I found babies so easy. Their cries generally meant one of a very small number of things -- they were hungry, they were tired, they were wet, they were cold, or they just needed to be held close. But with toddlers, I often found myself scratching my head trying to figure them out. Sometimes it is fun, because they can be so unexpected and free. Other times, when we can't figure out what they want or why they are doing something, it can be downright frustrating.
When you find yourself asking -- Why is my toddler acting like that? What is up with that behaviour? -- consider these factors:
- Age-Appropriateness: Is your child's behaviour age appropriate? Our toddlers often act like toddlers. The problem, in a lot of cases, is that adults expect toddlers to understand a lot more or be able to handle a lot more than they can. If your toddler starts acting out, it may simply be that you are asking too much in that situation. This is a scenario we found ourselves in often when we were in public with our toddlers. Sometimes, we really were pushing the limits of how much they could handle, how much we could throw their routine off, how late they could stay out, how patient they could be, and we often found out the hard way that we had pushed a bit too much. That doesn't mean that you can't try to do things with your toddler that are out of the ordinary (we often did), but it means that you need to be prepared for potential meltdowns and have a plan for how to deal with them in a way that is respectful to everyone involved.
- Not Being Listened To: Your toddler probably notices you talking, but what are you saying? Are you talking at your toddler or are you speaking with your toddler? Are you taking the time to mirror what your toddler is saying or thinking or feeling, so that they know that they are being heard? Even if you have to say "no" when they want you to say "yes", helping them see that you do understand how they feel and have taken their perspective into consideration can make communication much smoother. You can also check out these tips from MaMammalia on speaking respectfully to your toddler.
- Need to Assert Independence: Toddlers are figuring out who they are. They need the opportunity to assert their independence, to try to doing things on their own, to make choices (and find out what the consequences of those choices are). They also need the opportunity to lead, which can be especially fun. Create opportunities for your child to make the decisions, whether it is about which side of the street to walk on or what to eat for dinner. Let them lead you around the house, around the yard, around the playground, or even around your neighbourhood.
Are you still looking for more ideas to help navigate through the toddler years? Check out these great posts with advice and stories:
- Kate from One Tired Ema (@onetiredema) wrote about using sign language with her children. Two way communication is so important with toddlers because they want to express themselves and be heard. Using more than 200 signs, Kate was able to communicate with her son who had a speech delay.
- Naomi from Standard Spicy Whatnot wrote about how much (un)helpful assistance she gets from her housework saboteurs every day.
- Louise (@louisegleeson) at Late Night Plays is a busy woman. With four kids in the house, she doesn't have a lot of time to beat around the bush. In the A,B,C's of toddlerhood, she gets right to the point in explaining how she survives the toddler years.
- Instead of stressing about eating, phases, sleep and things, Connie (@modern_mama) from Modern Mama Musings talks about communication, distraction, picking your battles and more as keys to surviving the toddler years.
- When our toddlers are sick, or screaming, or out of control, we all sometimes run to Dr. Google for answers. Momma, PhD (@mazafratz) gives parents of toddlers some advice on how to find reliable sources on the Internet in Be Careful Who You Ask.
- Ultimately, surviving the toddler years comes down to being the parent your toddler needs you to be. Jayda (@EatWholeBeVital) from Mom PhD wrote about how she may not always have been the best wife, sister, daughter or friend when her kids were toddlers, but that the fog of toddlerhood "keeps your focus on that little shining light; your toddler."
Finally, I want you to read the words of @naptimewriting. In her post, Open Letter to My Toddler, she started out:
Thank you. You’re right.
I say that because all of the delightful, delicious, maddening, exhausting things you do teach me something. All of them. In a tasty, hilarious, infuriating, depleting way. Did I mention adorable? And exhausting, did I mention that?
She goes on to thank her toddler, beautifully, for all the ways he makes her look at the world differently. That really is the magic of the toddler years -- getting to see the world from their perspective. The more we stop to see the world through their eyes, the easier it will be to get through the tough days and the more we'll be able to enjoy the magic of that age.
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