and Appreciation: Each day, communicate genuine affection and appreciation toward your partner.

Time: 5 minutes/day x 7 days= 35 minutes

4) Affection: Hug, kiss, hold, and touch each other during the time you are together. Remember to kiss before you go to sleep. If possible, try to let go of irritations that have built up over the day.

Time: 5 minutes/day x 7 days= 35 minutes

5) Weekly Date: This can be a relaxing, low pressure way to stay connected. Ask one another questions that help you know one another better and turn toward each other.

Time: 2 hours/week= 2 hours

Grand total: 5 hours!

Certainly, relationships will go through ups and downs as issues arise and life happens. However, by intentionally incorporating some of Gottman’s tips, remembering to be flexible with one another, appreciating each other as evolving human beings, supporting one another’s dreams and goals, and being kind to one another can help keep your relationship stay alive even when things get really tough. It can also be helpful to seek out marriage or family counseling for additional support.


“Love doesn’t commit suicide. We have to kill it. Though, it often simply dies of our neglect.” ~Diane Sollee

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