Guys, if you are anywhere close to toddlerhood, then you have likely been warned 100 times over about “the terrible twos” or “threenager threes”… I know I was.
It makes you freak out about losing your sweet, innocent baby and, apparantly, watching them morph into a terror.. or at least according to other people.
But here’s the thing – that DOESN’T have to happen to you!
It’s all about having the knowledge and the understanding about what your toddler is going through… and none of it is terrible!
I’m not here to tell you I’m a perfect mom – far from it. With my son, I did things that break my heart now (screamed, spanked etc…) but I had no knowledge whatsoever that my son’s actions were normal.. and healthy!
I just did what everyone told me to do – spankings for not listening, time outs for crying too much. And it ends up that made everything worse, and I kept wondering why it wasn’t working. And why I kept doing these kinds of punishments.
I happend upon a book called “No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame” and it has been life changing.
Not only for me, but for my son and our relationship.
So, with that being said, here are the 5 things that would have made toddlerhood so much easier had I known them before!
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Replacing “terrible” with “testing” twos and threes to get in the right mindset.
Throw everything out that you’ve heard before, and instead just focus on your child and his journey. There’s ALOT to learn, and the only way to learn what’s ok and what’s not is testing it to see what happens.
Have you ever really taken someones word for something that you didn’t know about, or did you want to see for yourself?
Toddlers are the same – they need to test it all. Just telling them “no because I said so” isn’t enough to satisfy that need.
And guess what – it will take alot of testing.
They need to see what the outcome will be of any action they take, and if the outcome will be the same everytime or not.
While it can seem frustrating as a parent, just know that it’s not personal – they are just testing their world to learn their boundaries.
Related: Here’s how to replace that “terrible” mindset when it comes to your toddler!
Your toddler’s freak tantrums about things like plate color, the way you cut their sandwich, etc are not ridiculous.
OK, yes it can seem ridiculous as an adult with years and years of life experience.
However, to a toddler, who has little control over his life, and is just learnin that he is his own person, it’s important to try and control what he can.
So he might not be able to control when he goes places (we all have to go to work, the store, etc), what he is fed, the clothes he wears… but something seemingly little to us is a big deal for him in learning his independence.
You might say “Well, things don’t always go your way! You don’t always get what you want!” and this is true… but the way to teach it is not at this tender age, and not with everyday
He needs to know that his needs are important, and that he can make his own choices on some things.
Don’t bother screaming at him in the middle of a meltdown – it does nothing to help the situation, he is literally in a fight or flight mindset and won’t hear it.
So, if it’s in your means, change the plate color.
If it’s not, don’t fall into the emotional fray. Instead, say “I know you’re upset because you wanted the green plate and I hear how angry that made you. The purple plate isn’t available though so you will have to use this one today.”
Again, don’t belittle them “What’s the big deal?? It’s just a plate. Get over it!”
Related: Find out more helpful ways to deal with toddler tantrums here!
You can still be a gentle parent without being a doormat
I myself shied away from the whole “gentle parenting thing” because I thought it was counting down multiple times, not having any discipline, and basically letting your toddler run all over you.
No, gentle parenting is about being a leader for your child – calm and collected, direct talking, boundary setting… imagine yourself as the CEO of the house!
This means having the same predictable outcome and routine, being calm when your toddler is having a meltdown, and not resorting to getting respect through fear.
It is not skirting around the answer – it is being able to say “You are having a hard time not throwing your toys at your sister. I’ll have to remove that toy to help you not throw it anymore.” instead of “OHHHH, look at this cool toy! We can play with this cool toy and say sorry to sister.”
Your toddler will say no, and it does not mean you are a bad parent or that they need “punishment”
No is a part of becoming independent – the ability to reject what they are told and do something different is a big thing for them!
I found myself with eyes bulging and red faced when my toddler first said no to me in the grocery store – it was time to go, and he simply said no. I felt all the pre-mom ideas I had (I will NEVER be the parent who has an out of control child in the store!) blowing up… I had done everything right, or so I thought, according to what I had observed from society.
But here I was, with a toddler saying no, over and over again, and then laughing and running away.
Here’s what I did. I got really angry, screamed and chased him in the store, and eventually dragged him out thinking I had messed up.. why else would this child who I do everything for say no to me? His mom!
Here’s what I should have done – “I know you’re having fun at the store, and you don’t want to leave. That is making you upset. We can leave now, or we can leave in 2 minutes.”
The simple choice would have empowered him, and acknowledging what he was feeling would have validated him.
And what if he doesn’t want to leave, even after the two minutes?
“I said we would leave in two minutes, so now it is time to go. You can walk on your own, or I can carry you out if you have a hard time with that.”
9 times out of 10, he will choose to walk on his own. But if he was really tired or something, I have had to carry him out.
And while that would have embarrassed first kid me because I thought toddlers should never say no to their parents, third kid me understands he is exploring his independence and boundaries, and sometimes needs help with that.
Always encourage emotions, and offer realistic choices. Sometimes they just love to say no, and that’s ok.
Ever feel like your toddler’s behavior is the worst around you? It’s for a reason, and it’s not because you “messed them up” somehow!
If you have ever felt like your toddler gives you the hardest time, and it almost feels personal in that they are pushing your buttons on the daily.. don’t worry, that’s healthy!
I could have swore that my son was someone different around anyone else – he was way harder to take care of if I was around, and if it was just be by myself?
I used to take this a personal hit, like he didn’t respect me and didn’t care what I had to say.
However, I have learned that he did this because I was doing an AWESOME job as a mom – I made him feel so comfortable, and he trusted me so much, that he felt ok to express his loud emotions, and to test the boundaries without worrying if I would react to him in a negative way.
He trusted that I could be his leader, and that he could let it out on me and I would still remain calm during his storms.
So no, it is not personal. It’s your toddler testing his boundaries and place in the world in the safest place he knows – with you.
Is there some toddler advice you have since learned that you wish someone would have told you earlier?
I went into toddlerhood with all the “terrible two” stuff drilled into my head. I didn’t even bother to read anything else, until my toddler was about 3.5 years old and none of my efforts were working.
I really didn’t think anything of it, because I thought this was all normal.
However, my life has gotten SO much easier with just these tips!
I’m not saying any of these things to seem like I’m a better parent, or I am judging you for what you do – remember, I have spanked, used timeout, screamed…
I’m saying them because my day to day has just gotten so much less confrontational, and so much less guilt after about a week or two of using these methods.
So even if you don’t give two hoots about being a “gentle parent”, give these ideas a chance just to make your life less chaotic!