Parenting toddlers is a whole new world and seems like we need different strategy every day!
It is darn-near impossible to figure out what’s going on in their busy brains and sometimes it feels like we are. just. failing them.
I am doing the best I can navigating toddlerhood and I am by no means a parenting expert. However I am pretty introverted which comes along with the superpower of being very observant.
I have recently noticed some common trends that may prevent our toddlers from seamlessly progressing from 100% dependent on us to learning valuable life skills and emotionally coping with real life.
So in this post I wanted to really look at some parenting mistakes that are not ill-intended but do indeed hold our children back from reaching our full potential.
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Parenting toddlers is so hard
In the beginning, it’s rather straight forward isn’t it?
Parenting is making sure they get enough to eat, comforting their cries, and providing a safe place to rest their sweet heads.
God must have known we needed to ease into this parenting thing and only take on basic survival before we even attempt to teach life skills.
But at some point, our innocent babies turn into opinionated, I-can-do-it-myself toddlers who test our patience and make us late for EVERYTHING.
Parenting toddlers really is hard and you aren’t the only one who feels like your doing it all wrong.
One reason it’s so hard on us both is because toddlers start to feel complex emotions like empathy, jealousy, anger, & grief but completely lack the life experience to know how to handle themselves.
Insert parents to bridge those gaps.
In the midst of rapidly learning new things, running faster, and wanting independence, parents still have to juggle keeping up with the basics and it’s just plain exhausting sometimes.
It seemed like I woke up one morning, stopped breastfeeding, and got thrown in the deep-end of a freezing cold pool. My son turned into a toddler overnight!
I have lost 4 sippy cups this month, gotten smacked in the face with a stick more than once, and found my son sailing his toy boat in the toilet.
Yup, parenting a toddler needs a handbook.
I am in the midst of toddlerhood and I don’t have hindsite on my side as I write this post. It will be interesting to look back on these thoughts a few years from now and see if I would add anything or perhaps applaud my foresight on this subject.
Nonetheless, here are 5 mistakes to avoid when parenting toddlers.
1. Helicopter Parenting
Have you ever gone to a play place or park and observed a parent who doesn’t stray further than 2 feet from their child and every decision the toddler makes is immediately intervened upon?
“Don’t go there!”
“Watch your step!”
“Don’t touch that!”
“Don’t do that!”
“He was playing with that first!”
It’s exhausitng to watch. Imagine how the little person feels if this is her 100% of the time reality!
How will a toddler ever learn to interact with peers or be confident in her own decisions if a parent injects their opinion on every move?
Real life is full of obstacles and yes we need to protect our children, but not to the extent that we don’t allow them to practice facing challenges.
Toddlers need to be allowed to do things their own way just like everyone else (within reason).
One of the best ways to do this is to let them play with others naturally.
When we allow them some space they can develop resiliency and confidence in their own problem solving skills.
2. Not accepting your child’s personality for what it is
I forever want my son to snuggle more. I want to lay on the hammock with him, feel the breeze, and count the leaves in the tree together.
My son doesn’t like to sit still at all.
He is busy and a fellow adventurer.
His personality really shines when we go explore new places. He points to everything and has a big smile on his face.
At some point your baby will go from an eating/sleeping blob to a real person with a personality of their own!
It’s such a joy to get to know them. What they find fascinating and what they could live without.
There will be times you will have to push your toddler out of their comfort zone but other times when you should just change gears and play off their strengths. Ultimately it will make for better days and a happier family life once you understand and accept how your toddler processes things.
3. Putting too many expectations on yourself and your toddler
There are some very tangible milestones that happen during the toddler years.
Learning to walk, talk, use the potty, and sleeping in a “big boy/girl” bed are all measureable activities that we can expect our children to do.
I think we run into problems when we play the comparison game with other kids our child’s age.
If their speech is less articulate we can start to feel bad about ourselves as parents.
When our kids are graduating college we won’t remember these specifics so why get so hung up on them? It’s better to avoid comparing our kid’s with others at a similar age.
