Children are the greatest joy in the world, but there’s no easy way to go about raising them, no matter how many parenting books and blogs you read. Toddlers have a tendency to grow up overnight. One day they’re sweet and calm, the next they’re having a meltdown on the floor because you didn’t give them the cup they wanted. Stress is something unavoidable as a parent, but there is plenty of practical wisdom you can use to weather the worst of your toddler’s growing pains.
1. Love Is Your Greatest Tool
Little ones need guidance to figure out what’s right, wrong and expected of them. Age-appropriate discipline helps them understand rules and boundaries, as well as develop a sense of morality. However, far too many frustrated parents default to scolding when what they really need to do is face a challenge with love. When children are at their most difficult, parents need to be there with a supportive hand and, often, a hug. Sometimes, an overworked, fussy toddler tantrum isn’t an act of defiance so much as a cry for affection and comfort. While you shouldn’t forgo correction and guidance, make sure that you always put love first. Even the sternest talking-to’s can be rooted in compassion and support. Your toddler isn’t too young to know the difference, and the emotional safety your love creates within them is something they’ll carry forever.
2. You Can’t Be the Parent You Want to Be if You Don’t Take Care of Yourself
Human beings can only give so much before they reach a breaking point. You might think there’s just no time for me. My kids are more important. As long as they’re happy, I’ll be fine, but this isn’t true. You can’t make your family their happiest if you’re letting your own health and well-being fall to the wayside. Now, there are many times where sacrifice is necessary, and we do it because we know that it’s ultimately for the betterment of our little ones’ lives.
There has to be a limit in how much we give, though. Teaching our children self-care from an early age starts by being living models. Pay attention to your body, and know when it’s time to step back, get help or just rest. Reprieve can come in many forms, like a soothing bubble bath after your child’s bedtime or medicinal marijuana for chronic pain. You can look up how to get a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania or your state from NuggMD easily online. The entire process costs $99 and takes 15 minutes. Caring for yourself gives you the head-space you need to be present and patient with your child. Toddlerhood is tough, especially on parents. If you’re cooped up all day in the house, there is nothing more important than ensuring you have what you need to be just as well cared for as your little one.
3. Everything Is a Learning Opportunity
Let your toddler remind you to stop and see the world in a new light every now and again. We can learn just as much from their eager minds as they can from ours. Children have such a unique way of seeing the world. Most of the time, everything really is a brand-new experience. They need time to appreciate and explore as much as they can. Rather than focus on where you constantly have to be or what they should be doing, embrace the littlest moments to connect with them on their level.
Of course, this means that you have to become more patient yourself. Flexibility is essential to rearing children. The younger they are, the more willing you must be to accept the fact that things rarely move along a straight path with a toddler, and that’s okay. There’s often beauty and unexpected wonder to be found on the off-beaten road.
4. It’s Okay to Need Help
The old “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, no matter how independent and self-sufficient we might want to be. Parenting was never meant to be a one-person job, so even the single mothers and fathers out there need to accept the fact that they’re only human. There’s no shame in needing someone to watch the child for a while so you can take a break and just recharge. Asking for help, advice or encouragement on hard days is essential to a parent’s mental well-being.
When things are getting too hard, don’t let guilt keep you from reaching out to others. Say yes the next time grandparents offer to come over and clean up or have a family meal. People can only give as much as you let them. You can also use yes, this lesson as a reminder to help yourself. Regular check-ins can prevent you from experiencing burnout and losing your temper unnecessarily. Prioritizing quality time with your partner and friends is also essential. You need to have a balance between being a parent and being a person. Surround yourself with people who make it a little easier to navigate that boundary.
5. You Can’t Control Everything, So Stop Trying
Toddlers are rapidly developing new ways to express their thoughts, emotions and personalities. As they figure out their own communicative style, you’ll have to be ready to handle lots of trial and error. This means angry shouts, sudden bouts of crying and plenty of surprising fits of laughter are all part of the package. Getting angry over minor things like a spilled cup of water or torn book really isn’t worth it.
Kids need praise, guidance and, most of all, presence. If there is one thing you commit yourself to being for your child, make it available. Time flies by faster than you expect, and it will be all-too-soon before your 3-year-old is 13. Be fully open to all they experience, even if it means letting go of the perfectly kept house, clean clothes and quiet space. When you focus more on growth over perfection, you’ll be less inclined to make mountains out of molehills. There’s simply not enough time in the day to care about every little thing that goes wrong or doesn’t happen at all.