Tips for Keeping Your Cool as a Parent
Being a parent – and particularly the parent of a toddler – isn’t for the faint of heart. Those early years were no picnic, but now I can look back and smile, feeling thankful that we all managed to survive.
If parenting your toddler feels like an uphill climb, you’re not alone. But be encouraged: several tools are available to help make things easier for you. Here are four to get you started.
Know what is – and isn’t – appropriate.
As you seek to discipline your toddler, keep in mind the root word for discipline is disciplinare, which means to teach or instruct. The goal is to school your child in which behaviors are appropriate and which are not. If you are going to teach your toddler about appropriate behavior, your first step is to understand what that looks like. In other words, discipline always begins with age-appropriate expectations. Toddlers are capable of learning many things; however, there are some things they shouldn’t be expected to do.
For example, toddlers have extremely short attention spans, so it’s unreasonable to expect them to sit still for an extended period of time. Similarly, if you put food on a toddler’s high chair, it may be unrealistic to expect her to not drop it on the floor.
The early years can be trying, especially if you have a strong-willed child. Guard against unrealistic demands. At times you may need to remind yourself that testing the limits is exactly what they are supposed to be doing as they grow and develop.
Establish routines, structure, and consistency.
Consistent bed times, bath times, nap times, and meals create security for children and can go a long way in helping your child be more compliant. Toddlers order their world around what to expect next. If nothing is ever the same, it feels very out of control. This is when a toddler is most likely to act out.
Redirection is a powerful parenting tool. When your child is curious about the electrical socket on the wall, instead of swatting his bottom, move him away to something else. Be prepared to do this a million times. Remember: you want your child to be curious. Exploration and activity are how children grow and develop.
Know your limits.
Raising children is a full-time (plus some!) job. We all grow weary. No matter how patient you are as a parent, all of us have a breaking point. For the sake of your child, it is important to recognize when you are at that point so you can time yourself out.
Your job as parent is to stay in control of your emotions and be the parent. Hal Runkel, in his book ScreamFree Parenting, says the scariest thing for a child is to see his parent lose control. It’s like handing the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the house. When you feel your blood pressure rising, put your child in a safe place and give yourself time to calm down.