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Parenting your Toddler Like A Teen

anxiety families independence meltdowns mental health parenting potty training pre-school social-emotional development teen toddler

While listening to an interview with the authors of “The Stressed Years of Their Lives,”  a book focused on teen mental health and how parents can be supportive, I couldn’t help but think it would be great if parents of younger children had the same information so that they could put the experts advice into practice sooner.  

Like parents of teens, parents of toddlers are faced with a burgeoning independence in our offspring, and we are learning to let go and trust that our kids will be OK as they explore their new world. Numerous studies have shown that the toddler and teen brains are both going through major shifts as they learn new life skills and exhibit mood swings and questionable behavior. They don't call them three-nagers for nothing!
So what can we do to ease our parenting journey and foster resilience in our kids? Here are some takeaways from the interview on teens, tailored to #toddlerlife:
  • Try not to transfer your anxiety onto your kids.  When we are anxious about our littles meeting developmental milestones, getting into the “right” pre-school or even potty training, our kids feel it.  This can lead to anxious kids who are afraid to make mistakes. Especially since mistakes are an important part of learning.There are many different ways to get to the same end point.  When we focus too much on doing things a specific way we inadvertently teach our kids that there is only one way to gain parental  acceptance and love. Instead try to take a breath and not feel so "all-or-nothing" about parenting.  As parents we will fail in big ways and small, every day.  But we can recover. And that is the lesson we want our kids to learn. In life, each day is a new day to try again, with a bigger tool box of experience. When we are first gentle and forgiving with ourselves, we can in turn be more gentle and forgiving with our kids. 
  •  Resist the urge to step in and help your child at every turn. Assuming there is no physical danger, you can let your child navigate the shovel struggle in the sandbox alone or wait the extra time for them to put their shoes on correctly. It’s hard to not help our kids, especially when doing it ourselves will save time. But sometimes our desire to help translates into them losing faith in their ability to problem-solve. Instead give them the chance to fix things on their own whenever possible. In the words of Marie Forleo, “Everything Is Figureoutable” Help them learn that fact as soon as you can so that tough times and failure don’t stop them in their tracks. And maybe you won’t have to hear “MOOOMMMMM!!!” every time your kid can't find something.
  • Kids are experts on themselves. This is a hard one for us parents to digest.  #BTDT!!  We all have grand ideas about how and when we want our children to do things.  And we all know what we would have liked at their age. But in the end, our kids generally have a good sense of what they want and what pleases them. It doesn’t mean you have to give them free reign, but do give your littles room to explore and the space to reject things, including certain foods,  even when you don't agree.
  •  Pay attention to your child's social-emotional development.  We can get so caught up in physical and academic milestones in our pre-schoolers that we sometimes forget that their social-emotional growth is just as important.  So be sure to nurture their hearts as much as their heads.  We know that you love and support them. Make sure they know that too. Listen to their endless stories about Nexo Knights today, so that they learn that they can come to you with anything. Encourage empathy and kindness in your children.  And establish structure and routine in the home to create a safe and predictable space for them to refresh and reset.  Believe it or not, those meltdowns that they have after a day at pre-school or a Mommy & Me music class are a sign that they feel safe to fully express themselves after working so hard to regulate their emotions and follow the rules of the outside world. 
    While parenting a toddler can seem like trying to stand still in the eye of a hurricane, you will get through it. And as you do, you will be develop skills that will serve you throughout your parenting journey.

    Do you have a large age gap between your kids?  What about  a large family (4 kids or more)? What lessons have you learned from parenting your bigs that you use on your littles? Please share in the comments below.  
      Keep Calm and Potty On

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