I don’t have a lot of patience. I like my house to be fairly clean and organized. I like quiet. I don’t like early mornings.
I used to think of the toddler years like I view my yearly pap smear. Get it over with and move on. But now that my own agent of chaos is in the midst of this stage, I actually find myself enjoying it.
Some days my son can act like a hellion, but usually spending time with him is really, really fun! Like every stage in his young life, there are aspects that I look forward to leaving behind and unexpected memories that will always make me feel all verklempt.
Here are a few bits of advice from my experience that I’d like to pass along…
1. Never say, “No.” Seriously. Try to keep things positive. If your kid wants to eat a sugary snack respond with a time that they can have one, even if it’s next year. They have no concept of how long a period of time is so all they hear is a response that affirms they desire and they can’t really argue with that.
2. Sing a lot of songs. In our family, we have a song for everything. Most of the songs are ones I’ve made up on the spot like, “This is How You Brush Your Teeth.” That song is now a classic in our house. Singing nonsense syllables with a goofy face is a proven way to diffuse a confrontation or distract from a tantrum. Even just humming along as a soundtrack for the day seems to put my son in a better mood.
3. Make everything into a game. This might come as a shock to readers everywhere, but sometimes my two year old doesn’t want to put on his night-diaper and pajamas. So I scoop him up and play this game called, “Don’t Turn on the Light”. It involves almost letting him get to the light switch and then pulling him away at the last second. By the time he finally gets the light on, he’s laughing and doesn’t even care that he’s suddenly on his changing table getting dressed for bed.
4. Reason with them. Some people say that it’s impossible reason with toddlers. I disagree. After a certain developmental point, toddlers do understand logic and can be reasoned out of a tantrum. When my son was upset that a train went by and he couldn’t see it anymore, I asked him, “How can we get it back?” Then I told him that it was gone.
“It’s gone,” he replied, “It went away.” We had to repeat this exchange about ten times before it really sunk in for him that the train wasn’t coming back. But at least there were no tears shed and we avoided a total meltdown. I believe that the discussion shows my son that I am taking his feelings seriously. No matter how ridiculous his problem seems to me, it’s real to him.
5. Bend the rules. Is it fun to live in a world where you never get to eat sugary treats, stay up late, sleep cuddled next to a warm body, or watch your favorite shows? We get so caught up in our idea of what is to be a good parent that we hold our children and ourselves to impossible standards. When we hold our children to these rules so rigidly, we end up caged in ourselves and parenting like that is no fun for either you or the child.
6. Include everyone in chores and projects. We all know toddlers are walking disasters. They spill anything liquid. Even when walking, they often just randomly fall over. But it is still possible to include very young children in household chores. For example, our son has the job of feeding the dog every night. He loves it. Does he spill food everywhere? Yes. Does the dog eat it off the floor? Yes.
You’re probably not going to believe this but my two year old also helps me do the laundry. We started when he was very young and now my only role is to pour the soap into the dispenser. He does the rest and thinks it’s incredibly fun. I’m planning to milk this as long as possible.
7. Never leave home without snacks. Running errands is so much easier when the tiny person sitting in the grocery cart or stroller is busy eating. I tend to pack snacks that are slightly special (ahem, sweet) and take a long time to eat. Cereal, granola bars, fruit leather, and raisins are all worthy of a permanent place in your purse. I even keep an emergency lollipop. Don’t call Social Services on me. The lollipops are organic, okay? And if brought out at just at the right moment, the affect is almost magical.
8. At the end of everyday do something small to reward yourself. Drink some wine. Eat chocolate. Do yoga. Take a hot bath. Work out. Read a novel. Call a friend. All day you’ve taken care of someone else. It may not have been a perfect day but you’ve tried to do your very best. Now it’s time to do something that is just for yourself, something that makes you feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to be awesome again tomorrow.
What additional advice do you have for making life with a toddler easier and more fun?