Want to know why I am writing this post? Because I have a toddler, and because I desperately want to be a better parent. Every. Single. Day. Most moments in my current life you can find me reading books, gathering advice from family members, googling, or on my knees asking for help from the Ideal Parent. If you, too, are looking for the solution for how to be a better parent, read on for the number one tool that I have found that gets me through everything.
Life With Toddlers
We all need a lot of help, a lot of creativity, and a lot of prayers to make it through a day (or a tantrum) being the kind of parent we want to be.
Finding the parenting balance is a trick. I want to be nice. But I also want to have expectations. I want to be ultra-patient. But I also don’t want my toddler to push his sister. I want to have fun and play. But sometimes I just wish my house stayed clean for 10 minutes straight.
Henry and Annie are both in the prime toddler stage – with Henry almost 3 and Annie 1 1/2.
In so many ways, I’d say it’s my favorite stage yet. I mean look how stinking cute these guys are! I’m loving my adorable, super fun, engaging, and wild little kids. I love chasing them around, playing with toys, exploring somewhere new, watching them learn something every 5 minutes, and hearing Henry tell me he loves me with all of his heart. We are thriving!
But, I feel like God made toddlers so dang cute to compensate for this little something called attitude. Suddenly these little creature have opinions, crazy amounts of energy, and a tendency to get super upset at the drop of a hat. (See below for a prime example of the flip side of life with toddlers).
Where Do We Find Good Parenting Information?
Lately, I’ve been considering what kind of information I can post about for those parents in our same boat. I want to share things that are not only helpful, but that actually work. As I’ve thought on this, I keep coming back to the same thing.
We can use ideas from other people (which can help), and we can come up with creative solutions to survive the terrible twos (and they often work), but no one will have the exact answer for your specific child.
I’ve read enough parenting books and spent enough time in school to realize that the information is pretty much all correct…in the right situation…when implemented by the right parent…for the right child.
If all the information was wrong, it would never survive publishing. If it was all correct, there would only be one book. And yet we have thousands upon thousands of books to choose from in every shape and size.
The truth is, any parenting “expert” is just trying to offer solutions to parents going through real life situations. It’s all about helping us through.
So, How Do I Know What To Do With My Child?
So how is a parent supposed to sort through all of the information and figure out what’s going to work their family or their toddler?
It’s as simple as it gets, and luckily it is built in to every single parent that I have personally ever met.
As parents, we complicate it. Sometimes that’s a good thing. It’s good to seek answers and solutions. But if those answers ever distract us from this one core goal – it’s time to take a step back and remember where it all started.
Love your child. Love yourself. Love your life. Embrace it all. Decide right now that you are going to focus on loving your child. Offering them the absolute best as a result of that love is the most important thing that you will do as a parent.
How Do We Love When They are Doing Everything Wrong?
I’ve dealt with a lot of tantrums lately. From both kids. It’s often loud, and I very often lose my patience. I’ve seen pushing, whining, toy throwing, food squishing, complaining, toy stealing. You. Name. It.
And often, it drives me crazy. I didn’t teach my kids to do these things. It’s not okay, it’s not mature, and it’s not fun.
I will be the first to admit that I am not the most patient or mature mom. There are moms out there who are far more patient than me. I love hearing from them. It’s inspiring. I even believe them (most of the time). But I also know there are even more moms out there who struggle with the same issue as me – wanting to act like a two year old when their child is acting like a two year old.
The most important thing that I’ve learned that gets me through (most) tantrums, messes, whines, or sibling fights is that they aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong. They are simply doing what they feel like doing. What is natural to them.
That behavior may not be good, and it’s certainly not enjoyable.
But, it doesn’t make them bad in any way, shape or form. Frankly, it just makes them a very normal toddler. It doesn’t mean that we have failed as a parent. It doesn’t even mean that they are making a concious choice to drive us crazy. They are simply doing what toddlers do.
And it’s our job, opportunity, and joy to teach them the correct way to handle each and every situation. We will be so much more equipped to do that when we build our relationship on love and trust.
What Do We Do When Our Ideas Stop Working?
