Parenting | Parenting an adult child who won’t grow up

reading-1142801_1920What should you do if you have an adult child who thinks that they are all grown up but keeps lapsing into childish behaviours? It can be difficult to know what the issue is. If you treat them like a child does this encourage them to behave like one? Or, do they fall into the safety net of childhood because they are not ready to take the leap into full adulthood. When your child turns 18 they no longer require hands-on care. You need to empower them to grow up. Examine your behaviour. Are you enabling them to act like a child? As a parent your ultimate goal is to support your child to grow up and become a responsible adult.

Here are ’10 ways to’ support an adult child who lives with you to mature into a responsible adult:

  1. Firstly, ask yourself are you too involved in your adult child’s life. Are you still calling them in the mornings? Are you still doing all the cooking? Are you still asking them to tidy up? Are you still telling them what to do? Are you commenting on what they watch? Are you commenting on their friends or relationships? Are you commenting on what they wear? If you answered yes to most of these then I would suggest that you are too involved in your adult child’s life.
  2. If your adult child needs to continue to live with you, past the age of 18, then it is important to put some ground rules in place. To some extent you can treat your adult child like a roommate now and not like your child. Agree some principles of sharing a home – keep them simple – base them around respect and love.
  3. Paying rent is crucial, even if it is only a small amount. Agree on the use of space. Agree on the use of materials in the home, such as TV, computers and the washing machine. Agree on a roster of cooking and buying groceries.
  4. If you are parenting a younger child and have an adult child living with you it is really important to have an environment of harmony for the child. Try not to allow your relationship with your adult child impact negatively on your younger child. You are the only one who can protect their environment.
  5. Younger siblings usually hugely admire their older adult siblings. Living with them can help them develop close, long lasting and meaningful relationships. If you can have a positive relationship with your adult child your younger child will benefit too.
  6. Ask them to respect the needs of their younger siblings but do not expect your adult child to be a parent to their siblings. Of course they will look out for them and spend time with them but they will not be interested in babysitting, school pickups and homework. This is your role as a parent. Often we expect too much parenting support from our young adult children.
  7. If you feel you and your adult child are at the battle gates all the time, try to sit with them and tell them how much you love them. Talk about the fun things you did when they were little. Talk about what they are doing now and what their plans are. Talk with them about how you would like to support them in the next few years to reach their goals.
  8. Tell your adult child if you need some support from them. Talk to them like an adult, stop talking to them like a child. Think it out and communicate in a clear and direct way. No threats! You cannot discipline them.
  9. Make a date with your adult child every other week and check in with them. Do not expect that they will check in with you each day. Trust that they are doing okay. You can text them whenever you want but sending a text should not mean you have to get one back. Respect their privacy and ask them to respect yours.
  10. Be honest if it is not working and set a timeline for them to move out. Move into a new chapter of parenting. Let go. It is not about control. It is about loving and being there for each other.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or on 01 662 9212

Parenting | Reading as a tool to manage challenging behaviour

family readingAs yesterday was World Book Day we thought it would be an ideal time to discuss reading and how reading can be used as a tool to manage challenging behaviours. Reading can create an opportunity for calm, quiet reflection and relaxation. It can also open up an opportunity for discussions between parent and child and can be used as a starting point to discuss any issues going on in the child’s life.

Here are our ’10 ways’ tips on using reading as a tool in your parenting:

