How to Get Toddlers to Listen Without Yelling, Bribing or Threats

Scared daughter holding mother's hands in autumn park. Child girl express sad emotions, complain about their own problems.

How to Get Toddlers to Listen Without Yelling, Bribing or Threats

As a big believer in positive living, once I became a mom I naturally gravitated towards positive parenting. However, even with the best intentions, we noticed that we started to yell at times to get our rambunctious toddler boy to listen and even started using bribes (If you get dressed and be good, I will give you a treat) and threats (If you don’t listen right now you are going into time out).

These seem to work in the moment, but the behavior never improved. It was like a cycle continuing over and over and the more our son didn’t listen, the more frustrated we got. Turns out, trying to get our kids to listen with yelling, bribing or threats has more negative effects on a child’s behavior, which is clearly counterproductive. I thought there had to be a better way. And there is.

Negative Effects of Yelling, Bribes and Threats to Get Your Kids to Listen

Creates Fear and Takes Away the Learning Opportunity

Yelling, bribes and threats may be the easy choice to get kids to listen, but they listen from fear instead of learning to obey and respect you as a parent. Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting, explains “threats create disconnection and undermine the parent-child bond.” 

If you are using threats and bribes as the only way to get your children to cooperate then all your child gets to practice is compliance. In the long run, compliance merely chips away at your child’s self-esteem and feelings of capability.

Creates a Negative Parent-Child Relationship

Yelling, bribes and threats also create a negative relationship between child and parent which can cause resentment, more arguments, and ongoing conflicts.

Instead of talking AT our kids, talk WITH our kids. Yelling, bribes, and threats do not teach kids to respect their parents and the bad behavior will continue or usually gets worse. When this happens, parents get more frustrated. Again, it’s that vicious, unproductive cycle that must be broken.

Creates a Habit of Kids Expecting Rewards for Behaving

Trying to get your toddler to listen by offering a reward is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important WHEN you offer it.

Psychology Today had a great point about offering a reward at the right time. Instead of offering the reward in the middle of a child misbehaving in exchange for them listening, offer the reward up front before bad behavior begins. “Let’s go get ice cream if we all behave at the restaurant. Sound good?” And then don’t be afraid to NOT give the reward if your kids didn’t follow through on his end of the bargain.

5 Ways to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling, Bribes & Threats

1. Get Down on Their Level and Use Eye Contact

These two actions have helped us avoid and stop bad behavior. Works like magic. Parents and kids can relate better to each other when on the same eye level. Just imagine how giant everything is for little kids including parents looking down on them.

For me, it’s like evening the playing field. Instead of me looking down on my son, I get down on his level, say his name, and have eye contact. Then, I use something called the whisper technique. Because I am whispering, it’s like I’m telling my son a secret and he listens intently.

Real life example:

My son was being very rowdy and wanted to wrestle (Papa “wrestles” with him before nap time and bed time every day). So I came down on his level, said his name, made eye contact and whispered, “Papa is eating right now. Once he is done I am sure he will wrestle with you. Let’s go ask Papa if he will wrestle after he is done eating.”

It worked! I couldn’t believe I was able to get my toddler to listen by whispering. But I did! He stopped trying to wrestle with me and we walked over to Papa just as I suggested. Miraculous!

2. Stop Saying “No” and Talk More

I caught myself saying “no” constantly to my son. Kids who hear “no” constantly end up not listening (well, maybe after the 100th time of saying “no”).  Even more importantly, by saying so many no’s all the time towards a child’s actions, kids lose self-confidence.

Instead, we changed this to give a reason why we are saying no. For example, when we get home from preschool my son must take off his shoes and wash his hands, but he started running into the kitchen and living room with shoes on and hands not washed.

Me saying, “Please come here to take your shoes off and wash your hands” did not work. He kept giggling in the living room while I went to pick him up and bring him back to the foyer.  After this continued I yelled one day when it happened. Then I thought, there has to be a better way because yelling is not working either.

So here’s what I did:

I explained why it’s important to take shoes off and wash hands after we come home from school. “Remember when you felt sick? There are a ton of germs on the bottom of our shoes and also on our hands (even though we cannot see any with our eyes). If we don’t take our shoes off at the door and wash our hands, we can spread germs and get sick. So that’s why mommy asks you to take your shoes off and wash your hands right when we come home. It only takes a quick minute and then you can run freely around the house, okay?”

Also, we can say no in different ways that are much more effective:

Instead of saying: “No shouting,” say “Talk softly please,” or instead of saying “Don’t run,” say “Make sure we walk to the sidewalk and then you and your friends can run on the playground.”

