20 Tips for Parents of Toddlers!
Let’s start by agreeing that being a parent is really hardwork! It can also be really good fun! I was an Early Years teacher from the age of 21 and I worked in Education for 10 years before having my first child…but having Leo made me realise that I didn’t really know anything about children before having my own!
I’ve put together 20 Tips for Parents of Toddlers that I think are really essential for raising happy kids and staying sane!
- Decide what’s really important to you as parents early on and stick to it! We don’t want our boys to hit in anger, run around in the kitchen or climb over the front gate. We talk to them about why these rules are important and how it’s our job to keep them safe. We don’t punish. We don’t naughty step. We move them somewhere safe if we need to. We wait. We talk. Be consistent.
- Don’t over-parent…choose your battles! Don’t waste your voice. Think back to point one…is it really essential that your three year old stays out of the puddles when you’ve gone for a rainy day walk!? Ignore the stuff that’s not important and they should listen better when it really matters. Try to pre-empt what’s going to happen so that you can be a little more flexible (e.g. pack a change of clothes).
- Listen. Tiny babies are communicating if you listen! Start listening and talking to them from the beginning. If they cry comfort them.
- Reason with them. This doesnt mean let them do whatever they want! It means if and when you can…let them have a little control. If they really want to splash in the sink but it’s making a mess don’t just say “no”…give them a bowl of water in the garden.
- Have a little fun! It’s too easy to fall into just ‘being a parent’. Just seeing yourself as someone who is there to discipline and make sure no-one hurts themselves. Try joining in…have a water fight, climb a tree, bounce on the trampoline and swim in the sea…you’ll feel happier and you’ll connect with your kids.
- Treat your children the way you want them to treat people. Think about how you want your kids to react in difficult situations…I doubt you want them to shout and hit to get people to listen.
- Spend time with people who make your life happier and easier. Parenting is difficult enough without having to deal with judgemental, overbearing or extremely negative people.
- Stay Positive. You’re exhausted and drained so it’s really easy to sit and moan about it. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have a moan when you feel like it but try not to get into the habit of it. If you really are feeling down regularly then please seek some help via your doctor.
- Find something that makes YOU happy. Look for little things that make you smile! I haven’t had a day on my own since having Leo but I’ve done lots of little things that make me feel more like me again. If it’s sunny out…take a nice drink and sit on the lounger while your kids play in the sandpit. Don’t overstretch yourself…leave enough time for you.
- Don’t bad mouth your kids in front of them. This one really gets to me. It’s not ok to insult your child’s while talking to someone else…especially if they can hear you. It won’t make them behave better…it will make them feel guilty and have poor opinions of themselves.
- Make things easier for yourself. If it will help you to get the kids home from the beach happily…buy an icecream! You Don’t need to say “I’ll buy you an ice cream if you come back nicely”…Try saying “Let’s get an icecream on the way back to the car!”
- Don’t worry too much. Don’t put too much pressure on every situation. Don’t assume that because you let your child do something one day that you’re setting it in stone. Developing healthy habits is important but being too inflexible isn’t great with young kids. If your 3 month old won’t fall asleep in his cot…give up until he’s older…he will eventually fall asleep on his own!
- Big your kids up! I once told my eldest that he’d stopped his little brother from crying. I didn’t even think about the significance of what I was saying. Since then, he goes to help whenever he hears his brother cry! This works in reverse too unfortunately…Don’t tell your kids that they’re always bickering!
- Step back. Obviously we need to keep our kids safe but sometimes we need to let things play out. Let climb and fall (not babies). Let siblings argue over toys (but not physically). If you don’t want to be continuously be getting involved in their battles then don’t start.
- Talk to them about feelings. This is so important. There are so many parents dealing with their own issues because their feelings were ignored or belittled when they were kids. Let them feel things. Let them get angry and show them how to calm themselves. Let them get upset when you have to leave the park. I remember asking my sister for advice after an incident at soft-play when another child (unsupervised) kept taking everything that my baby was playing with. He was getting upset and the other child wouldn’t quit bugging him. She told me that I should listen to what he’s telling me and talk to him about how he was feeling. I find it hard to believe now that I felt a little silly talking to my little baby about being sad and frustrated. It feels so natural now and our eldest is amazing at recognising his own and other people’s feelings.
- Parent as if no-one is watching. This is the one I struggle with most. I’ve seen many parents scream at their kids or smack them and no-one bats an eye-lid. Just try talking calmly to your screaming toddler and you’ll be lucky if you never receive any negative comments. Just this weekend the man at the checkout took it upon himself to ‘help me out’ by telling my three year old rather rudely to “just be quiet and stop being naughty for mummy” when my back was turned. He wasn’t even having a tantrum! He’s also been told to “shut-up” at two years old! It never fails to put me on edge and I really have to work on not over-parenting when this happens.
- You can’t force manners. Don’t make them say please and thank you. I have never made my son say “thank you” but he says it all the time now. “Sankshew” was one of his first words. He heard us say it to him and the people around us. We’ve had several comments about how polite he is…and it’s definitely not from drilling him!
- Model behaviour. I don’t just mean in the house. Use situations like going to the park as an opportunity to teach them some social skills. It’s so tempting to sit down for a break while they get on with it but make sure you’re watching. Show them how to say hello, introduce themselves or initiate a game.
- Teach them to be assertive…politely. Don’t make them kiss people goodbye. Don’t make them share their favourite toys. Teach them to say politely “Sorry I was playing with that.” or “sorry but I don’t like that”. You’ll find that some adults really struggle to listen to what a child is asking of them.
- If they don’t listen when you need them to…just wait! Leo went through a really challenging time at 2.5 years old. We rather smuggly thought that we’d got through the tamtrums. We didn’t realise that he was saving up a few months of major meltdowns. I’ve sat on the side of the road with him sobbing for 40 minutes because he didn’t want to go home after our bike ride. We’d already stayed out longer and it was really time to get back. I’d already been carrying his baby brother for two hours. First he was angry, then he was sad and then finally be wanted a cuddle and we went home. As long as they’re safe then let it happen. You’re not letting them “get away with it”…you are hearing them…you are letting them process emotions…you’re teaching them what anger, saddness and jealousy feels like so that they can grow into functioning adults.
So that’s my 20 top tips for parents of toddlers…do you have any to add..?