  1. Many parents know about time out or they think they know from all the TV shows telling them about it. However many parents get totally confused in how to implement time out and for what reasons. Time out can become a challenging behaviour rather than a tool to resolve it.
  2. Quiet time can be a much more positive tool to try and implement in your home. The whole purpose of time out is to calm down. However the mechanism of implementing time out is very challenging. If you focus on creating quiet time it can make things much easier.
  3. In advance of challenging behaviours taking place, talk with your child about what you can all do when you are feeling angry, overwhelmed or frustrated. Allow your children to talk about what they need at this time. Talk with them about how you feel when they act out these feelings. Talk with them about what currently happens when any member of the family has these feelings.
  4. Talk with them about the idea of creating space and calming down.
  5. Ask them to describe what currently helps them calm down. Tell them things you do to help you to calm down. Bring them back to the idea of a quiet place to sit and calm down. How would this help you restore balance to how you are feeling? How would it support you to talk about how you are feeling so it can be explored?
  6. Ask each person in the family to take part in creating the calm, quiet place. Where it should be, what it should look like, how much space is there for it, should there be activities in this space such as mindfulness tactics. Children and adult colouring books can be really useful. The space must be an area that all family members can use and want to use. Each family member must respect each other when in this place.
  7. There should be some small rules around the space. Such as when someone goes into the space, no one else should talk to them and leave them to calm down. You can sit with them but do not engage with them unless invited to do so. You can stay in there for as long as you need to. Each family can create their own rules and review them every so often to ensure the space is still working for everyone.
  8. A further idea is a feelings tent. You could use a pop up tent which is cheap to purchase and easy to store. It also doesn’t need too much space. It can be a lovely place to sit when you have feelings that need time to resolve, time to sit with, to think about and to understand. Support children to become aware of their feelings and to understand how to name them and why they exist. This is crucial to emotional development and well-being as they grow.
  9. For many parents we have difficulty in identifying our feelings and sitting with them. We can be inclined to make them someone else’s issue and we blame others for them. The feelings tent can be a really good place for you too to further develop your feelings, own them and be kind to yourself in understanding why they exist for you. Role modelling is key to positive parenting.
  10. One Family have compiled a comprehensive book list that is useful for families going through times of change. The book list is divided into the following topics: Separation/Divorce; Family Types; Fostering and Adoption; Death and Bereavement and Stepparents and Stepfamilies. Many of the books should be available in your local library and if not the library will order them in for you.


This week’s ‘10 Ways’ parenting tips is written by Geraldine Kelly, One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services.

For support and advice on any of these topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email


Policy | Email Your Candidates to End Child Poverty and Review Reform of OPF Payment

With just one week to go until General Election 2016, we urge everyone to email their local candidates to ensure that one-parent families are on their agenda. We are calling for six key commitments which you can read about below.Election Manifesto 2016_1

Election Manifesto 2016_2

It’s easy to email all of your local candidates in just one minute; click here. You can also download two handy documents with questions and take away messages for candidates who call to your door, to help ensure that they know that these issues matter for all families in Ireland.

#GE2016 #EndChildPovery #MyFamilyMatters

Use the social share buttons below to ask your friends and family to support our Election Manifesto for one-parent families.


Press Release | One-Parent Families Experience Highest Deprivation and Poverty in Ireland – Shameful!

Press Release

One-Parent Families Experience Highest Deprivation and Poverty in Ireland – Shameful!

SILC Report 2014 Launched Today

(Dublin, Thursday 26th November 2015) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone and sharing parenting – reacts to the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2014 results published today, which clearly show that people parenting alone and their children remain  the poorest families in Ireland.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, comments: “Today’s SILC results show that those with the highest rates of deprivation at nearly 60% are one-parent families. This is combined in the 2014 results with the fact that the most common type of family living in consistent poverty are also people parenting alone. This is a direct result of government choices and policies and it is unacceptable to continue to sentence a generation of children to a lifetime of poverty and poor life chances.”

Kiernan continues: “People parenting alone tell us through our monthly surveys, askonefamily helpline and our family support services that they constantly live on the knife edge of poverty. Government continues to enforce ill-formed activation measures without the provision of effective supports such the long-promised, affordable quality childcare.”

One Family recorded a staggering 30% increase of callers to its askonefamily helpline in 2014. The real impact of years of austerity is only now being realised and one-parent families and parents sharing parenting of their children have borne the brunt of spending cuts. Every parent should have an equal opportunity to create a better future for his or her children. All families deserve an equal chance.

Research shows that a key contributor to children’s futures is not the structure of their families but living in consistent poverty.  One in four families in Ireland is a one-parent family and 58% of lone parents are employed. Only 45,000 lone parents are now in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment. They want to work and they want to learn. The policies of activation being directed towards these families are not working. Children in one-parent families are still more than twice as likely to live in poverty. The number of children in Ireland living in consistent poverty – meaning they are living both at risk of poverty and experiencing deprivation – has risen to nearly 12%; while 23% of children in a one-parent family experience deprivation.

The askonefamily helpline can be contacted on lo-call 1890 66 22 12.

