12 Things I Learned While Raising My Toddler
Posted on Sep 06, 2017
About a month ago, my son turned two. Within a few days, he was displaying new behaviors, saying new words, and was way more receptive to learning new things than he was about a week before his second birthday. It was like he realized he's a big kid now and decided to act like it overnight! Things that were a struggle were now easy, and things that were easy became a struggle!
Despite him just turning two, we started experiencing the "terrible two's" behavior way before he turned two. He's been a blast, alhamdulillah, but there are the inescapable struggles like tantrums, stubbornness, screaming, and of course, the power struggles. Here are some things I learned in the past few months:
1. There is a difference between anger and firmness. Your child will sometimes exhibit behavior that warrants action from you to let them know that it is absolutely 100% not okay. But there is a difference between reacting with anger, and reacting with firmness. Reacting with anger entails screaming at him, or making her feel like she's bad for doing that action. Firmness entails letting your child know that what they did is not okay and will never be okay. You can do that with a firm look and by talking in a stern, but low voice. The difference can be seen in the tone of voice and facial expression, as well as body language. Honestly, though, it takes practice.
My first instinct was that my child should, in fact, see that this action makes me angry, but after seeing him react to my anger by acting out more and trying to purposefully defy me, I tried being more firm and less angry. Immediately, I watched him realize that Mama is not happy and he'd relent more easily.
Also, I will add here that sometimes, ignoring your child and walking away works better than reacting to what they did/said. I've been trying that for whining and it's been helping a ton!
2. 'Time in' is very important - and can make a world's difference in their temperament. On days when I am distracted or working from the second my son wakes up, he tends to act out a lot more and be very cranky and clingy to get my attention. As you can imagine, I don't get much done those days. However, I realized that if I spend some quality 'time in' with him before I get on with my own chores or responsibilities, he's much happier and relaxed, and less threatened by me doing my own thing.
Some days, though, you need to wake up and get out of the house right away. So what happens to the quality time then? Honestly, it really doesn't take much. A nice long hug once they get out of bed, and a few words exchanged and some affection while you change their clothes goes a very very long way towards setting a positive and happy tone for the day - for both you and your child!
3. Routine is everything! Humans are creatures of habit, and babies/toddlers find security in routines. They like knowing what to expect. That doesn't mean doing the same exact things every day, but it means having consistent "pillars" that guide their days, like morning routines, midday nap (and whatever routine surrounds that), and bedtime routines.
4. Slow and steady wins the race. Don't rush your toddler. He/she will learn their colors/numbers/words/whatever when they're ready. Don't compare them to other children - trust me, every child is different, and each will reach a certain milestone in their own time. We tried for months to teach my child to count to five, and he would not learn his numbers no matter what we did. In the week after he turned two, he picked up the numbers within a few days, mashallah! I know children who took longer and children who knew them before turning two. It doesn't mean any one is smarter than the other, don't worry :) This also goes for daily routines. On the days that your time allows for it, go through the daily motions with steadiness and ease. Don't rush - that will only stress you and your child out.
Also, kids have this creepy sixth sense where they sense when you're in a rush and they slow down! It's like they do it on purpose...
5. You may not actually be doing what you think you're doing. Let me explain what I mean. You decide you're going to be consistent with how you deal with tantrums. Don't react. Let him go through his emotions first. Remove him from the situation and allow him space to calm down. But what you may not realize is while you're out in the store or at someone's house and the dreaded tantrum begins, you don't actually follow your technique of choice. Instead, you try to reason with your child in an attempt to end the tantrum as soon as possible because you're self-conscious of the people around you. I fell into this. I thought I was being super consistent with how I dealt with certain actions like screaming or biting and had to take a step back and realize I actually wasn't being consistent at all. I was too cognizant of the environment around me. Don't make excuses and follow your techniques regardless of where you are, even if it means leaving your friends for a few minutes or walking out of the store mid shopping -_- Been there. Done that. Not fun, but you gotta do what you gotta do! Consistency, consistency, consistency!
6. It takes a few days. If you're trying to teach your child something new, like brushing her teeth or not hitting when he's angry, it will most likely take a few days. Unfortunately, with child rearing, you don't always get instant gratification. You have to go through the process to see results. So while they can't be programmed within minutes like robots, they're still quick learners, mashallah, and if you're consistent, it'll only take a few days before they learn what you're trying to teach them.
7. Nothing is permanent. By the same token, if your child is going through a rough phase (trust me there are plenty to go around!), it's not permanent. It might be a growth spurt, or they're not feeling well, or just a hectic/rough few days, but if you are consistent in how you react, they will eventually get back to normal. :)
8. Figure out their "high time" and use it. "High Time" refers to the time when your child is most receptive to what you are saying or doing. For us, that was right before bed time. My son would be so attentive and absorb most of what we tried to teach him then. It's actually when I think he picked up (some) of the alphabet and his numbers! During this time, make sure you unplug, disconnect from life, and just focus on your little one. This quality time goes a long, long way.
9. Talk to other moms!! If you're a mom, you definitely should know by now that you are not alone! It's so refreshing talking to other moms and realize your child's difficult, hilarious, or shame inducing habit(s) is completely normal ;) So talk to your mama friends and see what works for them! I learned a few tricks from my friends that I will be forever grateful for! Especially seek out the ones who have multiple children. But don't compare. Every child is different, even within the same family. And boys are different than girls. So seek advice and battle tips but don't compare children.
10. Don't offer too many choices. It will overwhelm them, and they'll probably pick the one you least like (mind readers, I'm telling you!). Sometimes you need to offer them choices to empower them to make their own decisions, but keep it simple! However, sometimes even two options are one too many! Know when to employ this technique. For example, my son is a carb fiend. He loves pasta, rice, etc., so if he sees those, he'll avoid all vegetables (we're going through that phase now...see point #7) and protein and go straight for the pasta. I learned to first offer him the veggies and meat, and once he's had enough of that, I'll give him the pasta. Everyone wins.
Here I must add that I think it is very important for children to make decisions for certain things, as it will teach them to be more independent and learn their bodies and their limits. I am merely saying adapt to your child's (and your own!) needs.
11. Bribes work!!! Use them wisely! Lately, they've been my saving grace. He's about to throw a fit or refuse to get dressed? Ok, we won't go out and play at the park anymore. Oh, what's that...you want to go to the park? Ok, let's get dressed so we can go. Works like magic!
12. Remember their age. Sometimes they really are too young to grasp a certain concept. So pick your battles and don't be a stickler for everything. After all, they're still learning the ropes. Everything is new and everything is all of a sudden visible to them. It's a scary world and it's up to us to make it seem less daunting and more fun :)
Like I said earlier, my son only recently turned two, so I'm still learning the ropes. There are things on this list that I have yet been able to fully execute or apply all the time. Motherhood is such an adventure, and if you set your expectations wisely, it'll be a fun ride, inshallah :) Take it easy, slow down, and enjoy your littles before they're not so little anymore!
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What are some tips you love for dealing with toddlers? Share in the comments below - trust me, we all need all the help we can get ;)