Toddlerhood can be very exciting, but also extremely challenging time for many moms, myself included.
One day things can go very smoothly while we hit a bumpy road the next.
We’ve all been there.
Getting ready to get out of the house, rushing to put on shoes and coats when all of a sudden our toddler has a meltdown because we didn’t zip up his coat all the way. Such a “trivial” thing, right?
When my boys entered toddlerhood, I was in shock for about three days. I felt as if somebody sneaked into the house in the middle of the night and cast a spell on my super calm sweet babies! I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened.
Of course, I blamed myself!
Do you do that too?
I was sure it was my fault. I believed I was not doing things right and I didn’t understand my toddlers’ needs anymore.
Luckily I tend to reach out to my friends and ask for help.
And it paid off almost immediately.
Other toddler related articles on Planes & Balloons are:
- 12 Life Skills for Toddlers: What to Teach Them While They’re Young
- Toddler Schedule: A Real Life Example [plus tips for creating your own]
- Toddler Books: The Ultimate List Based On Typical Toddlers’ Interest
The best piece of advice I received about parenting so far
My good friend and a fellow mom recommended a book called No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame.
I bought it the same day and I couldn’t wait for the night to finally dive into it.
Boy, once I did, I felt like I won a million bucks!
Jane Lansbury understands toddlers and parents extremely well. I can relate to almost every situation or problem she describes in her book. And most of all she offers practical and gentle solutions for any toddler challenge imaginable.
I remember my excitement that first night. I couldn’t wait for the morning to put her advice to use.
And the surprises kept coming.
Not only her practical solutions worked, I got to see results right away.
I was pretty much hooked.
A few months forward, we are still applying the principles. But as life happens, learning never stops. There are some days I feel lost while others are a total victory.
Things about toddlers to remember
When things get tough or when I am kind of puzzled about what to do, I try to remember these five basic ideas. They help me to re-focus and become calmer and more relaxed mom.
What are they?
1. Toddlers act on impulse
Toddlers lack control of their impulses, by all means.
Their brains are not fully developed yet. Add the high emotional sensitivity and you have a recipe for a typical toddler behavior.
They get easily overwhelmed and act on impulses bigger and stronger than themselves².
You can probably see this in your child every single day. Throwing things out of a blue, dropping food on the floor, grabbing everything they see. It never ends.
It doesn’t mean, however, that we should ignore or not correct the behavior. The key is to do it in a gentle, respectful manner by setting clear boundaries and limits. And then following through.
The idea of impulsive behavior helped me to finally understand that my toddlers are not getting back at me. I realized that they are not trying to hurt me or make my day a nightmare.
Sometimes, they simply can’t help it.
2. All toddlers push limits
And it is almost our duty not to take it personally.
But I very well know how hard that is. Staying calm when our toddler keeps hitting us or his sibling is extremely difficult. At least at first. But practice makes things easier, I promise!
Pushing limits and testing boundaries is normal and typical for toddlers. It is the course of human development taking place. Through testing us and the world around them, toddlers are developing a sense of self.
Therefore establishing healthy boundaries for our children is one of the many important tasks of parenting.
But sometimes we are simply afraid to set firm limits. Nobody wants to be the “bad guy”.
But once we manage to create clear firm rules about our toddlers’ behavior, they won’t have a need to test them as often. They learn and move on.
3. Stay honest and authentic
It was almost a revolutionary idea for me.
It means that we should talk to our toddlers in a manner they can understand, but being honest and open at the same time.
Therefore when I am tired of let’s say picking my boys up, I openly tell them that “I am tired of picking you up. I need to take a break now.”
Many of us would rather completely distract their attention to something else, tell them that “Mommy has an owie” or “We can do it later” (but forget). I used to do it all the time!
But honesty is extremely liberating, for our children and for us.
We don’t need to be coming up with nonsensical excuses anymore. And our children don’t need to be guessing what is going on. We can simply share our honest feelings. We are human beings too, after all.
No matter how small the child is, direct and open communication is the way to go.
4. Love them intensely
Even during the craziest of the days, we can’t forget to love and actually express our love to our toddlers.
Withholding love from children for their misbehavior is going to have damaging and long-lasting consequences¹.
Remember, our children don’t need to earn our love.
Our love and acceptance is not a piece of candy they receive after they did a “good job”. And I know deep down that most parents know this. We all love our children no matter what. Just sometimes we fall short of showing it.
Even when our toddlers misbehave, they still need to hear that we love them.
After I discussed this idea with a friend of mine, she soon called me with a story about her son. He was refusing to eat and was crying and fussing a lot. She felt miserable and lost. But then she just looked him in the eyes and told him “I love you anyway, darling“. To her surprise, he stopped his tantrum that very moment.
5. You are your child’s leader
“Our children love, appreciate, and need us more than they can ever say”²
In the frenzy of toddler’s emotions, we parents are their safe haven. They look up to us for guidance and understanding.
Therefore our reactions matter.
If we feel unsure, lose our temper or keep getting frustrated with our child’s behavior, this will very likely cause it to happen over and over again.
And on top of that, we add fuel to the fire. We confuse and stress our toddler even more.
Instead, we need to learn to respond to our child calmly, as a matter of fact. Lansbury has a special term for it “lead like a CEO“. Stay calm, say your requests respectfully and clearly and then follow through.
It all takes practice but it’s absolutely worth it in the long run.
If you want to learn more about gentle parenting and setting clear boundaries for your toddler, make sure to check out Janet Lansbury’s book No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. It has helped me tremendously and it can do the same for you.
Other great books about gentle parenting include:
- Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids is my other favorite “go to” book for parenting and family matters. Simplifying our and our children’s lives can have positive and long-lasting effects on everybody involved.
- 1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents and Caregivers is a practical guide to many typical toddler behaviors which offers solutions and ideas how to deal with them.
- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind offers simple strategies for nurturing emotional intelligence in our toddlers while using kind and respectful parenting methods. It is a must for every parent!
²Janet Lansbury: No Bad Kids.