OH! Sorry, not that kind of tip.
Seriously, the thing I’ve been trying to do lately is to be very, very patient - to not jump to the conclusion that they’re being “bad” or trying to drive me crazy, although all evidence may be to the contrary. Often there’s a vital piece I’m missing, and once I get that, it all stops being an evil plot.
Example: I’m babysitting a 2 year old, as well as my own 19 month old. The two are terrors, and at that age where they really don’t like each other much. (Sam, the other kid, actually pushed Caileigh away from me the other day and grabbed my leg, saying, “MY Mama!” Heh.) So they’ve been on each other’s nerves and mine all day. Finally, we call a truce for a few minutes and they’re having some dry fruity-o cereal. Sam starts taking them out of the bowl, putting them on the ground and stomping them into little powdery bits. I correct him, sweep up the mess, give him a choice (“Fruity-o’s stay in the bowl or in your mouth! If you choose to stomp them and make a mess, then they’re going away.” or somesuch). Of course, 10 seconds later, there’s more powdery mess on the floor.
“Did you make that mess, Sam?”
He nods. “I make big mess!” he shouts triumphantly. Grr.
“Did I tell you not to do that?”
He nods again. And stomps another one.
So I pick up the bowl and take it into the kitchen. When I come back into the room, he’s sweeping up the crumbs. (Not well, but you know how that goes.) Suddenly a light bulb went on for me. “Sam, did you stomp the cereal so you could use the broom?”
“Yes! I make big mess!” He was so proud.
Deflated my anger immediately. He wasn’t trying to piss me off or be bad. He wanted to sweep, and needed something to sweep up. It was absolutely logical once I got into his head, and I was angry for no reason at all.
So we spent some time stoping cereal together and sweeping it up. The kids had a blast, and so did I, to be honest!
I guess that goes under a larger tip: Say yes whenever you can. Would my grandmother have let me stomp cereal into bits on her dining room floor? Absolutely not. But what harm was it causing, really? It was fun, it was harmless, and two toddlers got a chance to practice their skills with a broom, not to mention balance, big steps, stomping and other exercise. And laughing. Laughing is very, very important when you’re two.
Plus, they learned that sometimes Mommys make mistakes, but give them more information and they may change their minds…which is a whole 'nother tip: don’t be afraid to say you were wrong or that you’ve changed your mind. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you reasonable.