Life with a Toddler
Updated: Mar 15, 2020
I have heard so many people say that having a toddler is amazing! "They're so much fun at this stage," they said. "They understand so much at this stage." they said. "I love how independent they are!" they said. WRONG!
Having a toddler has so many more challenges than most people are willing to admit. Most people feel like they have to describe their toddler as these perfect little angels that can do no wrong. It's simply not true.
These wonderful little human beings have moments of greatness when all the stars align and they eat well, they complete their learning activities without complaining and even clean up the occasional toy. You can see the growth in their development and think to yourself, "Wow! Look how well they are doing! I'm actually doing well at this parenting thing!" Most of the time however, all the toys have been dumped all over the floor, you find a trail of food that can tell you your toddlers every step and you can barely hear yourself think.
For our little ones, this is a time of discovery, learning how to be independent and asserting their voices to make it be known that they have choices. They're learning to deal with all the emotions they're feeling and don't quite know how to process them. Sometimes, that comes out as bouts of silliness, temper tantrums, crying or straight up defiance. If your toddler is still working on their communication skills and building their vocabulary, a lot of this behaviour stems from the lack of communication. Not being able to express how they feel and why, can be quite frustrating for a little person trying to navigate and find their place in the world.
Essentially, what I have learned, is it comes down to picking my battles, a lot of heavy negotiation and redirecting. For my son, I can, more often than not, see a meltdown coming. I can see the aggravation starting to build up because he cannot complete a task the way he thinks it's "supposed" to be or doesn't fully understand how to complete the task. He's pretty good with his communication, but sometimes, he doesn't know how to explain why something isn't working the way he wants it to. This causes him to get frustrated and start getting emotional. In these situations, I try to be understanding and stay calm. I try to explain why something is happening and how we can fix the problem, because that's what we want to see, problem solving skills at work and them trying to figure out how to navigate the situation. Let's be real though; the calm demeanour doesn't last very long. When you try everything you can to get a hold of the situation and it isn't working, you begin to think "Why aren't you listening to my instructions?" No matter how hard you try and tell yourself you're going to do better, you're human and your own frustration starts to build. Inevitably, you get frustrated, they get put in timeout, they crying/tantrums begin because they don't want to be there and then you have everyone upset.
What I have learned from having a very active and attentive toddler is this:
- He listens to EVERYTHING (even when I think he is not). He is around more adults than children, so I definitely see the fact that he thinks he belongs in adult conversations, even when it has nothing to do with him
- He does NOT like timeouts and sometimes, just the threat of going there is enough for him to do what I am asking of him. He will definitely test me, so I always make sure to follow through with what I am saying. If I don't, I know he won't take me seriously after that. If I say timeout, it is timeout if he doesn't listen.
- I need to explain what I mean when I say something. For example, we ask him to listen to our instructions but never considered the fact that he may not have known what we meant, until one day, he asked me the definition of "listen." I suddenly realized that he was guessing what we wanted based on what we were saying. I calmly explained what I meant when I say that and gave him some examples to refer to. He then understood what I mean and helps him to do better. He still needs constant reminders, but that is quite normal for this age.
- I have to remember that he is only three. I think sometimes, when our toddlers try to act super independent, we forget that they don't know as much as we expect them to know. Give them the time to learn certain skills, explain things to them so they have an understanding as to why something is happening and be patient. If I just say no and he doesn't understand why, I find that his listening skills are diminished. Once I give that explanation, I get more out of him.
- I have to keep his mind occupied! Ever since he was a baby, I would read to him, do the alphabet, learn the parts of the body and his numbers. He was always interested in learning and I find that is still the case. I have work books that I bought from Dollar Tree and create my own learning tasks for him to complete. It keeps him quiet and when he starts to get it, he gets so excited that he wants to keep doing it. It's a great way to control the behaviour because I find that once he gets to bored, all bets are off.
- Take them outside! I think every child loves being outside. They are not confined to a space with walls and they can learn and explore outdoors. I find that my son would rather be outside playing with water, looking at insects, riding his bike and playing with other kids on the street. This I am happy about. He doesn't want to be in front of the TV when he has so many other options. This is the same for going to the park or even a walk. It doesn't cost any money and gives him some much needed vitamin D in the summer. In the Winter, dress them well and let them go play outside, it will have the same wonderful effects.
Overall, this is a really tough stage to navigate through because of the huge learning curves, growth spurts and other emotional developments happening all at the same time. Every child is different and it comes down to trial and error. Finding what works for your child will constantly change and evolve as they get older. Try to be as patient as you can be, change your tactics when they stop working and remember, they will learn and hopefully, the maturity will come. There is light at the end of the tunnel! Although, with every stage comes a new challenge that requires navigating. Good Luck and for your own sanity, TAKE some time for YOURSELF to recharge, reset the balance and live to fight another day!