Parenting With Grace-Book Study: Chapter Six

(Intro here, and Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five)
Everything in quotations can be directly attributed to the authors, unless otherwise noted.  These are my own very brief personal notes/interpretation/things I want to remember

Chapter Six: Parenting Your Toddler With Grace

More than any other stage but perhaps the adolescence, parents experience more intense positive and negative feelings toward their children.

The chief goals of self-donative parenting is to know your child's heart at each stage and age so that your child will come to your first for love, guidance and formation.

By being an attached parent in the infant years, you "poured" a foundation of trust in which to build love and responsibility.  Toddlerhood is the time for that foundation to "set up".

Infants whose attachment is secured have an easier time as toddlers-less belligerent, more peaceful.  

Fostering Healthy Will and Independence
1. Respect that the child's initiatives are not motivated out of destruction and evil, but God-given curiosity.

2. Nurture a way to stop inappropriate activity without child feeling constantly foiled and frustrated.

3. Discover ways to deal with toddler frustrations (tantrums sometimes) by recognizing that his will and initiative is greater then his communication skills and ability to deal with strong feelings.

Notes on Willfulness
Some parenting experts believe that infants are "inherently evil" and their will must be broken-by using means such as corporal punishment.

Catholics believe that the human will MUST BE RESPECTED.  We don not believe that the human will is "oppressed" by the devil.  We believe Jesus Christ raised humanity-the will must be channeled and trained by new disparaged and broken.

ex.  The same "no" that a toddler screams at a parent, needs to be properly cultivated to evolve into a no that one day, that older child will need to assert to others who try to lead her into drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, etc. You don't want to subvert that no.  Will must be respected!

Seven Great Tips For Parenting Toddlers With Grace

1. Be Aware of the Primary Mission of Toddlers 
Parenting with the Theology of the Body in mind, the primary mission of toddlers is to learn how to use their bodies in appropriate and respectful ways...acquiring mastery over limbs, bowels, language.

We need to encourage that mastery in healthy ways-with patience, gentleness, without yelling, losing temper or punishing mistakes!

All the other skills-emotional control, respect, obedience, etc. can come ONLY to the degree that the child has mastered his body and language.

Notes on Toilet Training
-should convey that the body is not something to be disgusted with, but rather something good that can be mastered. (Catholic Theology of the Body)
-book Toilet Training Without Tears by Dr. Charles Schaefer is good, also Dr. Sears methods.  (I've use this one, with my toddlers, my tips and thoughts here.)

2. Child-Proof!
It is unjust to take a child who because of his age has poor impulse control, and set him up for failure and punishment by dangling fascinating but forbidden fruit in front of him.

Don't smack hands!  That inhibits exploratory behavior, teaches hitting is OK, and ignores the development curiosity of the child!

Child-proofing the house (that means putting away knick-knacks, not just dealing with danger!) means less negativity dealing with the toddler (shouting No! constantly), but also less for us to clean, and more time with our toddlers.

3. Say "No Thank You"
From the day your child is born model the behavior you want to see!  Say "no thank you" when he/she does a behavior that is inappropriate (i.e. grabbing your nose to hard, biting while you are nursing, trying to feed the cat to the heat duct)-respond with a gentle but firm "No thank you!" while you interrupt the action.

You are modeling respect to a child who simply doesn't know better.  If you want politeness returned to you, you must model it first.

4. Give A Healthy Way To Express Autonomy and Initiative

Our children must be taught that the reason God gave us our body is it work for the good of others.

"Do By Self" often leads to tantrums and parental insanity when child can't find appropriate ways to assert his independence.

Our job is to find ways he can express this initiative appropriately.  Working-completing small jobs, feeling he can help while learning new skills is a healthy outlet for this initiative.

5. Use Redirection As Much As Possible
Instead of turning your house into the house of "no!"-toddlers yelling no's, parents yelling no's, use redirection.

