1.The first thing I want you to know is that your toddler is AMAZING! They are an absorbent sponge for learning. According to the nonprofit educational organization, Zero to Three, between the ages of 1 and 2 toddlers develop a new connection between brain cells EVERY SECOND! By 2 your toddler will have over 100 trillion synapses, more than they will ever have again throughout life. They learn 5 new words every day! And spend just about every minute awake learning about the world they live in. To do that they have to run all over and touch and look at and taste everything they find.
2. They are still so very little. Yes, they are learning so much in those first few years and they seem so much bigger than when you brought them home. But they are truly still very new to this world. You can count their age in months! So when you are tempted to think that they should know better than to do a certain behavior, stop and ponder just how short their time has been here on the earth.
3. They need to be nurtured. They need touch. Cuddles and hugs. Massage. Playful touch, tickles and wrestling and dancing. Their energy and curiosity needs at outlet. They need to move and climb and explore. They need to touch and ask questions. Often, children who are getting into mischief are just trying to meet those needs themselves!They need to hear stories. Before naptime and bedtime is a great time to pull out some short books and cuddle and read. They need to hear positive things said about them. I cringe and my heart hurts a little when I hear parents say in front of their toddlers, ” This one is (so naughty, such a brat, a troublemaker, pain in the butt). Children who are told constantly how naughty they are, tend to live up to the label.
4. Toddlers need boundaries and limits. But they need those boundaries and limits to be taught to them gently and kindly. There will be much redirection and distraction in those early toddler years. They need you to get down on their level, look into their eyes and tell them what you want them to do, instead of what they shouldn’t. “Gentle touches, please.” “We throw balls outside” “Food stays at the table”. And when possible give them choices. Blue or red shirt, cup, blanket…etc. They need you to treat them the way you would want to be treated. Think back to the last time you messed up. If you didn’t want to be yelled at, called names, threatened with bodily harm or hit? I can guarantee you your little one doesn’t want or need that either. When they mess up. When they get angry and push against the boundaries. They need you to stay calm and firm and empathize with them and if necessary as they get older let them experience the consequences of their actions.
5. They get a bad rap in the parenting world. Yes, they are busy busy busy. Yes, they can be persistent, and independent, and moody. Yes, they have no emotional control at times. But they are never terrible. They are just human. They have bad days and good days, just like the rest of us. Give them permission and grace to figure this whole life thing out and show them by your actions and words that you are there to support and love them no matter what.
6. And lastly, they need you to take good care of yourself. Parenting is hard. You are tired and overwhelmed and the needs never stop. Give yourself permission to take good care of you. Eat good food. Read good books. Get outside. Take a bath. Get time with friends. Learn how to take deep calming breaths and give yourself a time out if you feel like yelling or hitting your children.