I have wanted to write this post since I went through toddlerhood with Mateo. I was pre-occupied and didn't do any blogging back then. Now, I am a motivated to share some things with parents because I am in "round 2" with Aila. She is a fire ball and we love her. She is a freedom fighter and we respect her for that. She speaks her truth. She needs to have her needs met; to feel heard, to feel safe, and to feel loved.
I get that. And, that is what helps.
Long ago, I read "Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Harvey Karp MD. And, it was the essential reason why Mateo didn't need to have temper tantrums. This time around, Aila is more pushy and more dominating. I needed to read it again.
This book works and the exercises in the book (though it took a few extra days with Aila) really work.
1. Toddlers don't have language skills outside of a few words like "mama", "dada", "wa wa", "stuck" (Aila's favorite word to say), "Bo Bo" (which is brother), and a few other words that work to get what they need/want.
2. Toddlers don't have a need to acknowledge your rules as nothing makes sense to them yet.
3. Toddlers are like little cavemen who want what they want and when they want it (now).
4. They are learning how to live here, with us, in these family dynamics. You know what that looks like, but they don't.
5. Toddlers want to try everything and will surely let you know when they don't like or do like something.
Keep these things in mind and already, things get better.
Toddlers are easy and not. Both of these, at the same time.
This book as helped me so much and I can give you little tidbits that will hopefully help you. Maybe, without all the time spent reading.
1. Toddlers need you to tell them what they are saying. A toddler points at the thing they want and you say "(Toddler name here ) wants the (thing)!". Say this with enthusiasm, but not so much that YOU would feel mocked. Yup, repetition is going to drive you to drink a bottle a night. But, the end game is near and it is real. Say what they are saying, for them. Then, they trust that you get them. Then, they trust that you are paying attention. Then, they back off a bit. Then, you have a kid who trusts you. Boom.
2. Toddlers need YOU to validate how they are feeling. "(Toddler name here) is feeling MAD! She doesn't want to go and she is MAD!" Say this with enthusiasm as if you were FEELING their upset feelings, but not to make fun of them or mock them (they know when you are doing this and it sucks for them). "(Toddler name here) doesn't want to take a nap and (toddler name here) is mad, she wants OUT, NOW!, but (toddler name here) has to take a nap first. Then, (toddler name here) can get out and have a snack. Does that sound good?"
3. Toddlers want to know what's up. Sounds crazy, but they need to know (simply) why you need them to do a certain thing. If you can't come up with a virtuous valid reason, forget about it. And, forget about bribing, lying, or stupid games. It won't work with your boss and it won't work with your toddler. Tell them the truth. If they are on board and "get it", then you are in. If you are just doing it to show power, silly you.... you should know better that no one should ever take power away from another person.
4. Violence never works, passive aggressive doesn't work, neither does ignoring. Don't hit a kid. Don't ever hit a kid. It will never work and you will find yourself in a really horrible situation at some point with this kind of behavior. Passive aggressive is a smile on a dog, don't trust it. You never did, why would you expect your toddler to trust it? Ignoring your toddler while they are in a fit of panic, fear, screaming on the floor, smacking you in the face "stuffinthings!!!!!!" will not work either because they are afraid, overstimulated, overwhelmed, and really need YOU to be the adult. They need YOU to take charge. They need YOU to tell them it is OK, all OK, and that they are going to be OK. That's it. Simple as that. In these crazy moments of WTF!!! for your little one, they are only looking for anyone strong enough to say "It is going to be OK, I got this. You are OK and it is going to be OK. I love you and I will always love you no matter what happens and no matter what goes down."
Doesn't this sound a lot like us, as adults?
If you have a toddler at home and the toddler is defiant, congratulate yourself. You have procreated and that is amazing.
You have procreated and you have taken this on. With it, you took on a responsibility to raise a human being and that is amazing.
You have taken on a responsibility to raise a human being and that is a huge commitment. Take it seriously, but not too seriously.
Look at them with compassion, empathy, and understanding. They will respect you for this the most.
Be there for them in a heartfelt, solid, and trusting way. Let them know that you GOT THIS (even if you think you don't).
Open up your heart to let them in all of the way. Trust them too. They are your greatest guides, teachers, and mentors. They help you open up old wounds to be healed and never to be passed down.
If you are home and alone and overwhelmed, it is a REAL thing. There is no shame in asking for help. Yup, you are strong. Yup, you got this. Yup, you are super KILLIN' IT in life. And, it's ok to ask for a hand with the kids. You think they want to spend all day with YOU? Just think about that for a second.
I love you.