To become a parent is relatively easy, well most of the time. It is basic biology really.
But what prepares you for when baby is born? We feed them, burp them, bathe them, dress them, and dress them again, and omw we dress them AGAIN.
And as they grow they start to develop little personalities which in the first year of life is quite cute really. They smile at us, gurgle when we speak, purse those little lips when they don’t want more butternut.
Then they become mobile, crawling, cruising, walking and running. And here, this part, is when the act of Parenting starts.
Parenting, a verb, an on going never ending task that has us exhausted and falling into bed at night.
Have our perfect little porcelain angles turned into wicked demonic creatures who have come with only one goal in mind, to torture us?
The simple answer is NO!
Now, clear your mind of everything you’ve read about toddlers. Terrible Two’s, The Threen-age year, Fiesty Fours, Formidable Five’s, Sassy Six’s DO NOT EXIST!
These are in essence phrases created in order to make us feel as though our little ones have become our tormentors, and we need to stand firm, creating a shield wall (yes referencing Vikings from History Channel) in order to survive with some sanity intact.
None of it is true. Never has been.
So, what is going on you will ask. The simple answer is your baby caterpillar is morphing into the butterfly it will be when fully grown and how you take care of it in the chrysalis phase is of utmost importance.
So, let’s begin, Age 1 to 3
WHAT IS GOING ON??? Your child has discovered that they are a separate being from you. They start to think. Make little decisions. Disagree with you. Agree with you. They watch your every move, they are fascinated by how you act, and start to copy it. We call this “Developing their Personality”
Are they allowed to disagree? Of course they are.
Are they allowed to get angry? Most definitely
You see, this little person is learning how to deal with their emotions and the two biggest emotions emerging here are Love and Anger. They are big and Scary. But with a limited vocabulary they aren’t able to tell you that they disagree, that they would like the blue cup instead, wanted raspberry juice instead of orange juice, and wanted a sandwich in triangles, not squares. It is terribly frustrating not being able to verbalise what you would like, and before they are able to even try communicate the frustration overwhelms them and they lash out. Kicking you, shouting the roof down and scaring the neighbours, throwing themselves on the floor in a full fit you think might damage the tiles. You stand there, bewildered because 3 seconds ago you lived in Utopia and now you feel like you’re in the middle of WWII.
To get a glimpse of why your toddler is acting this way, give the following a try. Put a clothes peg on your tongue, put your heals on the wrong feet, put gloves on the wrong hands (so your thumbs or stuck in no mans land) and then walk up to your partner/husband and ask them to make you some coffee. You’ll find that just by walking down the passage completely off balance has already irritated you, then turning the doorknob to the lounge seem to take ages and an enormous amount of effort, and then when you speak it is like you’re speaking a different language and the blank stare on your partner’s face just pushes you over the edge and all you want to do is throw a shoe at him but you can’t get the bleeding thing off your foot cause you can’t balance on the other one and your thumb is nowhere to be found. So, this is what your toddler feels like when they realise their juice is in the wrong colour cup.
Don’t despair mama, there is hope, and later on tonight there is wine 😉 Remember this rule, one hour at a time. When an hour goes by without a fight/tantrum then give yourself a high5, and should there be a tantrum in the next hour, just right it off, and take on the next hour. It can become soul destroying when both you and your toddler are gridlocked in stubbornness and can make an entire day feel like a disaster. Don’t do that to yourself. Take one our at a time.
The toddler age is all about control. They have discovered they are their own person, but aren’t mature enough to manage themselves. Giving them little bits of control at a time will satisfy their need for control, and spare you much drama.
Example: The juice saga – “Amy juice mama pweez” So mama here is your tantrum preventing arsenal “red juice or orange juice” “blue cup or yellow cup” “Amy would you like to help me pour?”
You see by giving her choices (one at a time) of which all options are acceptable to you, you have created not only the opportunity for her to feel in control, but you are laying the foundation for making choices later on in life. By asking her to help you pour (age 2 to 3 is good with this one) you are not only teaching team work, but also control of the bottle/jug, and volumes eg quarter cup, half cup etc. All these little bits of information is sucked up by that sponge brain they have and retained.
It really may seem trivial in essence, and many generations would not agree as a child should just do as they are told. Younger generations have adopted this phrase “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”.
I would agree that a phrase like that may have it’s place in a preschool/school where there may be 30 kids and different coloured chairs and children should just be accepting of the chair they are given. But in a home I don’t see how this is any different from saying “because I’m your mother and I said so”. Both these phrases invoke control over the child instead of eliciting cooperation. And it is cooperation that we seek.
There are many times and opportunities to give them the chance the make choices. Whenever you feel the need to tell them to do something, stop and rephrase it into a question with an option, eg “time to brush teeth, you wanna do it or should mama help you?” (bath time trick) “oh no these dinos need a wash, do you think they would like bubbles in the bath? yea? could you give them a good scrubbing with this magic dino brush (aka nail brush)” Time to get dressed trick “now where did your shirt and shorts go? I’m sure i saw them earlier? (pretend to be looking among the shoes)” Kiddies love it and will quickly find the clothes for you and then you can get them to quickly put them on before they disappear again.
It takes a bit of practice if this isn’t your regular way of doing things. It is really rewarding.