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today ( For further information, visit

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191

Further Information/Scheduling

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 664 0124 / e:

Events | Annual Toy Appeal

christmaschild Join our annual toy appeal and make a real difference this Christmas. By organising a collection of toys in your workplace you can help us make Christmas a little bit easier for the families we work with. As we all know, Christmas can be a time of stress and worry for many parents but in particular for families who are on a strict budget that doesn’t allow for presents.

In December One Family host a winter party for the children and each child receives a gift from Santa. We rely on generous donations from people like you to make this party a magical and memorable time for the children.

It’s easy for your company to take part. Just contact Geraldine to register your interest and we can provide you with everything you need to make your toy appeal run smoothly in your workplace.

Starting Over

Parenting | 10 Ways to Starting Over

Starting OverRelationships can become very negative within families. This is often due to the many layers of challenges parents are faced with on a daily basis. At times we wonder what we got ourselves into and how we are going to cope.

It is never too late to review your relationships and make positive changes. If you feel you have become weighed down by the stress of life and that your parenting has moved into a place you had never expected it to be, then maybe it is time to think about a fresh start.

The following tips may support you to make changes to your parent-child relationships and aid you in the process of starting over:

  1. Think about what life use to be like. What did you like about parenting in the early days? What type of relationship did you dream you would have with your child? Was there ever a time that you felt you had a very positive relationship with your child? It is possible to regain that bond.
  2. Now think about what went wrong. What is stopping you from parenting in a way you would like to? What do you children need from you that you find you can’t give?
  3. Start by improving your relationship with yourself. What needs do you have? Can you identify your needs and explore how you can get them met. Self care is the key to a positive relationship with others. Think about what you are good at when it comes to parenting. Are you organised? A good planner? Do you stick to routines? Are you good at cooking, helping with homework? How patient are you? Can you tell or read stories? Do you enjoy playing games?
  4. Choose one thing you are good at- there is at least one – use this as a base to start a new relationship with your child. If, for example, you are good at telling stories why not start a weekly library trip? Focus on this one hour with your child each week. Encourage them to enjoy books. Find books and stories that interest you both. If you can have this one hour a week with your child that you both enjoy, it will support a positive feeling that you can build upon.
  5. Make a list of what you admire about your child. Try to wear rose coloured glasses for a week and only focus on what your child does well. Praise them when you see them do nice things, even if they are small. Focus on encouraging them and admiring them. At times all our energy goes into what our children do to upset us. Children generally don’t wake up with a plan to upset and annoy their parents. If we can focus on the positives and train ourselves to spend 70% of your energy on the positives you will see dramatic changes in your relationship with your child.
  6. Explore the issues that really challenge you in parenting your child and yourself. Pick one and look at what you can do to change things. If, for example, you find your child is not listening, think about how good you listen. Explore what stops you from listening. Sit with your child and name the issue – stick to one – and name how you feel about it. Ask your child how they feel about this issue. Together you can plan the changes to be made in the next week to acknowledge each other’s needs.
  7. Try not to blame, it takes two people to have a relationship. Own your part and support your child to make changes along with you. If your child is less than 3 years then focus on what you can do differently. When we make a change to our own behaviour it will have a ripple effect on those around us.
  8. Work on one issue at a time and introduce weekly family meetings. If your children are over 3 years old this is a very effective way to get everyone talking and communicating. Let everyone have a voice. You only have to listen. Hear what your children. Click here to read our ’10 Ways to Run a Family Meeting’.
  9. There is no purpose in blaming your children for how they behave. Children respond to the environment they live in. Hear what they say and then make a statement about what you would like to see happen. Can you have weekly dates with your children? Individual quality time is very effective and allows you focus on what each individual child enjoys. Group activities every other week are also great at bringing family together. These can just be fun things in the home, where there is calmness and room to talk.
  10. Try to focus on what you do well each day. Name one thing you do well or even partly well that day and sleep on that. In doing this, you will support yourself to make change and believe that positive change can happen.

Seek professional support if you are really struggling. Taking part in a parenting class can really help guide you and offer you support. One Family also offer one to one parent mentoring support. Do not do it alone, ask for help and achieve your dream relationship with your children.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Monday 28 September from 11am-12pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

Responsible Behaviour

Parenting | 10 Ways to Talk to Your Teenager About Responsible Behaviour

Responsible BehaviourMany parents dread the teenage years. Drinking alcohol, smoking, sex and many other issues come up when our children reach this age. Many of them are normal for this stage of development. At times we can worry too much about what the teenage years will bring so we ban everything, thinking if we take full control nothing can go wrong. The unfortunate thing is, you are not spending as much time with your child now, so you are not going to be able to control everything they do or everything that happens to them.

