Kids swinging

Toddlers are hilarious and amazing, but they can also be aggravating.

Take my 3-year-old son, Liam, for example. I call him "Liam James" when he's in trouble, so he's recently taken to calling me "Mommy James" — his way of scolding me when he's upset. It’s adorable and makes me laugh, but not laughing at naughty toddlers is Parenting 101. We all know not to fuel the fire, but it's teaching the siblings not to laugh when the toddlers are "funny" that is nearly impossible. Well, at least in my house.

So because big sister continues to laugh at his antics, Liam continues to run around while scolding me using his middle name, do fake burps at the dinner table and stomp his feet and say, "That’s not fair!”

Whether it's your first go-around at parenting, or your fifth, some things you just know right away — like not laughing at a naughty toddler. But other things you wish you could’ve known ahead of time. I’d like to think I’ve gotten wiser the second time around, but somehow, something always slips my mind or a child is always outsmarting me. Here are a few ways I’ve actually gotten smarter though. Thank goodness!

1. Buy everything in one color! Our kids and their friends fight constantly over who gets what color plate, bowl, cup, etc. Why, oh, why must stores sell packages of bowls in all different colors? Who invented that? Oh, I know! It's someone who isn’t a parent! So I now have a set of white children’s plates and cups that we use when friends are over. If I never have to hear my kids fight over colors again, life will be good.

2. Don’t dish out empty threats. When we were at Disney World, I heard a parent yell at their kid that they would leave if they couldn’t behave. I call “uncle” on that, as there's no way that's happening. Someone who paid hundreds of dollars to visit Mickey isn’t going to leave after 15 minutes of getting there. Kids are smart; keep the consequences and threats reasonable and follow through with them. If you say your kids can’t play outside if they don’t clean up their toys, follow through on it — even if it’s nice out. If you’re at Disney World and your kid isn’t being ideal, take away a Mickey ice cream treat or a souvenir — not the whole day. The more reasonable and consistent you are, the more your child will take you seriously.

3. Turn everything into a game. My kids hate picking up their toys, but if I say, “I bet I can pick up five toys before you,” they are instantly on their feet. It doesn’t even have to be a competition. You can turn on music and turn clean-up time into a dance party. Your kids will forget they're even doing a chore.

We may not all be smarter than a fifth-grader, but we definitely can keep the upper hand on our little ones. What have you gotten smarter at — or outsmarted your toddler at — lately?

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Jaime Wyant is a 33-year-old Omaha native, wife to Bret and mother to Marin and Liam. She writes monthly for Momaha.com. Read more from Jaime here.

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