I’ve learned a lot in the last 4+ years. And I know I’ll learn a lot more in the next 4+ years. But for now, I’d like to share a few parenting tips and techniques that have been helpful to us. I’m not saying all of them are right for you, but these few pointers have helped us survive the toddler years.
- Pick and Choose Your Battles. Simple enough right? Wrong. It’s easy to get frustrated and overreact to things that really aren’t important. The more frustrated you become over a situation, the more your patience will be worn down and the more the toddlers will realize they have the upper hand in the situation. Worth it? Probably not. For instance, if you choose a pair of a pajamas and your child wants to wear a different pair, is it worth the fight to make him/her wear the ones you picked out? Probably not. It doesn’t mean you’re giving in to their every whim. It just means your being smart and choosing the battles that are important.
- Practice Positive Reinforcement. It’s easy to become frustrated, lose your patience and raise your voice. But does it work? Not in our house. I’m not saying to ignore bad behavior; I’m just saying you should really focus on good behavior and praise it over and over setting the example of what you expect and what you’re super proud of. For instance, while we were potty training our youngest we created a pee-pee dance and sang a “woo-hoo O-wee” song every time Owen went pee-pee in the potty. We didn’t make a huge deal about his accidents or punish him; we just completely over-exaggerated his accomplishments with extra attention and praise. Did it work? Yes! It sure did!
- Accept that Not Every Day Will Be a Good Day. Just chalk some days up as bad days. Every one wakes up in a mood from time to time and there is nothing that you can do to change it. Some days will be better than others and just figure out creative, fun and distracting ways to get through the not-so-good days. Do something out of the ordinary and out of your routine. Bake cookies. Play playdough. Make a snow globe. Or go the zoo.
- Just Let Things Go. This is a hard one for me. I like to make memories and enjoy family time and special outings. This one is different than picking and choosing your battles. And it’s different than accepting not every day will be a good day. With this one everyone may be in a good mood and it may be a good day; however, it may not go as planned. For instance, you may have 4 kids piled in the car for an outing to the zoo and you may drive around for 30+ minutes looking for a place to park. And you may finally find a parking spot and get everyone out of the car into the zoo only to realize that it’s too ridiculously busy to enjoy the actual outing. So you may have to pack it all up and load the kids back into the car and head home for Plan B. And that’s okay. Just be happy that all kids are in a good mood and you can accept that today is still a good day. You’ve still made memories. They just not be the memories you had envisioned when you started the journey.
- Enjoy Every Moment of Everyday. Even the bad days are worth the memories that will be made. Trust me when I tell you we have had our share of not-so-good days. There have been mommy meltdowns and pleas for advice on how to manage a 4 year old. But when the day is over, I would not trade even a second of a bad day for not having them. There have been sleepless nights (for years now!) and challenging moments, but man do I ever love these kids. I wouldn’t trade mommy-hood for the world.
This sounds like a negative list, but it’s not. Having toddlers is far from negative. It’s actually the greatest experience you’ll ever have. If I would have titled it the 5 Best Things About Toddlers the list would have been very different. But it’s about how to survive the not-so-great days. And there will be some of those. Just remember there will also be good great days.
But like I always tell my friends: “Do what is right for you. It makes no difference what others do and what works for them. Do what works for your family and your household and everything will work out.”
What are some of the lessons you have learned over the years that has helped you survive toddlers?