Saturday, April 14, 2012

Encouragement and Input for Parents of Toddlers

I understand your toddler’s strong little personality is wearing you out. I am smiling as I type because I have three little guys whose personalities are so different from mine that often I can’t imagine where they are coming from sometimes.

Some important stuff we have learned raising three super strong very smart little fellas:

1)      You teach him to become what you model. If you model submitting to his strong little self – you teach him that he is more important than you are. For him to develop a healthy understanding of who he is he needs to know who you are. You, his mom and his dad are the most influential and essential people in his life. He needs to be taught to treat you with honor and respect. If you are making decisions based on what he wants or what he thinks he needs, you are putting him in the driver’s seat, which we both know he is unqualified for.

2)      The pain of doing what he wants now will only intensify as he gets older. There are certain times in our little fellas lives where we have to stand our ground and hold the line even if it makes us all uncomfortable (sometimes THAT is the understatement of the century!). But this discomfort now is minimal to what his wanting his way looks like in 5, 10 or 15 years. We have so many kids out there who can’t even begin to say “no” to themselves, let alone anyone else. Your child’s strength is a blessing. You and his dad have what it takes to train him well to grow into it with wisdom and dignity. Right now- his behavior is embarrassing for sure but it’s nothing compared to what will happen if he is not taught the consistent art of self-control.

3)      Much like putting your own oxygen mask on first on an airplane, you have to make sure that you are both getting what you need to parent him well. The day to day “putting your mask on first” looks like this:

Getting enough sleep! If he is not sleeping through the night and wants to be attended to you must teach him to respect your need for sleep. Even now my guys challenge me on this! Because they are capable of conversation now, I remind them if mommy doesn’t get enough sleep, mommy won’t do her very best job being a mommy. Younger toddlers lack reasoning skills, so you have to train him to sleep. He’s a strong healthy fella with no health issues so he should be completely able to sleep through the night now – he just doesn’t want to! I remember Erik and I holding each other down while our little protester demanded attention. Some well-timed advice from good friends really helped us hold out and teach him he was capable of comforting himself and going back to sleep. One key piece of info here – if you give in – it won’t stop. Then you have wasted the last 67minutes of torture because now he knows if he cries long enough he will get the results he wants. All our guys threw varying degrees of fits during the same stage you are going through now. Some took a few nights to really “get it” some took a little longer.

Get enough exercise! Don’t underestimate how badly you need those endorphins, both of you! Parenting this stage is intense and blowing off steam with quality exercise will bless your body, your brain and your baby! I promise. The girls at the fitness center I go to are outstanding! They had to peel my little guy off me so many times I lost count. Now, he adores it there.  Plan an hour for working out/hot tub time and another hour for sunbathing, reading or just sitting in the cafĂ© watching the fire. Don’t forget to make some time to go there together for a 2 hour date workout and hot tub date!

Get good fuel for your body! Eat healthy – I know you pretty much do, but I frequently re-evaluate my needs for protein, fiber, and quality carbs based on the work I am doing. Be sure you are getting ENOUGH calories for what you are asking your body to do. I am obviously still working on the eating healthy part – it is my weakest area for sure.

4)      Let go of how others view you. One day, neck deep in an airplane full of people I realized that their discomfort - while a bummer for sure, didn’t matter. Only training my son and my relationship with him mattered. Period. You are not responsible for what others think of you or your parenting skills. You are responsible for the amazing little person pitchin’ a fit however. Keep your mind and heart focused on the exercise of training him to practice self-control and treat you with respect. As he starts to learn these key things, the people around you will appreciate his self-control and respectful communication abilities. (Just so you know- we have dealt with temper tantrums in hotels, lobbies, restaurants, airports, and pretty much anywhere else you can think of except a foreign country because we haven’t taken the kids there yet!) No relationship is more important than you and his dad first then the care and wise training of your child, regardless of what family, friends, or bystanders think.

5)      Agreement – You and his dad together are a powerful force and the greatest earthly love he will ever know. You guys model marriage and healthy relationships for him. If you aren’t daily showing him how important Daddy is to Mommy and Mommy is to Daddy it can upset the balance of authority in your home. My favorite story on this happened recently – I told my youngest “no” about something and he was pretty upset with me. After giving me his grumpy stare down he punched me. Erik happened to be walking around the corner and witnessed his behavior. Before he knew what happened, Erik scooped him up and removed him to his bedroom for a very focused conversation about how important Mommy is to Daddy and to our family (at a younger  age, he or I would put them in “time out” without toys or anything in their crib and say, “be nice to Mommy, she’s special” or vice versa for Daddy- you can see by the look in his eyes at the end of a time out if he is still angry or if he got the message. Erik would model say sorry to Mommy, and my little guy would usually smile and I’d squeeze & smooch J). After his time with Daddy, he apologized to me for being disrespectful and unkind to me. He asked me to forgive him and of course I smiled big and said yes! I scooped him into my arms and let him know everything was ok. He’s a little young for much more than that. Your child needs to know that Daddy and Mommy’s relationship is tight and unified apart from him. You were together long before he came into the picture and you will be together once he leaves the nest. You two are a great team & he will be blessed to see it in action – even if it isn’t his favorite all the time! J

Having a strong child is a spectacular gift. Training him to be a fantastic, thriving and contributing member of society will be the hardest and best job you two will ever do together. You are up for it! I came across this website and I thought it had good info. He is selling stuff, but just reading the article might be all you need.


Cheri said...

That is great advice! Our first-born was a veeeeeery strong-willed child, and there were times that Eric and I wanted to throw in the towel, but praise God for His faithfulness and Eric's parents for their encouragement. They kept telling us to be consistent, and they supported us when we were so tired of parenting that we wanted to ship the kid off to military school when he was a pre-teen! We are proud of the young man that Spence has become, and he is a constant reminder to me that consistency pays off!

Anonymous said...

Very good advice. I have always believed that being strong willed is not a bad thing when used for good and not for evil :) keep up the great writing my friend. Pati

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I have been married to my best friend for over 29 years and our children are 16, 15 and 12 years old. I have struggled with infertility, suffered the loss of a baby by miscarriage, and endured multiple career paths. I have experienced a crisis of faith that shook me to the core and lost dear friends to tragic death. I have a personal relationship with Jesus which is essential to surviving and even thriving in my circumstances. I hope you will be blessed by my heart and words. Thank you for being here..