I have tried so many things to help Henry through tantrums. And what’s funny is they pretty much all worked! For a minute.
I tried telling him stories to distract him in the middle of a tantrum. It’s helped a ton! But is it the answer? Nope, because my kid still throws tantrums.
I’ve tried holding him tight and singing to him. This worked wonderfully for a few weeks, and still does now and then, but certainly not every time.
I’ve tried reading a book, ignoring him, time out in his room, time out on a bench, saying a prayer with him, distracting with laughs, and oh so many more things. The internet is full of awesome tips and tricks to survive tantrums. Some work. In fact, every single thing that I’ve tried has worked at one point very well.
And while I love to share these activities, tips, and tricks, and I surely will continue to use them (because I’m always looking for solutions and new ideas to try), I’ve finally nailed down the one trick that is consistently working.
Love Gets Us Through, and Keeps Our Child Close Through it All
When we love our child, our patience increases.
Now I’m not saying that our patience is an indicator of our love. I don’t think that I’m a less loving mom just because I don’t have great control of my own temper yet.
But I am saying, when I work to focus on the love – in the moment of frustration – it changes how I act. The love is always there, but sometimes we allow other emotions to rise to the top. The trick is focusing in on the one emotion that will get us the best end result with our children. And hands down, that is love.
I have yelled at Henry before when I’ve completely lost my patience, and I can tell you – I felt guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, and had real regret.
BUT, I have never regretted those times that I chose to just sit through the tantrum, deal with the reality, and talk through it later.
The secret is – the tantrums end. Every single time. Sometimes it’s two minutes and sometimes its 45 minutes.
Teaching Doesn’t Have to Happen In the Moment
There are those times where in the moment I think “Well, I need to teach him, or he won’t understand why this is wrong!”
But those parenting moments that I know have the greatest impact are the times where I chose to sacrifice a possible “teaching moment” to wait through a tantrum. Because, the truth is, the moment of a tantrum is rarely the right time for our children to learn or for us to teach.
I wait until Henry has calmed down, show him love and patience in the meantime, then hold him and talk to him gently.
It’s during these moments that we connect. And it is then, and only then, that I can teach him – in the clarity of that moment of love.
I think I feel like the teaching has to happen in the moemnt to count. But it doesn’t.
Ryan and I have done something consistently since Henry was 18 months old. He didn’t get it at first, but he soon caught on. Any time he gets in trouble we always “talk about it” after. It allows us to teach him, and come back to the core issue at a time when we know he is listening, and we know we are calm and more capable of kindness.
Looking back, this is the most important thing that we have implemented that has become a habit for him. When he is finished screaming, he knows that he can ask us to talk about it. He climbs on our laps, and (often by himself) will tell us exactly what went down, why he got in trouble, and what he needs to do to make it better (clean up the mess, give Annie a hug, help mom’s heart to feel better, etc).
When We Offer Love in the Hard Moments, Our Children Offer Love in the Best Moments
This post was inspired by a recent experience putting Henry to bed. Usually he goes down well, and doesn’t fight me. But, when one part of his routine was messed up, he lost it and threw a tantrum to remember.
In turn, I completely lost my patience. I shouted back, left his room, and slammed the door on my way out (I know, classy mom moment). Despite my deep love for my little boy, my knee-jerk reaction was not driven by love, but instead frustration.
Within a few moments, I felt my heart rate go down and my mind clear, and I remembered what I had promised myself earlier that day – to be more gentle. So, I slipped back into his room. I tried again. As I held him close, I told him how sorry I was for losing my temper. I told him how much I loved him and wanted him to be close to me. I told him that while I did want him to be kind and obedient, that I needed to be kind first.
He sat in my arms through my entire apology, explanation, and expression of my love for him. I then whispered in his ear, “I love you forever.” He calmed, put his hand on my face and said, with a residual sob, “I love you mom.” And it reiterated this lesson I’ll need to learn over and over – love works.
When I show my kids love, even (and especially), in those most difficult moments, it changes our relationship. They love me more, trust me more, and they are learning, young as they are.
This is a pattern that will bless any parent/child relationship and it is nothing more than both of you deserve!
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