Toddlers Don’t Come With Instructions
Meltdowns in the aisle at a store when you feel all eyes are on you? Feeling like you’ll never leave the house again because your child insists on putting on her own shoes? Wondering how giving him the snack he asked for 5 minutes ago is cause for throwing food?
Phrases like “the terrible twos” didn’t come from nowhere, but embracing this unique time in life is possible.
Toddlers are defined as kids ranging from ages 1-3 years old and during this time, they meet many developmental milestones including learning to walk, talk, interact with others, and explore the world around them. As a parent this can be a joy to watch, but can also become exhausting as kids express their independence and work out their frustrations through tantrums.
While all of this is normal, parents can feel overwhelmed and frustrated. You will likely find yourself saying, “It’s a good thing you’re so cute!” more often than you’d like.
Toddlers don’t come with an instruction manual, but these tips can help you survive and perhaps even enjoy the toddler years.
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The old saying “Laughter is the best medicine” could be applied to parenthood. When things seem particularly stressful or you are overwhelmed by a messy playroom, a little laughter can turn your mood around. Allow yourself to be silly and play with your child. Try to slow down and see the world through their eyes. Laughing and playing with your child can also be a good distraction if your child needs to be redirected.
When parenting a toddler, your patience will be stretched to the limits. Whenever you’re dealing with a child, it’s best to remember they are learning and testing limits. Try to give grace to yourself and your child and allow for bumps along the way. Set boundaries for your child knowing they will be tested. Arguing with a toddler is never worth the effort. If you feel yourself becoming angry, simply walk away for a few minutes and come back when your patience has returned. Modeling this behavior will help your child understand how to work out their own frustrations in a healthy way.
One of the best ways to help keep your toddler from getting into trouble is to anticipate what might be tempting for little ones. Before nap or playtime, scan the room for dangers or messes waiting to happen. Pack your car with an extra change of clothing, emergency snacks and diaper supplies in case you need them when you are away from home. When you are headed out of the house, try to leave a few minutes early in case you need extra time. If you know a toy or situation triggers your child to feel frustrated, avoid it if possible. You can’t prevent every tantrum and challenge you will face, but some can be avoided with a little planning.
Let It Go
Life is too short to worry about having a perfectly clean house. Toddlers are famous for making messes, dumping toys and moving from one thing to the next in minutes. During the toddler years, try to focus on playing with your kids and allowing them to have fun rather than exhausting yourself cleaning. There will be plenty of years in the not-so-distant future when your house will stay clean. If toy clutter is stressful to you, reduce the number of toys that are out at any given time. Toddlers are often motivated by music; play or sing the “Cleanup” song and have your child help pick up toys before transitioning to mealtime or bedtime.
Toddlers thrive on routine because they know what to expect. When kids know what to expect, transitions are smoother for kids. The whole day doesn’t have to be planned but having a routine at transitional periods of the day can make things easier for parents and little ones. Naps, bedtime, meals and clean up time can give your kids consistency that they thrive on. For parents, routines can be a game-changer, especially if you are used to work schedules and being in control of the world around you.
Toddlers are naturally curious, which helps them learn and develop. This curiosity can also lead them to do things that are unsafe like climbing where they could fall, putting things in their mouths, and getting into things they shouldn’t. Create a safe place for your child where they can play without safety concerns. You may find it easiest to create a play space where you can use gates to help keep kids safe. For some parents, it’s easier to toddler-proof the entire house and let them have free reign.
The toddler years are short. Your child is learning, discovering the world, and growing every day, which is so important to their development. When they are still and quiet, cuddle up and enjoy the moment. When they want to be carried, try to remember all too soon they will be too big. Enjoy the sweet moments, embrace challenging ones, and try to remember that toddlers are cute for a reason and this stage will pass in the blink of an eye.