Last Updated on June 14, 2021.
Are you struggling to step into the role of stepmom? Do you have a new toddler to parent? Here’s how to be a stepmom to a toddler and grow a healthy parent/child relationship.
Parenting toddlers is really hard. It can be even harder if you’re step-parenting a toddler. But it is possible to develop a deep, loving relationship with your step-toddler with the right strategies and tools. Here’s how you can be a stepmom to a toddler and develop a life-long healthy relationship.
Focus on your personal relationship with your toddler
Families are made up of many individual relationships. To be a great stepmother, you need to have a great relationship with your toddler. It can be easy to lose sight of this within complicated family structures, especially if there’s tension or drama. But it’s important that you start to lay a solid foundation to build a flourishing relationship with your stepchild!
Never badmouth the other parents
This one is simple. Commit to never saying bad things about your fellow parents and stepparents in front of your stepchildren. Children are perceptive. They are aware of strained relationships. And they definitely don’t need adults venting or complaining about their parents. If you do, you could damage the relationship between the child and their other parents. And you might also damage your relationship with the child.
This might feel like a difficult task, but your relationship with your step-children will benefit greatly. They will recognize you as a safe space. And when they’re older they’ll appreciate your ability to separate your adult relationships with your parenting.
Are other members of your parenting team bad mouthing you? Here’s what you should do about it.
Get to know your toddler
Since you already know that focusing on relationships is key, it’s important to get to know your toddler! Find out what things they like to do and who their favorite characters are. Take a genuine interest in everything about them! Your relationship will bloom, and it will be much easier to parent your toddler.
Get professional help
Many people cringe when I recommend professional help. But I’m not saying you need to see a therapist or psychologist. You can get a parenting coach, take a parenting course, or just seek out free resources like this article! Don’t struggle alone. There are many ways to get help! If you have questions right now, email me here.
Use positive parenting strategies to develop a deep bond
Positive parenting strategies can eliminate power struggles, yelling, nagging, and complaining. They allow you to build a positive relationship based on mutual trust and respect. And it’s the best way to parent a toddler, especially for step-parents. Here are my favorite positive parenting tools for step-parents to use with toddlers.
For children, time is love. When kids get your undivided attention, they feel a sense of importance. The best thing you can do as a step-parent is prioritize one-on-one time with your toddler. Even just 10 or 15 minutes a day can help you develop a strong bond. And when you fill their attention bucket with positive attention on a daily basis, they’re less likely to misbehave.
Try our Connected Parent Challenge to develop a deep relationship with your kids in just 15 minutes a day!
Give Toddlers Power
Toddlers crave power. They’re discovering independence, and they want to be in control. If you give kids plenty of opportunity to exert their power in positive ways, you’re much less likely to experience power struggles on the things that matter to you. For example, if you let your toddler choose what they wear, they’re less likely to fight you on getting dressed in the morning.
Offer toddlers as many choices as possible, no matter how trivial. Let them choose what color cup they want. Let them decide if they want to potty or brush their teeth first. It might seem exhausting, but you’ll reap the rewards of your toddler feeling a sense of power and significance within the family.
One important note when offering choices, children’s brains aren’t fully developed, so offering more than a couple of options may feel overwhelming to them. It’s best to give them 2 to 3 options at any given time.
Use a Calm Voice
This one sounds so easy. But it’s definitely not! It’s a critical skill in parenting, however. There will definitely be times where your blood is boiling and you want to raise your voice.
The truth is that nothing positive comes from engaging in power struggles with a toddler. So do your best to keep your cool and use a calm, even voice. You might try simple calming strategies to master this tool.
Focus on Routines
Children thrive with routines. When they know what happens next, you’re much less likely to experience power struggles. Start by implementing routines within your home for things that happen every (even if you share custody). Bedtime routines, morning routines, homework routines, and mealtime routines can make your life easier.
Pro Tip: Include one-on-one time in your routines at the optimal times! The most important 15 minutes a day are the 5 minutes after a child wakes, the 5 minutes after they return home from school, and 5 minutes before they go to bed. These minutes are the most impressionable and the best opportunity for you to engage. Use them to your advantage!
One of the most effective strategies to get toddlers to do what you want them to do is to put unpleasant tasks before pleasant tasks. We call this a “when/then,” and it sounds like this:
“When you pick up the toys in the living room, then we can have your afternoon snack!”
“When you finish your homework, then we can play catch out back!”
For a when/then to work, you must follow a few key rules:
- You must always follow through and require the first part to be done before the second part.
- Don’t use rewards as part of a when/then. The activities that come at the end must be things you normally do. (Rewards are a bad idea)
- Be careful to use the word “when” and not the word “if”. Using the word “If” implies that it’s a choice. You don’t want it to seem optional! Using the word “when” suggests that you expect it to be done, it’s just a matter of when.
- Don’t engage in power struggles. If your toddler pleads and beds, ignore it. You might also use “Asked and answered!” as a response to indicate that the discussion is over.
Create Effective Consequences
Setting boundaries is an important part of parenting. A great way to set boundaries is through consequences. You definitely don’t want your toddler to walk all over you! Natural consequences are extremely effective, but sometimes you’ll have to implement logical consequences. To create effective consequences, you’ll want to create consequences that are:
- Reasonable duration
- Respectful in nature
- Revealed in advance
- Repeated back
If you need a little help creating consequences, here’s our complete guide to effective consequences, including a free workbook with scripts and guides to creating custom consequences that will work for your kids!
Family chores are a powerful tool. They teach kids to take care of their things and to contribute to their family and community. It helps avoid a sense of entitlement.
Chores also build the child’s confidence! When they feel like they are capable of contributing they feel like a valuable member of the family.
Did you skip ahead? No problem! Here’s how to be a stepmom to a toddler.
- Focus on your relationship
- Never bad mouth other parents
- Get to know your toddler
- Get professional help
- Use Positive Parenting Tools:
- One-on-one time
- Give Power
- Calm Voice
- Use Routines
- Effective Consequences
- Family Contributions
What You Should Do Next…
Are you ready for more activities to build a rock-solid bond with your kids? Try our Connected Parent Challenge! It’s 15 Days of 15 Minute activities that are sure to improve your connection, diminish bad behavior, and create lasting memories. Plus, I’ll deliver more amazing parenting strategies to your inbox weekly (don’t worry, unsubscribe any time!).
Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.
Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.