3. Acknowledgment

This is a technique that works wonders to get your kids to listen and it is so simple. All it takes is repeating back what the toddler is trying to say or wants and/or acknowledging their feelings.

So, for example:

Before school we have a short window to eat breakfast and sometimes my son will push his breakfast aside and say he doesn’t want it. I used to say this, “We only have 5 minutes to eat. Please eat your breakfast.” This didn’t work.

Now I say, “Oh you don’t want your breakfast right now? Okay. I will put it here to the side and when you are ready you can take a few bites. We only have five minutes before we leave for school so I will remind you in a minute.”

Usually before I remind him, he’s already reaching for his breakfast to eat after a minute. Sometimes I just need to say, “Reminder: Breakfast.” Then he starts eating.

Other times when our son is asking for a toy in the store saying “no” usually triggers him asking 100 more times for it and then eventually crying when he knows I am not going to give in.

Instead we now say this: “I know you really want that toy. You have so many toys at home so we will wait until your birthday. Do you know what month your birthday is in?”

He answers and we redirect the conversation to something different.

It works most of the time, but sometimes he’s persistent in asking for the toy. So I then say this: “Oh, you want a toy. I understand you feel frustrated because we cannot get that toy right now. Some little boys have not one toy. You have a lot of toys at home so we have to be grateful for this. Do you want to help mama pick out a yummy snack?”

The key is to acknowledge and repeat what they want or what they are frustrated about. Then redirect.

After doing this about five trips to the grocery store something magical happened. My son stopped asking for toys at the store!

4. Stop Saying “Bad Boy” or “Bad Girl”

I learned this tip from my son’s preschool teacher. He had a tough time for about a month out of the blue. Started not listening as well, banging his fork during lunch, and other things he did not usually do.

After a few instances the teacher shared with us what was happening and we started to have a conversation with our son at home about how to act in school and how important it is to be a good listener.

One day when I picked my 3 year old up from school he immediately said he was a bad boy today. His teacher said, “You’re not a bad boy. You just have to work on a few things and good listening. Tomorrow is a new day.”

So it got me thinking about calling my son a bad boy and we since have stopped this. Calling kids “bad” hurts their self-esteem. When kids are little they see only good in everything so it’s important that we as parents tell them they are good and other positive things about them so they keep this positive mentality.

We can however say certain words and behaviors are bad, but refrain from calling your kid a bad boy or bad girl.

5. Set Expectations

This has helped tremendously in getting our toddler to listen and understand what we expect from him. And it makes a lot of sense. Even as adults, we don’t know how to act if we don’t know what to expect. The same is true of our kids. If you set an expectation of behavior before you embark on a task or an outing, your child will already know the way he is supposed to act. For instance, before eating out at a restaurant we always set expectations on how to behave and our toddler has always been well-behaved when eating out.

Setting expectations can be done many times throughout the day. Using the same example as before about when we get home from school we must take shoes off and wash hands, I started setting the expectation as a reminder in the car as we pull in the garage: “I know you are excited when you get home and want to run in the house, but remember we must take your shoes off and wash hands. It only takes a minute, then you can run and play. Remember there are tons of germs and we want to stay healthy and strong. You were such a good listener yesterday when you came in and took your shoes off and washed your hands. Mommy is so proud of you.”

Low and behold it worked! No more bolting through the house with shoes on and unwashed hands giggling.

Parenting is not easy (it’s like a fitted sheet – no one really knows how to do it despite our best intentions and this is OKAY!!). Getting our kids to listen without yelling, bribing or threats is even harder! At the end of the day, however, kids just want to be heard and understood while wanting their basic needs met (hungry, tired, they need attention). This is a very reasonable request, and one that we share even as adults.

We have a great responsibility to shape and mold our children to be happy, positive, well-mannered kids and the tactics above will surely help achieve this. Our little ones are learning the world around them and especially as toddlers it’s difficult for kids to express themselves completely – they need our help and patience so they can grow, develop, and thrive.

About the Author /

Tasha is the owner and Editor-In-Chief of Best in Baby Biz & Kids Magazine and mom to a rambunctious and bright toddler boy named Vasya. Tasha loves sharing parenting tips to help fellow moms as well as stories of the best baby and kids brands so that moms (and dads!) can discover new, unique products and gifts while supporting mom/parent-owned businesses. She is a mom inventor, author, co-founder of BuzzBOX PR, and a positive living expert.

