You breathe a sigh of relief as your little ones are finally out of the crib. You are almost done with potty training. You no longer have to lug around a huge diaper bag full of survival paraphernalia just to keep your kid happy and alive.
So why on earth should you be thinking about the second worst parenting experience – teenhood?
Because what you are doing now is going to have a direct impact on your quality of life ten years from now, I promise.
The good news? I am telling you this before it happens. No hindsight is 20/20 with this revelation. I am giving you a cheat sheet so you don’t have to be one of those parents who complains, “I wish I knew then what I know now!”
Think of toddlerhood as a time to lay down the foundation. If your house is built on a faulty foundation, the entire structure is going to come down when it is completely built. It’s the same for kids.
You are your children’s introduction to life. How you shape their world is how they will perceive their world. They come out of the womb with no expectations or perceptions about how life should be – you create that for them. What you create now will impact how your teen acts in the future.
So, with that being said, whatever you do, be sure to teach your toddlers these four things.
NO MEANS NO
This is your time to help your kids understand that no means no. Your future sanity depends on it, I’m serious. It might be normal for a toddler to flail around and have a tantrum, but it is far less tolerable when it’s your sixteen year old.
Toddlers don’t get no. That’s their job. They will kick, scream, cry, tantrum, roll on the floor and do whatever they need to in order to change your mind.
You will want them to stop. You will feel exhausted. You will feel a strong temptation to cave. Don’t. Your toddler may not seem to have a learning curve, but there is a cumulative effect.
When your no stays a no it is like money in the bank. You may not see it pay off right away, but you are planting important seeds for the years to come and your sanity will depend on it.
THINGS ARE NOT GIVEN, THEY ARE EARNED
Nobody likes an entitled kid, but an entitled teen is even worse. You can help your young child realize that hard work pays off. That doesn’t mean you have to have your toddlers vacuuming and doing laundry at three, but you can teach them that there is a give and take.
Do they want to go to the park? They need to clean up their toys first. Do they want to move on to another activity? They need to clean up their last activity first. It is okay to help your toddlers, you are just teaching the idea of responsibility.
YOU MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
Your toddler is collecting data on your credibility. Does my mom mean what she says? When she says something is going to happen – does it?
You are creating patterns in your young child’s mind. When you tell your kids they are going to lose a privilege, do they? When you threaten to take your toddler home because he can’t seem to control his mouth or his limbs – do you?
Do you avoid doing these things because you don’t want to deal with the tantrum? Unfortunately, that message gets conveyed loud and clear and your toddler will tantrum more. Gulp.
Be consistent. Your threats will have no influence on your teen’s behavior if they have learned to not take you seriously in toddlerhood.
THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO THEIR ACTIONS
Toddlers are learning cause and effect. In fact, this is their favorite life lesson at this stage of development. I pull the dog’s tail and he barks. I throw my sippy cup off my highchair and my mom gives it back.
They are also learning what happens when they make bad choices. When they hurt other people, what happens? When they refuse to listen, what happens? Do they get redirected? Do they have to fix their wrong? Does nothing happen?
What they learn about cause and effect will impact how they make choices in the future.
TAKE A PATIENCE PILL
They don’t call it the terrible twos (and threes and sometimes fours) for no reason! Understand that it is normal to want to pull your hair out during this stage. Trust me, if you play your cards right, this will get better.
Your toddler will have zero learning curve. You will often want to shout, “Nothing seems to work! She keeps doing it again!”
Yes, she will. He will too. They are toddlers, they learn through repetition. That can be severely annoying when the repetition is getting in trouble.
Stick with it. Know that you aren’t supposed to see results at this stage. Your hard work will pay off in a year or two. Your work will really pay off in about ten years.
My oldest daughter was the most difficult toddler. Nothing seemed to work. I remained consistent even though I felt like I was a broken record, with no results to show for it.
She’s now almost thirteen and she is the least of my problems. She gets boundaries. She gets the meaning of no. We have our typical teen issues – like a messy room and sibling conflict, but I am not raising a teen toddler.
PICK YOUR BATTLES
It is important that we end with a brief talk about picking your battles. You don’t want to squash your little person’s spirit. There is a fine balance between setting firm boundaries and being a dictator. The key is to stick with what you say. That being said, you don’t always have to draw a line in the sand.
Toddlers want to exert their independence. This is the first time they are starting to feel a little bit of control. Let them experience that power within limits. Your child wants to wear a different shirt than the one you picked – okay? Your toddler wants to color and then play with play dough – no big deal.
Don’t make everything a battle or you and your child won’t survive toddlerhood!
Are you in the throes of toddlerhood? What works the best with your toddler? Let other parents know what helps you and your family survive this stage.
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