Here are some tips to help you survive the journey with your child and see them through the teenage years in a positive way:

  1. Try to not expect the worst. We hear so much from other parents and the media about what young people get up to. This is usually a smaller percentage than you would think. Try not to be afraid to hear what lies ahead for your teen. It can be a wonderful time for them and for you if you trust your skills as a parent and trust your child to make good choices.
  2. Try not to ban things. The more you say ‘no’ the more your teen will focus their energy on finding a way to get or to do whatever they want. Instead explore with your teenager how they can make good choices around what it is they need to do.
  3. Almost every teen will try alcohol, most likely between 14-17 years old. There is very little you can do to stop them from accessing alcohol if they really want to. Talk with them about your fears around what alcohol can do to a person. Talk with them about how they would cope. Who would they go to for support if they made the wrong choice? Talk with them about making responsible choices.
  4. At this age teenagers can also be in and out of many relationships. Some young people will engage in sexual behaviour before the age of 18. You can talk with them about self respect, feeling safe, saying ‘No’. Try not to back away from talking with your teen about contraception. Make a GP appointment for girls especially and help them get information about their options. Introduce your teen to literature around relationships. By supporting your teen to be armed with the correct information you will be supporting them to make the right choices. Just because you give them this information does not mean you are giving them permission to engage in sexual relationships, but making sure that if they choose to they are doing it in a responsible way.
  5. Allow your teenager some freedom. If you can start in the very early years to give your child opportunities to make choices and act in responsible ways then as teenagers you will have some idea of what your teenager is capable of. Teenagers need space and need for you to trust them. Start from a place of trust, if they prove unable to act responsibly, then take away the freedoms and start again.
  6. Be very clear with your teenager about boundaries in the home and the community. Stick to your principles. Ensure your teen understands the boundaries and why they exist. Review them regularly as you will need to shift the boundaries as your teen grows and shows you how responsible they can be.
  7. Be fair. Listen to your teenager and hear what they have to say. Try not to do things because that is how you were parented or because you feel you are expected to parent in certain ways. Be confident in how you parent, you know your child best and you need to trust your instincts. If you really feel you are out of your depth seek professional support. Call the askonefamily helpline on 1890 662 212
  8. Try to be not too strict with teens. Allow them downtime. Do they really need to get up by 10am at the weekends? Why not get a piercing? What about it if they wear to much make up or dye their hair? Choose your battles wisely and be open to hearing their views. Explore the issue for yourself. Educate yourself about Facebook and other social media. Share your views with teens and try to reach agreement with them.
  9. Although you are asked to be open to the challenges of the teenage years you must also be very clear about what you expect from your teen. Follow through and do not change the rules to suit you. Deal with issues when they arise and try not to imagine every wrong choice your teen will make. Making mistakes is part of growing up, making them in the safety of your family and home are what you want. You can then be there to offer support.
  10. Try not to criticise your teen. They are trying their best. Life can be hard for them too. Do not belittle the challenges they face. Although they are very near to adulthood they are still children so allow them these years to explore, learn and understand the type of person they are and want to become.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Thursday 24 September from 5pm-6pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

Parenting | 10 Ways to Settle Back into the School Routine

back to school Settling back into the school routine can be very challenging. When you are parenting school age children, the best way to make a plan is to do it together with your children. Whether is it September or another time of the year, here are some tips to support you.