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Now is the time to listen. Do not act and reply li Now is the time to listen. Do not act and reply like you think you know or understand what the other person or child is telling you. Put away your ego, preconceived notions, and LISTEN. 👂Listen to understand instead of to reply. You will learn a lot more this way.
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TRUTH!!⁠ 🙌⁠ 📷: @mommysbundle TRUTH!!⁠ 🙌⁠
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We stand in solidarity with the Black community and encourage everyone to take action. BlackLivesMatter #muted #listening #BlackoutTuesday 🖤
I often tell my pregnant clients that birth has mo I often tell my pregnant clients that birth has more to do with what happens between your ears (your brain 🧠) than between your legs.⁠ 😳⁠
The fear, tension, pain cycle in childbirth is REAL. The more fear you have, the more tension you will hold, which means the more pain you will feel. The more pain you feel means that you will more likely clench and fight against the natural surges your body needs to produce to open your cervix and bring your baby earthside. That's why the more that you can practice, prepare and educate yourself about calm breathing and positive birth experiences before your baby's birth, the better you'll be able to control what's happening in your mind and allow the labor and birth process to unfold and bloom.⁠ ❤️ The mind is a powerful and beautiful thing. Your birth experience can be too.⁠ ✨
When you and baby are both craving a midday snack When you and baby are both craving a midday snack . . . 😂🤱⁠
📷: @jennaraecakes
Best Gifts for a New Mom⁠ 🤱🎁⁠ .⁠ 📷: Best Gifts for a New Mom⁠ 🤱🎁⁠
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📷: @whatrobineats⁠
As soon as a woman welcomes a baby into the world, oftentimes, her family and others around her become focused on the baby. The mother can sometimes somewhat be forgotten. If you are wanting to congratulate HER and show her that she is not forgotten, we are sharing the best gifts for a new mom. 💗 Any of these gifts will show her that you thought of her too and that she is cared for. And we promise you, all of these items will be used and loved. {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK!! 🗣️ SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK!! 🗣️📢👏👏👏⁠
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Words & 📷: @mrs.caitlin_fought⁠
"You want to help a mom? Support her.⁠
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I breastfed my daughter and plan to do the same with this next baby.⁠
I have friends that formula-fed.⁠
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I decided to stay home with my kids.⁠
I have friends who decided to go back to work.⁠
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Never once has my parenting choices gotten in the way of our friendship.⁠
Never once have I felt the need to lecture another mom about how she decides to raise her child.⁠
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You want to help a mom?⁠
Support her.⁠
Let her know you're there for her.⁠
Tell her she's doing a good job.⁠
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Your opinion doesn't help anyone but maybe your own ego.⁠
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Mama, I support you. I support the sacrifices you've made. Just because we parent different doesn't mean I won't be your biggest cheerleader. ❤️"⁠
I know a lot of mamas can relate to this picture. I know a lot of mamas can relate to this picture. If only there was such a thing as a coffee IV-drip. 🤣☕☕☕ You're doing great, mamas! Hoping that this week brings you a extra rest and a whole new found energy! 😘
🖌: @spiritysol
When I think back to when I gave birth to my son, When I think back to when I gave birth to my son, I do remember the surges of the contractions, the release of being in the water in the tub, and the pushing. So much pushing. 😓⁠
But I also remember the relief I felt when I first saw Mary Alice, one of my midwives, walk into my master bathroom while I was laboring in the tub. I remember my doula holding my hand in between pushes giving me encouragement, and my husband gently stroking my hair as I came down from the height of contractions.⁠
After giving birth, I remember how my midwives made my bed with fresh linens and with me in it feeling comfortable as I nestled with my newborn son. I remember how a meal was brought to me in bed and how everything was cleaned up and looked as if nothing happened -- not like I had just given birth to a baby. (I had a home birth, by the way.) And I remember how they were all with me by my side every step of the way.⁠
I felt the love, the patience, and the respect that I needed. Those are the memories that I hold with me when I think about the day my son was born. It's how I was cared for and how my birth team made me feel that stays with me.⁠
For expecting women out there, be intentional with the people that you invite into your birthing room. That includes your doctor, your midwife, and your support people. I know that things look very different right now with hospitals only allowing one support person, but you can still receive good support. Take an online birthing class with your partner and practice how they can help you in labor. Speak up to your nurse and ask for what you need and what you want for your experience. Be your own advocate! And if you feel like you can't speak up, hire a doula and receive virtual support during your pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum. Feeling supported, respected, and truly cared for is just as important as having a successful birth with a healthy mom and baby. 💗