When we focus on positively interacting with them, playing with them, and including them on the day to day nuances, they will likely reach their milestones faster anyway.
Another area I have personally failed in parenting my toddler is expecting him to follow every instruction I give without any pushback.
Sometimes it takes almost 20 minutes to get dressed for the day because for some reason, the idea of taking off one set of clothing to put on another doesn’t make any sense to my two-year-old.
I can feel myself getting frustrated when he fights me on things. The reality is, it’s absolutely normal for a child to have different viewpoints from the parent and it doesn’t make me bad parent or my son is a bad kid.
Related: Highly effective ways to manage temper tantrums
If you have to be somewhere at a specific time, get started on the getting ready process earlier.
Stop putting yourself down for your life being repetative, monotonous, and super simple these days. It’s a season and not everyday can be like The Bucket List Familly.
4. Doing everything for them
It took me a while to realize that my 2 year old is fully capable of learning to dress himself, pull on his sandals, mix the pancake batter, etc.
I got so caught up in caring for him, I completely missed the fact that it was time to start encouraging him to do things independently.
It wasn’t until I visited my mom and he helped her make the entire breakfast that I realized I could have started allowing him to help out around the house sooner!
So what exactly should a toddler be doing on their own at the age of 2-3?
You will obviously have to assess your own child’s capabilities but some ideas include:
- Making their bed
- Pulling up their pants
- Pulling on shoes
- Taking their dish from the table to the sink
- Learning manners
- Picking up toys
- Fetching things for mommy and daddy
- Putting their snack wrapper in the trash
- Help cook simple meals
- Brushing teeth
- Holding the dog leash on walks
- Climbing up and down steps
5. Small minded thinking, it won’t be like this forever!
Temper tantrums are frustrating. So is having to endure the explosive anger that comes along with leaving a park or fun play place.
Gosh when you do this day in and day out it can feel like it will always be this way.
But it really, really won’t.
I remember thinking I would never sleep again when I first became a mom.
But that season has passed and sometimes I wish I could go back and have one more sleep-deprived day where I held him close 24/7 and binge watched Netflix because I had the perfect excuse.
If you are experiencing a particularly trying time in your parenting journey, just remember that you are going to miss this.
Take some deep breaths mama. If you have bent over for 5 minutes straight trying to get your little one dressed, stand up and walk away for a second.
As someone who spend 3/4 of the time parenting solo (military spouse), I can tell you this…
Focusing on the positives will get you a lot farther then constantly correcting their misbehavior.
What’s that old saying?
“You get more bees with honey than vinegar.”
I am no saint and there are days, trust me, there are days when I feel like all I am saying to him is “listen to mommy,” “please obey mommy,” “that behavior isn’t ok.”
These are the most frustrating days and they will come and go.
But when you shift your mindset from, “don’t do that” to “let’s go do this instead” all of a sudden its like a little light comes on in their eyes and it changes the dynamic.
It takes so much energy to constantly direct your toddler to the next activity but when nothing else seems to work, its always a good option to get them busy doing something positive and fun instead of terrorizing your home and your heart!
All the hard work you put in now are going to pay off! Just keep holding on, you got this!
Final thoughts about parenting toddlers
There are plenty of magazines and blog articles just like this one about parenting toddlers.
Most of them are probably written by a mom like me who is actually sharing tips to remind herself.
While it is great to do your research and seek expert advice, the very best thing you can do for your toddler is to listen to your intuition.
In order to do this successfully, you have to shut out all other opinions and be completely present in the moment with your child. There is a fierce voice inside of us that knows just what to do.
Your ability to guide and comfort your children gracefully through the mud will strengthen with each passing day.
Do the hard work now, I know it is exhausting but it will pay off dividends in the future.
What is your greatest struggle when it comes to parenting your toddler? Share it with me and the community in the comments!
I wish I would had this information when I was raising my child. Thanks for your heart of service!