  1. Call a family meeting. If you have not tried this before try not be skeptical as it can be very effective. By bringing the whole family together you are making a statement – This is our family and our issue to resolve together, which is a really good principle to parent by. If you need extra advice on how to do this, read our ’10 ways to’ run a family meeting
  2. When you have all the family in one place then make your statement – School is back on, how can we ensure a good term ahead for everyone?
  3. Ask each person to say what they need in the next term. You should expect various responses, from ‘no nagging’, to ‘not wanting homework’ to needing ‘time out with friends’. This is normal, take note of all suggestions.
  4. Once you have a list of what everyone needs, then you can start to explore if and how these needs can be met.
  5. If you have older children, maybe they can offer to help meet the needs of younger children. Such as supporting them with homework.
  6. Be sure to name your needs and be reasonable. Try to keep them very specific, e.g. “I need to know homework is done every day. “I need everyone in bed at a reasonable time.” “I need everyone to take a level of responsibility around getting ready for school in the mornings.”
  7. Agree what each person can do for themselves. “Everyone has their own alarm clock.” “Everyone makes their own sandwiches, once they are over about 7 years old. Your job is to provide the food, agree what needs to be available, but you do not have to be responsible for filling the boxes.
  8. Once you have agreed on the key principles of what everyone needs to do, allow some space and variation in how each person achieves them. If you have older children and teenagers try not to schedule every minute for them. Allow them choose when homework will be done. It is their homework. Allow them some choice around free time after school before homework starts. Allow them to choose when they eat. You can prepare dinner, but is it reasonable to expect everyone to eat at the same time? You can also agree on family time and when you schedule some time together as a family.
  9. If we try to control everything our children do, we are just setting ourselves up for failure – along with exhaustion! As parents, it is important we remember that our role is to prepare children for life. Allowing them to make choices and have some control is part of this process. If your child is never allowed to plan their own time and make reasonable choices, how will they learn? How will you know what they are capable of?
  10. Look after yourself well. In order to parent our children effectively, we must learn to parent ourselves. Take time out for you. Be creative in how you can get this time. You will have thought of many of your own needs during this process and your children are not responsible for meeting them. You need to find ways to meet them yourself. In this way you will have the patience and energy to listen, understand and engage in positive ways with your children.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to manage Homework With Primary School Children 

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Monday 7 September from 11am-12pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

Shared Parenting

Parenting | 10 Ways to Do Your Best When Sharing Parenting

Shared Parenting How do you know what is best for your child when you are sharing parenting?

  1. One Family supports children to have contact with both of their parents if it is safe for them to do so. We know it can be very challenging but often for children it can benefit them greatly to know they have two parents who can and want to care for them.
  2. What age children stay over with the contact parent from raises great debate for the families we work with. The best way to judge this is to look at the relationship your child has with their other parent. Has the other parent lived with them since birth? Are they familiar with the other parent getting them ready for bed and bathing them? Is your child emotionally attached to the other parent? If the answer is generally yes, then most likely your child will do well on sleepovers, once they settle into a routine with the other parent.
  3. If you have a new born, it is often felt that for the baby it can cause great anxiety if they are separated from a main caregiver. Mums are hugely important in this stage of development. That is not to take from the value of the father’s role, but separation anxiety at this young age can have lasting impacts on children.
  4. For children who are of school age, toilet trained, talking and able to express themselves to some extent, overnights can work out fine. Often they are anxious about the parent they leave behind. It is important to let your child know that you support them to have a relationship with both of their parents. Assure them that you are fine when they are not at home and that you will look forward to seeing them when they come back.
  5. Older children (12+) need to have a voice around contact plans. At this stage of development they are keen to spend time with friends and social gatherings. Not wanting to go on contact is nothing to do with either parent usually; it is more often about your young teen wanting to have their needs met. Allow young teens some space to voice their needs and support good contact around this. At this age, it is all about making ‘dates’ to see your children.
  6. Flexibility is the key to good shared parenting. Although you may have a clear plan detailing contact arrangements, children will change over time. Even if a child is unwell or something happens in school or in the family, this can affect how they feel about contact on any given day or week. Try not to get upset if your child doesn’t want to go on contact sometimes. It can, of course, be very hard not to see your child, but maybe the plans can be adjusted – a shorter visit such as just going for something to eat or, if your relationship is stable enough, inviting the other parent to come along for an hour.
  7. Try not to see contact as your time with your child, but your child’s time with you. Any contact is better than no contact, unless it is not safe for children. The quality of interaction with your child is what makes the difference in a good parent-child relationship.
  8. Be flexible with the other parent. Allow things to be a little free. Children will have family events and occasions with friends that they don’t want to miss. Try not to cause your child to miss out on things that are important to them, because you want to own the contact time.
  9. It is very important that both parents are on time for contact – both dropping off and collecting. However, things can and do happen. Try to remain calm and not to see this as an insult to you, as often nothing is meant by it. Encourage the other parent to keep to clearly agreed times so that you and your children are not anxiously waiting.
  10. Build up contact slowly for children. Start off with short stays and fun things and then move more into normal parenting things in the home. Increase the time slowly until you have reached a schedule that works well for the child and the parents. Be open to allowing your child good contact. It can be very hard to part from your child at any time, but try to believe the other parent loves them too and trust that they will care for the child as well as you do in their own way.

Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to Positively Maintain Contact or 10 Ways to Successful Shared Parenting

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic or any parenting issue on Tuesday 25 August at 5.45pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

Toddler Tantrum

Parenting | 10 Ways to Cope With Toddler Tantrums

Toddler Tantrum A toddler’s life is full of wonder and awe. Many toddlers are fearless explorers and just want freedom to do things for themselves. For someone so young they can be very sure of what they want and making plans on how to get it. For parents the wonder is usually how they are still alive at the end of everyday with the things you catch them doing or trying to do – Jumping off steps and window ledges, climbing trees, eating dirt, scaling shelves, dancing on the kitchen table and drinking from the toilet are just some of the many daily behaviours of a toddler.

How can we avoid the battle of wills and allow our toddlers some freedom and still kiss them goodnight safely tucked up in bed? It is hard, but not impossible. Allowing children of this age freedom to explore is very challenging for parents. Our job is to keep them safe, but preventing them from doing things can cause even greater challenges in the form of tantrums – a fight for independence!

  1. The first step is to know that your child is keen to explore, they want to try things for themselves. We won’t know what they are capable of unless we let them try. They won’t know what they are capable of unless you allow them to try. Confident children are those who have been allowed to try, try and try again.
  2. Stay calm when you see your toddler climbing a tree in the back garden. Admire their ability and determination to succeed. Try coming close, saying nothing and watching them. Know that you are ready to catch them if they fall or to offer admiration when they succeed. Shouting in their direction may scare them and cause a fall. Supporting them to explore helps to develop their confidence and competency.
  3. The question is how you can allow them climb safely. What can you construct in your garden to keep them safe and allow them climb. Our fear comes out of safety for the child. So if you can create safety then you don’t have to be so fearful.
  4. Watch them grow. At times we forget we are parenting a child – someone who is growing stronger everyday and more capable every day. We forget to grow with them. Reflect on how much you do for your child that really they are capable of doing for themselves. How many parents are still spoon feeding a 2 year old, how many have 2 year olds in cots? What are you really doing for your child in this case?
  5. For toddlers you have to be able to allow them grow. Give them opportunities to do things for themselves – give them the spoon, it will be a longer and messier process, but it will pay off in the end. Responsibilities enable children to become more capable and most importantly develop their self esteem.
  6. Allow your toddler to make choices. You may think that asking a 2 year old what they want to wear or eat is looking for trouble or plain silly. However, when you offer a choice you will learn very quickly that they know exactly what they want. Offer small choices, such as this tracksuit or these jeans, not the whole wardrobe. Ask them would they like yogurt or fruit, milk or water. By starting at an early age you are telling your child that you know they are they have power within the family and that their voice is valued in this home. If you wait until they are older you may have many challenges along the way and it can be very difficult to change long learned behaviours.
  7. Manage your stress. Often when parents are feeling very stressed about work, life, relationships and the responsibility of parenting it can cause us to parent in ways we had hoped not to. Become aware of the triggers and try not to let it influence your parenting. We usually parent in a less democratic way when you are stressed. Identifying stressors and putting measures in place to deal with them helps to notice that you don’t get as flustered or overwhelmed.
  8. Try to say ‘yes’ to toddlers instead of a stream of ‘no’. Think about how often you say No to your toddler and then explore ways in which you can give more Yes answers to them. This is not about toddlers getting their own way, but there is only so much they can understand, so allowing them to do more things can be the best way for them to learn about the world.
  9. Have some fun. When you have a toddler you will most likely have survived at least two years of parenting. You had wished for the day they could walk and talk. Your child will not be a toddler for long, so treasure this time. If you can put yourself in their shoes it will help you see that they just want to explore the world.
  10. Remember. Toddlers are not aiming to drive parents wild; we do that to ourselves. If we allow them the space they need to grow soon they will have passed another stage with great success and you will start to see the real character of your child. This character is formed at toddler stage, so trying to stop areas developing usually will not work; it is more about sanding off the rough edges and giving them guidance.

Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to Parent Through Stressful Times

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Tuesday 18 August from 11am-12pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.