How My Toddler’s Sass is Teaching Me To Hold My Tongue

by Mary Sauer

It was a Monday morning. Due to an ugly diaper incident at 2am that required a change of sheets and my husband falling asleep with my toddler, we all overslept.

My husband took a lightning fast shower and made a run for the door before I could even get my coffee made. We rushed around the house getting ready for the yoga class I had missed the last two weeks and made it there just in time for me to drop the girls at childwatch and arrive while everyone was doing their first downward dog.

Fifteen minutes into class, I had officially gotten my zen on. I had let go of the chaos of the morning. I was cool. I was calm. Nothing could get between me and this moment.

Then I heard it. Ding. Mary, mother of Hazel, could you please report to the childwatch area.

Zen gone.

One diaper change and a few ounces of mama’s milk later, she was back in childwatch and I was back on my way to nirvana. When they called me again–she was pretty fussy. Maybe she was hungry.

We left in a huff. My two year old, ten month old and I made our way through the rainy parking lot. Clementine kept wandering off, so I firmly grabbed ahold of her wrist and hurried her along.

Stop that! RIGHT. NOW. She glared at me, ripped her hand out of mine, and then finished it off with a sigh so thorough, that her shoulders deflated as she blew a breath out of her little pinched lips.

Ignoring the sass, I lifted her into her seat and started to buckle her when she gave it another go.

I SAID STOP IT. RIGHT NOW! She screamed it this time, putting her whole body behind it, her face red.

I was taken back. Partially, by the volume such a small person could muster up when angry, but mostly by how familiar that phrase sounded.

My daughter, in all her toddler anger, was merely modeling something she had heard out of my mouth about a thousand times, sigh included. Can you guess what hearing my go-to angry and annoyed phrase exploding out of my angry toddler’s mouth did to my mommy mojo?

All I could think about was how ugly, out of control, and immature she sounded spitting that phrase at me. Which made me wonder–how do I sound when I holler it at her? To top it all off, I have now taught my two year old how to be completely out of control of her emotions. With my own lack of self-control, I have communicated that it is appropriate to let your anger get the best of you. Mommy fail.

We sat in the car in the parking lot and the girls started to taking turns blowing raspberries at each other in the back seat. My two year old had moved on so quickly from her little outburst, but I had not. I was ashamed.

Don’t get me wrong, in my role as mother, anger has a time and a place. I am not debasing myself for feeling a completely valid emotion. I know better than that (most days). What was so embarrassing about that moment in the car with my two year old was realizing that, in the last two years, I had become a yeller. An exasperated sigher. An eye roller.

Mild mannered, happy-go-lucky me had morphed into this person who takes making it to yoga class on time and loading the dishwasher uninterrupted way too seriously. And I was teaching my daughter that it was appropriate to use an ugly tone and loud volume with the people we love when things don’t go the way that we want.

I know there is a lesson here. A lesson outside of how counterproductive it is to get pissed off about being late to yoga class. The rest of the day, I found myself pausing when I was tempted to explode because she was climbing on the kitchen table or coloring on herself. I found myself wondering:

How will this sound coming out her mouth when she inevitably mimics this little outburst of mine? How can my response to this teach her that there is an appropriate way to handle frustration?

And that, my friends, is how my toddler’s incredible propensity for sass is teaching me to watch my tongue.

Have your kids picked up on any of your less than perfect behavior? How do you model healthy control of your emotions to your children?


Mary Sauer is wife to Chris and young mom to Clementine and Hazel Jane. When she isn’t at home with her girls, she spends her time working on an inpatient behavioral health unit or freelance writing. With whatever free time is left, she writes on her blog, reads, vacuums her house, and dabbles in yoga and running. She can also be found on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

One thought on “How My Toddler’s Sass is Teaching Me To Hold My Tongue

  1. This is good. And yes I still remember the moment I heard Jessie (me) coming out of my daughter’s mouth…14 years ago!! Not pretty.

    I miss my zen moments.

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