By Elizabeth Bradt, mother of a toddler and founder of Margarita Mommies, the place for moms who need a break
If you’re the parent of a toddler, you probably find yourself craving peace and quiet. You would give almost anything for a reprieve from the screaming, crying, power struggles, and tantrums. Sure, your sweet child is fun and you love him, but the toddler years can be very trying for parents. The independent streak has shown its ugly side and the days are generally filled with arguments over everything from vegetables to diaper changes. Your daily headaches probably involve discipline, toys scattered on the floor, and the feat of finding activities for the kids to do. If this describes your house, make a commitment to implement these 5 peaceful changes and bring your household to a Zen state.
1) Approach discipline with respect and love
Our goal as parents should be to raise future mature, independent, and responsible adults. Our discipline style during their childhood years has a profound effect on what kind of people our children will become. When you find it necessary to discipline your children, think of yourself as a moral educator whose goal is to teach your child proper behavior as opposed to proving that you are right and your child is wrong. Redirect your child and discuss why the original behavior is not appropriate. These “discussions” need to start in toddlerhood, but must be simplistic at this age. A single statement such as “we don’t hit mommy because it hurts her.” Is enough of a discussion for any child under the age of 2. Older children need to have a little more of a discussion in which you emphasize having empathy for others. Any discipline situation should have these two key aspects: respect and redirection. Always show your child respect (remember, they’re still learning how to behave) and always give them an alternative behavior to replace the inappropriate behavior.
2) Teach your children to be neat and orderly
. Many parents these days have lost the understanding of how important it is to teach your child to be tidy and clean. This covers all aspects of the day, from placing dirty clothes in the hamper, to putting toys away after play, and eating with utensils at the table. When children know they are expected to clean up and be orderly, they will rise to that expectation and help keep the house and mealtime clean and organized. As a parent, you must set your child up for success by having his hamper easily accessible, having toys in open baskets so children can pick-up by themselves, and by having small eating utensils that are easy for them to handle. The overarching idea of being neat and orderly should branch out into all areas, such as not throwing trash on the floor of the car, or gathering up bathtub toys before he gets out of the tub. Once you begin implementing this philosophy into your life, you will find many opportunities throughout the day to encourage this responsible behavior from your child.
3) Play with your children
Although this seems like common sense, it bears repeating and processing. Toddlers love to spend time with mom and dad. They love to have their parents on the floor with them, crawling through tunnels, knocking down block towers, and coloring pictures. Many negative toddler behaviors are cries for attention.
When parents are on their phones and computers, toddlers tend to feel neglected and will act out to get back individual attention. When trying to quell a tantrum or if you feel like you’re repeatedly saying “no,” evaluate your actions as a parent and see if you could take a break and sit on the floor to play.
4) Encourage non-digital activities for kids
Make sure your child has plenty of peaceful, calm toys to choose from. When shopping for toys, make a concerted effort to buy wooden, imaginative toys that do not require batteries or flashing lights. Children need simple toys that require them to sit and use their imagination. Think building blocks and wooden dollhouses.
While this sounds like advice from the 1800s, these toys still prove to be beneficial for toddlers today. Turn off the TV and the loud music, create a peaceful environment for your child and you’ll be amazed as he sits and plays with his wooden train set for long periods of time. There is nothing quite like the Zen feeling you will get from the peace and calm your toddler feels when all the electronics are turned off.
5) Give choices and avoid battles
Parents must realize that a toddler wants to make her own choices and have a say in her daily life. Struggles and arguments over food and clothing can be avoided. Provide your child with two choices in all situations, but make sure that the choices make you as a parent happy. At dinner, offer him chicken nuggets or pasta.
Allow him to have control over his meal option, even if it’s the same thing he has eaten for three days in a row. When getting dressed for preschool, lay out two outfits and allow her to wear the one she chooses. Short battles over these daily decisions can lead to complete meltdowns in a toddler world. Avoiding these arguments altogether can continue the sense of calm in the household.
While all toddlers will experience bouts of tantrums and screaming, the goal of parents is to minimize these fits and remain calm when they do happen. You will find that by implementing these 5 tips, your daily life will run a little smoother and you will once again find that Zen household now that you have a calm and happy toddler.
And as always, take care of yourself as a parent. Finding support through websites such as Margarita Mommies and allowing yourself to socialize outside of the home will help you feel fulfilled and more relaxed as a parent.