Friday, April 29, 2016

(Not just) surviving the toddler years

Any parent knows that raising children is hard. There are certain seasons that may be more challenging than others, but the toddler years have a reputation for being especially difficult. 

We are in the thick of toddler-hood here at our house, and while there are a lot of challenges, we don't view this time as the terrible twos, or as an awful season to just get through as quickly as possible. No. 

These are formative years, sacred and sanctifying. We want to look back with few regrets on the time we spent raising our big toddler girl, and we want to learn a few lessons we can tuck away for the next guy, who's not that far from toddler life himself ;)

Here are a few things that seem to work well, in decreasing tantrums and power struggles and difficulties in general:

1. Stop and think. 
Is she hungry? Is she tired? Is she over-stimulated by the noise or busy-ness of the setting? Does she need a quick hug/ snuggle? Does she need some time alone (without me)? Does she need a minute of my undivided attention, without Asher around? Does she need some exercise or just to get some fresh air? 

All of these things can be triggers for tantrums and toddler meltdowns. I'd say being hungry after nap time results in excess crying and whining at least once a week. And recently, when Charlotte wasn't falling asleep until too late at night, being overtired in the morning made things a bit chaotic. Thinking about these basic needs can sometimes eliminate the feeling of: "WHY in the world are you screaming right now?!?!" :) 

2. Don't force unnecessary issues. 
She wants to wear sneakers with her dress? Fine. She wants to eat breakfast on a blanket on the kitchen floor? Cool. She wants to get out of the van, and walk around the house to enter through the back door? Okay. She wants to line up every stuffed animal in a perfect row on her bed before climbing in for a nap? Annoying when I'm in a hurry, but honestly not a big deal. 

Disobeying, hurting others, destroying things, being totally disrespectful? Not okay. 

We have rules and expectations that we are teaching our toddler, and there are some things we hold onto with all our might. But the little things toddlers want to control that really don't cause any harm...? We just let them go. It's not worth it to force those issues.

3. Roll with it. 
Two examples for this one: The other day I was doing dishes while Charlotte played in her pretend kitchen. For some reason, she wandered around the corner, grabbed a broom, and said, "I clean a little while." :) I didn't really want to sweep the kitchen floor right then; it was super low on my household priority list. But she was ready and willing, and the kitchen floor was pretty dirty. So we swept it together and I showed her how to use the dust pan. I did the dishes later, once she was happily playing something else.  

Also- on Thursday morning we really needed groceries, so I packed the kids in the car to stop at the playground before going to the store. Once we got to the playground, there were other kids there and Charlotte was having a lot of fun. The sun was shining, Asher was happy, and I realized we didn't need anything specifically for dinner that night. It was easy for me to rearrange my shopping plan so we could stay at the playground a bit longer. Sometimes we can't. Usually Charlotte has to deal with the rest of the family's needs and schedule, but sometimes it helps to just roll with it.

4. When possible, give choices. 
This goes hand-in-hand with number 
5. Stop giving choices when there's no choice. 

Getting your poopy diaper changed isn't a choice. But where do you want to get changed: living room or bathroom? Or, what color diaper do you want to wear next? Going to bed isn't a choice, but do you want to go now, or play for two more minutes? Being kind to Asher isn't a choice, but would you like me to move him away a little bit so he isn't bumping into your block tower? Getting into the van isn't a choice, but do you want to climb in through the front door, or your own side door? (Not always an option, but if we aren't in a rush I sometimes give that choice :) )

Now-- onto number 5, which is one of my personal pet peeves with parenting. If there's no choice involved, don't make the toddler think there's a choice!!! 

How often do we say, "Want to go to the store now?", and the toddler replies, "No."  Truthfully, we should have said, "Get your shoes on. We are going to the store." 

Another habit is to say, "Okay?", after giving a direction.. "Pick up your toys, okay?!" And the toddler is thinking, "Nope, not okay, not interested, I'm still playing." :) If there's no choice involved, we can't phrase things as a choice- it's confusing. 

So, there you have it. Some tried and true ideas for eliminating (well, not really, but at least decreasing the number of!!) toddler meltdowns and power struggles.

Now, who has more to share?!  

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