I've been searching for an image that captures how I've been searching for an image that captures how I've been feeling. And it's this. Parenthood. Love. Protection. ❤️ Standing up for those who can't or they get struck down. 
For my friends with children who are at risk, just from doing normal things that shouldn't include risk of death. For the women who are more at risk of dying or having their babies die. I don't have the right words but I do have a heart that is breaking for the families who don't get to see their loved ones come home.
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O.M.G. Cutest thing ever! This is exactly how I wa O.M.G. Cutest thing ever! This is exactly how I want to spend my weekend. Don't mind me 😎💗⁠
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Ain't this the truth?! 🤣⁠ 📷: @themessymomm Ain't this the truth?! 🤣⁠
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One day a pregnant client of mine started having a One day a pregnant client of mine started having abdominal pain. She called her OBGYN's office and they had her come in to check on the baby to make sure everything was okay. Everything looked fine and well with the baby so they sent her home saying that it was probably something that she ate and that it must be gas or indigestion pain.
Days went by and the pain not only continued but it got WORSE. I encouraged her to continue reaching out to her doctor, which she did. She would call the office and the nurse and doctor would tell her that everything was fine. They told her what meds she could take that could help, and that if she wanted to come in again the next day, she could.
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I tell this story because I have seen & been told countless stories like this. (Continue reading in the comments.)
😐😐😐😐😐😂⁠ 📷: @thedad 😐😐😐😐😐😂⁠
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Tag your squad 😎⁠ 😂😂😂⁠ 📷: @then Tag your squad 😎⁠
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As soon as a woman becomes pregnant she will hear As soon as a woman becomes pregnant she will hear ALL kinds of unsolicited advice from everyone around her. 🤰 Friends, family members, even strangers will tell her what they went through and what they think she should do with her body and her baby. 😑 And this unsolicited advice continues long into parenthood. ⁠
Something that I think ALL mothers should know and learn is that you do NOT have to own or accept any information or stories someone tells you if it does not serve you. If it's unhelpful and not inline with your choices, hopes, and desires as a mother, then as soon as it was received immediately discard it. Don't harbor any information that does a disservice to you. The mind is a powerful thing. When we are told war stories and how terrible, awful, or painful things were for them (pregnancy, childbirth, or parenthood), that can live and stay with you. You do not have to own someone else's story. It may have been told with good intentions, but if you do not find value in it let it go. Release it and surround yourself with positive talk, uplifting stories, and happy, respectful, and supportive people.⁠ Be bold enough to go against the grain if you must and do what is right for you and your family.⁠
Ultimately, listen to your intuition. And if you're unsure of what your intuition is telling you, seek counsel from people who you admire and trust.⁠
You're doing great and if you didn't know this, you're already are a great mother. 💕 #thebabychick
Transition to Motherhood in Uncertain Times⁠ 🤱⁠
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When a first baby is born, so is a new mother. 💗 The transition to motherhood can be a very difficult one that is impossible to be fully prepared for. As you become a mother you take on a completely new identity. It is a new phase of life that comes with new challenges, emotions, and growth.⁠ 🌱⁠
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As a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit occupational therapist, I find that I take care of the mothers just as much as I take care of the babies. ❤️ Many, if not most mothers, are prepared with the tangibles: a place for the new baby to sleep, clothes for the new baby to wear, bottles, and diapers. But it is impossible to fully prepare for the emotional transition that takes place. New moms are met with not only a little baby who is completely dependent but also a barrage of new and different emotions that you may not fully understand.⁠ {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
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Let me just stop you right there! *pew pew* 🔫🤱
Surprising Body Changes During Pregnancy – Podca Surprising Body Changes During Pregnancy – Podcast Ep 33⁠ 😮⁠
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Pregnancy is such a beautiful time in a woman's life. 💕 But don't get me wrong, not every day of pregnancy is glamorous. 😬 We've all heard of the luxurious hair, the glowing skin, the stretchmarks with the growing belly, but there are also things that happen to a woman's body during pregnancy that aren't really discussed. That's why we are covering all of the surprising body changes a woman can experience during pregnancy on today's podcast episode. So if you're currently expecting and are noticing some odd changes happening to your body, you can feel relieved knowing that you are not alone. 🤰 {Click 🔗 in bio to listen to the episode!}⁠
Now that "homeschool" is over, we can now enjoy ou Now that "homeschool" is over, we can now enjoy our summer! 😎 Oh, wait . . . #looksalotlikerightnow 🤔⁠
