Okay, as I start writing this, the one thing that comes screaming to my mind is this; I AM NOT AN EXPERT!
I definitely don’t have everything figured out, and I most definitely make mistakes. However, I am always willing to learn new things and try new tricks because the most important thing I have learned is this: pride is not for parenting.
Nope, any pride you may have, throw it out the window! There is no room for it here because being a parent means making a ton of room for your little one, and even more room for yourself to learn and grow!
But the best part about this is that nobody, not even that mom who looks like she has it all together, has it figured out. Yep, you heard me right! The ladies whose kids are always dressed in more than just comfy clothes, or whose kid’s hair isn’t completely untamed, or even the lady who was able to put on makeup; yep, even she doesn’t have it all figured out! So at least there is a little joy in the fact that we are all in this together, and parenting gets a heck of a lot easier when we all share our little bits of knowledge and wisdom, because the more we do that, the better the generations after us will be!
So here are my little tidbits of wisdom I have learned, particularly for those fun, sweet, and chaotic toddler years.
Try not to yell.
OK, I am COMPLETELY and TOTALLY a yeller. When I was seventeen and you had asked me if I could change one thing about myself, I would have probably said something about my appearance. Now if you asked me, I would tell you I wished I wasn’t such a yeller. When you yell “No!” or “Stop!” to that sweet, curious little toddler when they are spilling water everywhere, or throwing flour all over the kitchen or feeding their lunch to the dogs (all of which have NEVER happened to us), you are suddenly sending mixed messages to your sweet little babe. When they were little, we encouraged them to be curious, explore, and learn. But now since they have mobility and a big imagination, sometimes it feels like it can get out of control quickly. But to that little babe, their once doting and encouraging parents are now getting frustrated and impatient as they explore the world around them. So, my advice is when you feel yourself about to yell, or even if you are already yelling, stop. Close your mouth and just stop. Nothing bad will happen if you just pause. Take a deep breath. Apologize to your little one. It’s not only ok, but an amazing lesson to teach them that not even Mommy or Daddy are perfect. We all make mistakes, and we have to own up to them when we do. Let them know that you got a little frustrated or that you don’t want a giant mess to be made on the floor. Be honest, but always remember to be kind. Even ask for a do over. Gently explain to them the message you want to get across, but also while keeping in mind that they are little. They are curious, they are full of energy, and just looking to have fun.
Come up with solutions TOGETHER.
Toddlers are great problem solvers. Sometimes they come up with great ideas even we as adults couldn’t have come up with. Their sweet little fiery brains aren’t constricted to what we “Can” and “Cannot” do. They are creative, they are helpful, and they are brilliant. So, when it comes down to them not wanting to brush their teeth or put on their pajamas, ask them what they think you both should do. Obviously don’t give them full range, but by giving them a couple of options, this helps not only with their problem-solving skills, but also helps their decision-making skills. For example, you can phrase it like this: “Ok, so I hear that you are telling me you don’t want to brush your teeth right now before bed, but we can’t let your teeth get yucky with all kinds of germs. Would you like to put your pajamas on first, and then brush your teeth instead?” or “Okay, it’s time to get out of the bath, but I see you are having so much fun playing with all of your toys. Would you like to get out now, or in five minutes with no fuss? Five minutes? Okay, deal! Let’s shake on it, five minutes, no fuss!” My husband will just ask Sophie, “What do you think we should do?” and normally speaking, she actually gives good solutions!
Don’t be afraid to try new things!
When it comes to eating, I feel like I have gotten incredibly lucky. But before my kids became the awesome eaters that they are, I researched everything and everywhere that I could to ensure that I was setting them up for as much success as possible. (Obviously when it comes to eating, many kids can have allergies or certain sensitivities to different types of food, so I encourage you to talk with your child’s pediatrician before trying anything new.) The one best thing I have learned is give them whatever you are eating. If you and your spouse are eating spaghetti, give them spaghetti. If you both are eating salads loaded up with colorful veggies and leafy greens, load them up! Most of the time, Sophie will completely ignore her own plate and come and see what’s going on over on my plate. And when she sees that we are eating the same thing, she gets so excited and scarfs everything down! Also, make sure that you are making meal time family time. This is an important time to connect with our families without any distractions. Ask each other questions about the highlights of each other’s day. Were there any difficult parts of the day? Do they have any funny stories? Did they learn anything new that they didn’t know the day before? The possibilities are limitless!
Never forget to tell them AND show them how much they mean to you.
I have always been a never-miss-a-moment kind of person. If I think that I should run into the garage to give Josh one more kiss before work, I do it. If I realize I should hold Josh’s hand while we are arguing, even though I am so upset, I (usually) do. The same thing should go for your kids. When they are talking to you, stop and listen. Or if it is a moment where you can’t really drop everything, stop for just a second, look them in the eye, and let them know you can’t stop right now, but you are so excited to hear what they have to say in two minutes. When they are playing with their toys or eating a snack, go and wrap them in a giant bear hug. Kiss their cheek. Let them know how much they mean to you, and how loved they are. When you are telling them, and showing them how much you love them, make sure you are letting them know that you love them exactly for who they are RIGHT NOW. Not for who they have been or who they will be, but for the sweet little person they are. They might not completely understand right now, but as they get older and grow bigger, they will look back and appreciate how they never had to be anything but themselves for you.
I hope these little tips help you the same way they have helped me, and I would love to hear your little tips and tricks for the toddler years in the comments below!
With Love, Veronica