A client of mine, Alice*, had a frustrating experience recently. She took her two children-aged 1 and 2, Ryan and James, to the nail salon. These boys are zesty and active under any circumstances, not exactly the sit-and-watch-mom’s manicure type. But Alice and her mom had a “girl time” date planned, and with no child care options, they took the kids along.

girl-1250679_1920Are you smelling disaster? That would be correct. After a couple of minutes of snacking and reading books, Ryan and James just couldn’t sit still any more. They ran up and down the salon, touching the equipment, the furniture, even other customer’s faces.

I was appalled when Alice reported that this scenario lasted a grand total of four hours until she and her mom had had their manicures, pedicures, and eyebrow waxing.

Parents, please have realistic expectations of your toddler. Setting them up for a situation where they cannot meet expectations is unhealthy and unfair. The parent will be angry and impatient, and the child is likely to be harshly disciplined for behavior that is largely out of his control. Situations like this can be avoided if parents would understand and accept the limitations of a toddler and plan accordingly.

Here are the golden rules:

Rule #1: Limit time in the no-touch zones.

If there are things there that your toddler may not touch, he cannot be there for more than five to ten minutes. Period.

Rule #2: Be available to distract your child.

There are unavoidable situations where you will need to break rule number 1. These are times when your child needs to be in no-touch zones for long periods of time. This can happen in a doctor’s office, on an airplane, or with a sibling at community event. Plan accordingly. You know your toddler will be a handful. Be available to distract and redirect him to things he may do and touch.

Rule #3: Be prepared.

Bring books, crayons, a tablet, or whatever works to keep your child busy. And keep the “no”s and discipline to a minimum. Your child will respond much better when you tell him what he cando, instead of what he can’t.

Special snacks that you don’t usually give your child are a great “activity” for these situations. Keep an emergency stash for long periods of time in a grown-up oriented area.

Rule #4: Mentally accept your child’s limitations.

It’s important that you are at peace with your toddler’s imperfect behavior. It is normal for toddlers to behave like toddlers, even in an adult world. Remind yourself that your child is normal. That kids are kids, and no matter how prepared you are, maintaining a toddler in an adult environment is very, very challenging.

Rule #5: Appreciate the cooperation, understanding, and tolerance of others.

Take the time to thank other adults for their understanding and patience. If the location is one where adults work, it is likely that having a boisterous toddler around may inconvenience them in some way. Be sure to thank them for their patience and understanding. Apology is not always necessary, but gratitude goes a long way in smoothing the path for a more successful experience.

Follow these golden rules, and, when it is all over, consider treating yourself to a real adult treat– without your child in tow. You’ve worked hard-you deserve it!