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When you become a mother you realize how much your When you become a mother you realize how much your mother did (or didn't do) for you. 💗 Sending love to all of the mothers, step-mothers, mother figures out there.
Happy Monday, mamas!⁠ 👋⁠ ⁠ Lately, with e Happy Monday, mamas!⁠ 👋⁠
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Lately, with everything going on, I've been thinking a lot about mothers with newborns. 🤱 As a postpartum doula, I get the pleasure of supporting new families in their homes and helping them navigate the winding roads and highs and lows of early parenthood. But right now I know that families are bringing home their precious babies and are feeling alone more than ever. They have less physical support, which can feel like they have less emotional and informational support as well. This breaks my heart. 💔 I wish this wasn't happening to families or to our world and I wish that I could be there for these moms.⁠
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That's why today, I am hopping on our stories and answering YOUR questions. Since I can't be there PHYSICALLY to help you with your pregnancy and newborns, I want you to know that I am here virtually for you. How can I help?⁠
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{I've left a question box in our stories. Have a question about your postpartum recovery? About your newborn? About breastfeeding? Bottle-feeding? You name it! I've been helping mothers as a birth doula and postpartum doula for 10 years and I am here for you.💕}⁠
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Okay, grandma. 🙄⁠ 📷: unknown Okay, grandma. 🙄⁠
📷: unknown
To the mamas, papas, dreamers, visionaries, SAHMs, To the mamas, papas, dreamers, visionaries, SAHMs, etc. out there, kudos to you! For going so hard, for not quitting even on the worst days, even on the tired days, even on the days you don't know how you're going to do it, or don't feel like you can. You know it's okay to have some patience, grace, and forgiveness with yourself, right?⁠
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Our children are the future. I had to learn to give myself some grace. Sometimes when I evaluate where I am in life and see that I'm not exactly where I want to be or could've been frustrates me, or gets me down. I'm so hard on myself. But then I realized if the ONLY good thing I've done or successfully done is raise great children, I am in fact doing well!! *Parents, it's so important how we raise our children, and many of you KNOW that is not an easy task.⁠
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There are so many different aspects on this one topic. First, their confidence, self-love, etc. is so important. They need to know who they are, so when they encounter times and people that aren't so kind they are not completely crushed.⁠
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Secondly, think about who you're putting into the world. Do you remember your heartbreak(s), or some of the sh*%$y people you've come across and thought who raised them? Or even when you encountered a child that needed a hug or just some TLC. It's important!⁠
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Thirdly, but not least, for the dreamer or the visionary . . . Yes, we are working so hard for our dreams and goals. And one day we may achieve them, but our building and growing may also be in the building for our children. As we are building a future for them. Show yourself a little love. ❤️"⁠
Words & 📷: @tanishasnell_
"On my headstone, I hope they write, 'Here lies a "On my headstone, I hope they write, 'Here lies a devoted mother who suffocated under her enormous laundry pile.' #kiddingnotkidding⁠
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I'm trying to be more mindful about laundry and use it as a meditation practice (my main squeeze Thich Nhat Hanh talks about washing your dishes like you're bathing baby Buddha. 😊) Sometimes I can do it and feel grateful and grounded (I find cloth diapers particularly soothing for some reason. 🤷‍♀️) And sometimes I consider just turning our living room into one huge laundry pile and letting everyone forage for their clothes each morning. #wildstyle⁠
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So tell me, wise women of the world--how do you do laundry? Are you a load-a-day type or do you wait until it piles up and tackle it all at once?"⁠
Words & 📷: @spiritysol
It's called balance. And motherhood. And it's the It's called balance. And motherhood. And it's the weekend. 💁‍♀️🤪 Cheers!
Want to jazz up breakfast or lunch for the kids (o Want to jazz up breakfast or lunch for the kids (or yourself 😉) in an easy way? Animal Face Toast! 😍⁠
Pop an emoji for your favorite animal!🐱🦉🦊🐻🐷🐵⁠
📷: @weelicious
Staying safe for mom and baby has never been tough Staying safe for mom and baby has never been tougher than it is now. 😷 Shout out to all the pregnant moms and moms with newborns!! You are amazing. 🙇‍♀️ You are strong. 💪 And our hearts are with you. ❤️⁠
📷: @themommaprentice
The Ultimate List of Grandma Names 👵⁠ ⁠.⁠ The Ultimate List of Grandma Names 👵⁠
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When I found out I was pregnant, one of the many things I began to wonder was, "What are my parents and in-laws going to go by as their grandparent names?" Grandparents are not just going with the classic "Grandma and Grandpa" names anymore. Some are now getting creative and are coming up with new ideas. If your mother or mother-in-law are unsure of what they want their special Grandma names to be, we're sharing our ultimate list of over 100 Grandma names to choose from!⁠ ❤️ ⁠{Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
📷: @newmommy_in_city
FOR REAL. 🤦‍♀️😑⁠ 📷: @alyceoneword FOR REAL. 🤦‍♀️😑⁠
📷: @alyceoneword