Ask yourself  "What will my child be more interested in than the thing he or she is heading towards?"
Sales pitch is everything!

Always pair your "no thank you!" with a suggestion of what the child CAN do instead.

The tendency your toddler has to do what you just told him not to do is NOT an act of disobedience at this age, but a manifestation of your child's develomental inability to redirect himself or herself.

The complaint of using redirection is "I'll have to stay on top of him all the time"- That is an overstatement-you might get less done, but nothing is more important than teaching life lessons to your children.

6. Use "Do-Overs to Teach Self Mastery

For example, toddlers have a hard time "being gentle"-have them do over an activity in a gentle way.  "Please hand the toy, or touch your brother's cheek etc, gently."  Show them what that means.  SO much more effective than yelling "No!" and/or slapping a hand (which is not modeling gentle behavior at all.)

Encouraging gentle behavior will cultivate a gentle spirit in your child.

7. Educate Yourself About Gentle Tantrum Interventions

Two Types of Tantrums-Manipulative Tantrums tend to occur AFTER age five and Distress Tantrums, which can result at any age but are almost always the kind displayed in toddlerhood.

Manipulative tantrums occur when a child HAS the capacity for self-control but intentionally chooses to not use it as a conscious ply to wear out the parent.

Distress tantrums occur when a child's resources are OUTMATCHED by the child's environment.

Toddlers can become overwhelmed by frustration of knowing what they want to say/do, but are unable to get their body to do what their brain wants to do.

Put yourself in their place to fully understand-what if you knew what you wanted to say to someone, but couldn't get those words to come out of your mouth, or if you could visualize yourself doing certain activities with competence, but when you went to do them, your body would not cooperate.  Now imagine someone standing over you, saying, "Please stop.  Don't do that."  Frustration!  In toddler that frustration is often overwhelming and a distress tantrum can result.

Distress tantrums do lessen with age as abilities to speak and move body increase.

Dealing with Distress Tantrums:
This will depend on age

Remove your child from the environment and try to comfort him.  Hold him gently but firmly if you need to and show him how to take deep breaths to calm down.  Remind him to use his words and try to give him words if needed to talk him through his strong feelings.  Reassure him that he'll be OK and be calm yourself-staying calm helps stimulate the child's vagus nerve (nerve resents bodily mechanisms to pre-stress level) and teaches him to regain a sense of composure.

If holding child makes things dramatically worse, (usually this might be an older toddler), let him know he can rejoin family when he or she is calmer.  If this escalates things, it is usually because the child has worked himself into such a state that he has too much adrenaline running through his system.  He needs your help-take him to a quiet darker place, hold him or rock him, nurse him if still nursing, talk to him, sing to him.  Try a bath.  Usually toddler will fall asleep after this.  (Baths are miraculous!:)

After it's over with, instruct and rehearse how to handle similar problems in the future.

My notes:
 Here is a favorite article I just love titled "If I Could Only Offer One Piece of Advice to Young Mothers".  


  1. I am really enjoying your snippets from this book.

  2. Since reading this book We have used the 'no thank you' with our children. At first my husband thought it might be silly to talk like that but after they start using it themselves, especially when out in public and having random strangers complimenting on how polite my( tantrum throwing) toddler is, he is a convert.
    I truly believe in building them up and exercising their will, not crushing them or breaking them and this book has been helping us in the process. It is nice to have a parenting book including some theological background as it helps us to keep in mind that we are helping a little human being develop to be what God intends him/ her to be.

  3. sarah, i'm trying to find your '40 bags/40 days' posts and i can't find any of them. help! seesalou@gmail.com

  4. I stopped reading your insights from the chapters of this book…because I bought it and I don't want to spoil it! :) Thank you for the book recommendation! I chose this book to read during Lent..we'll see if I can finish it by Easter! I will buy (almost) anything you recommend! I think you are a wonderful mother and I love all your posts!