Mom Shares The Simple Secret To Instantly Changing Her 4 Year Old's Behavior — 'The Problem Was With Me Not Her'

Subtle changes made a huge difference, and experts say her instincts were right on track.

mom talking about how she changed her toddler's behavior @kylichoi / TikTok

If you've so much as babysat a toddler or little one for more than an hour you know how easily they can have you exasperated and short-tempered, and it's only natural to become frustrated. But it seems that guiding a young one is one of those weird situations in life where doing the opposite of your reflexes just might be the perfect remedy.

One mom online recently experimented with this, and the results she got were surprising and revealing.


A mom on TikTok explained how she changed her toddler's behavior almost instantly.

TikToker @kylichoi has a four-year-old daughter and an infant son and says that her "worst nightmare has come true" since having her second baby. She always feared having a second child would test her patience with her first child, and that has recently proven to be the case.

But recognizing the pattern enabled her to find a surprisingly simple solution.

Kyli says that she has struggled not to be 'exasperated' and 'passive-aggressive' with her four-year-old daughter.

"I've noticed lately that I talk to my four-year-old like I'm always exasperated by her," she confessed in a recent TikTok. "Just like, super annoyed. Everything I say, whether it's like, can we just hurry and get in the car,, I'm always sighing and... passive-aggressively rude and making it known that she's being super annoying," she said.




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Being frustrated with little kids is, of course, part of the deal — as Kyli put it, "I'm pretty sure I'm not the only mom that's been doing this, because this baby just smiles all day and my four-year-old just tests me all day" with repeated battles with putting her shoes on or getting her to eat properly and all the myriad struggles little kids present.

But she began to feel like the exasperation she was expressing toward her daughter was a slippery slope.


"I've realized that it's kind of an addiction," she said, "cause once you start that route, you like, can't stop yourself. Cause then once you open the door to, 'oh, she's annoying,' you start to see her as annoying."

She says this mindset became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy and started spilling over into interactions with her husband and coloring his perception of their four-year-old too. "I started talking about her to my husband...she's not in a good mood today, or, like, she's acting cray cray." Even though they were doing so out of earshot, it didn't sit well with her.

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Kyli decided to simply change the way she speaks to and about her daughter — and it changed her toddler's behavior almost immediately.

"Two days ago, I decided to just stop," she said, "and I told my husband to stop. I said, hey, I think we need to talk to her, just nicer." This included privately, even when her daughter was out of earshot. "No matter how terrible she's being, like, screaming at the top of her lungs, or, like, hitting her brother, whatever she's doing, like, if she's in a bad mood," she told her husband, "I don't want us to just say it out loud to each other.... I want us to just, you know, be kind to her."


For Kyli, this meant reverting to how she dealt with her daughter when she was the only kid in the house. "I started being really, really kind again, like I used to before [the baby] was born."

Kyli began using a lot of the techniques of so-called "gentle parenting," like mirroring her daughter's emotions and validating her feelings and desires — even the deeply annoying ones like wanting to change her shoes two seconds before going out the door.

The shift was almost instantaneous. "She's changed a lot just in the last two days," she said, going on to explain, "I realized the problem was me, and the problem was with me and myself. She's not the enemy, she's not the problem. I am." She says that not only has this shift altered her daughter's behavior, but it's also deepened their bond.

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Experts say Kyli is absolutely on the right track with the subtle changes she's made.

The way parents communicate with their kids has a major impact on their self-esteem and development, and experts say Kyli is absolutely on the right track with the changes she's made, starting with her identification of herself as the most important person in this scenario from a behavioral perspective, not her child. In fact, many parenting experts recommend switching the actual statements parents use from "you" to "I" statements for precisely this reason. This switch from "you" to "I" not only helps children not to feel criticized but also helps them develop their own sense of self and responsibility for their actions — a win-win.

Kyli is also on the right track understanding that, when it comes to communicating with kids, it's about more than words. Tone and body language matters, too — especially since children are highly attuned to these signals.

According to the CDC, negative communication, like the frustration Kyli was showing towards her daughter, tends to only magnify the behavior causing the negative feelings in the first place. Whereas positive communication — thanking a child for obeying instructions instead of yelling at them not to do something, for example — tends to have the opposite impact, as Kyli and her husband are experiencing.


Of course, this can all be hard to remember in the heat of the moment when you're doing the 47th battle of the day of trying to get a kid out the door. But Kyli and her husband's success with their daughter is just one example of how it can be done — and how worthwhile it is to make the effort. 

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.