Although rewarding, parenting often pushes me to my limits. I am not patient by nature and that makes for some frustrating moments raising 2 toddlers. Each day is an opportunity to practice composure. I’ve noticed lately, though, that my toddlers teach me a lot about behavior. Each of them effortlessly models traits of success that I could benefit from, were I to follow their lead.
Attempting to model some of my toddlers’ highly successful habits has helped me to appreciate them more. And as a result, I’m much more patient with them. I’ve also dropped a few bad habits and picked up a few good ones. The next time you’re looking for self improvement tips, try a few of these from your kids.
1. Be 100% Honest.
Don’t rid yourself entirely of a filter. (Telling your wife her hair looks crazy every morning is not a smart choice.) But try telling the truth more to those you love. In today’s world, honesty feels risky. Telling someone what you really think makes you vulnerable. But it can also lead to closer relationships and stronger friendships. Being honest is also a good chance to learn something new. Getting pushback from someone you’re honest with is an opportunity to question your opinions and empathize with others.
2. Forgive Easily.
Nothing amazes me more than to feel my kids forgive me after I’ve made a mistake. No one can smile and move on from a perceived injustice like a 3 year old. Toddlers teach us that most times, offenders don’t mean to give offense. And on the off-chance that you were purposefully slighted, moving on instead of dwelling on the offense will make for a lot happier life. Follow your toddler’s example. Be unoffendable.
3. Notice Life’s Details.
Do the weeds in the sidewalk cement cracks fascinate you while you’re out for a jog? Do you know what color your dishes are? Have you ever counted the chocolate chips in your oatmeal? If not, give it a try. Toddlers teach that seemingly insignificant details add richness to life. Paying attention to the minutiae in life will increase your gratitude and can add a sense of adventure to an otherwise boring day.
4. Don’t Let Life Cheat You.
No one I know has a better concept of justice than my 3 year old son. He’ll remember a promise and won’t let me forget it until he believes it’s fulfilled. If something’s not right in your world, try changing that. Pick up the litter along your morning jogging route. Ask the waiter if he’ll heat your plate of food up. Insist on the right amount of change. My toddlers get far by asking and acting, and I’ve learned that I can too.
5. Try Negotiating.
It can’t hurt to ask, right? And sometimes, if you ask over and over again, you might just get your way. The worst someone can say is, “No.” But if you’re as persistent as a toddler, you might just get a few more yeses. Learn to negotiate to get more of what you want.
6. Ignore Bad Behavior.
Is someone driving you crazy? Try ignoring them for a little while and give yourself a break. I learned this trick from my daughter. If she doesn’t like what I’m asking her to do, she’ll turn around, walk away, and pretend she never heard me.
7. Skip the T.V.
I often wish my kids could sit through a full feature-length film or an entire TV show while I caught up on a few things around the house. But they’re simply incapable of doing so. Singing, jumping on the couch, exploring outside, and begging for their next meal are just too much fun. Try mimicking your toddlers and finding something else to do instead of watching TV. Toddlers teach you that you can miss out on a lot of life if you don’t limit your screen time. Next time you find yourself starting a show, try painting a wall, taking a hike, baking something new, or picking up a book instead. Even jumping on the couch with your kids can be a good replacement for the TV.
8. Set a Routine and Try to Stick With It.
Routine is everything to a toddler. Waking up at the same time, eating the same thing for breakfast, napping with the same blanket, and listening to the same song over and over again may not be the wisest advice. But toddlers teach us not to discount the power of a routine. Having a routine helps toddlers (and adults) cope with life’s difficulties. We can plan for extraordinary events and remember that a wrinkle in our plans for the day is ok. Having structure built into your day will empower you with a sense of order and stability as you meet life’s challenges head on.
9. Take Risks.
We hold ourselves back when we’re unwilling to take any risks. Granted, toddlers aren’t always wise in the risks they take. But each risk equips us with an ability we didn’t have before. Don’t be afraid of risk, when taken wisely.
10. Mimic the Masters.
Toddlers teach that there’s no better way to learn something new than by modeling someone else’s behavior. Have you ever noticed how your kids mimic everything you do? Try following suit sometime. Think about some of the traits you admire in others and then copy what they do. If you’re persistent enough, you can change your behavior through imitation.
11. Remember, Repetition Matters.
Repeat whatever you’re doing until it’s perfect. My 3 year old will sing the same line of a song over and over again until he thinks he has it right. If you insist on perfection through repetition, you’ll get better at whatever it is you’re trying to do.
12. Be Patient.
I know, toddlers aren’t exactly known for their patient attitudes. But they put up with a lot. No one accepts imperfections in others like a toddler. They’ll take you as you are and work with what they’ve got. My kids are always a reminder to me to be accepting of others and to forgive easily. And this goes for being patient for yourself too. While toddlers aim for perfection in learning to walk and talk, they don’t reach it. But they don’t give up on themselves. When things don’t go exactly your way in life, throwing a few tantrums is fine. But ultimately, remember to be patient with yourself. Things will work out.
Set Yourself Up for Success.
There’s a story in the New Testament where Jesus’ followers bring their little children to Him for a blessing. Perhaps pressed for time, or perhaps thinking of seemingly more important matters, Jesus’ disciples apparently attempt to send the kids away. But Jesus insists on spending time with the children. “Forbid them not,” He says. “For of such is the kingdom of heaven.” That’s quite the endorsement of toddlers.
For all their faults, toddlers have a lot to teach. Try incorporating a few of their more positive behaviors into your life and set yourself up for success.
PIN FOR LATER: