Monday, November 5, 2012

That's Life with a Toddler.

Sometimes I get things done way early. Most of my posts here at Connected Mom are queued up and ready to go not long after I post the last one. Honestly I'm a procrastinator, so I try to get it done the moment I get an idea for a post, while those creative juices are flowing... because otherwise its too easy to let anything else in life take preeminence, then suddenly its Monday at noon and I'm staring at a blinking cursor line with no words coming.

I'm a little behind right now, squeaking this one in just under the line. Life, gets in the way of the perfect plan we have. Balance is hard to come by, and when you are thrown off your game, it can take a number of good days to feel back "on."

Two and a half, almost three, year olds can get in the way of great plans too. Gwen is fun and loving, funny and silly, cute and crazy. She's also a handful, full into the stage of boundary testing, button pushing, and "I do it myself." Normal, age-appropriate, completely and utterly frustrating.

So here are some tips I've shared before, but are worth sharing again... even if only because I could use the reminder! These are what I use to try and have more of the calm days and less of the frustrated ones, to take what "gets in the way" and turn it into "what makes our day different and fun."

1) Age realistic expectations. At 33 months, she is only emotionally able to handle so much. She's still learning what appropriate reactions are and how her actions cause reactions. And you learn by trial and error. So, respond kindly, and move on.

2) Expectations that match with what I want for Gwen in the future. A friend once told me about a very trying morning with her spirited, energetic, intelligent daughter. She delivered her to daycare and asked the teacher, "How do I raise a daughter who is strong, determined, independent, comfortable with her feelings and voices her opinions, but who also listens and always does what I ask her to?!" The answer, of course, is that you don't! But a few tiffs now, as we figure all this out together, is well worth it to foster the independence and determination that will serve her so well in the future.

3) Name the emotion, for both of our sakes! When Gwen is frustrated or sad, I say as much... "I see you are frustrated/mad/upset because of xyz..." I do it to help her figure out her emotions, but I do it to remind myself of them as well. Do I love crying because she wants something she can't have? Nope. But I do know what its like to be overly tired after a long day and have something be extremely frustrating and almost too much to bare. Naming her emotion helps me put myself in her shoes.

4) Evaluate if I really need to distract/dissuade/say no. Gentle/AP parenting is not (contrary to what some media might have you believe) permissive parenting in the negative sense. But at the suggestion of a smart mama, I started looking at the why I didn't want Gwen to do certain things. Is it because of a safety reason? Then stay the course! Is it because it will be a little messy and I don't want to clean up? Hmm, there are times this is valid, but many when its not a great reason.

5) Teach respect by modeling respect. Gwen is an equal member of this family. Yes, her dad and I have the life experience, and as her parents we will ask her to defer to our judgement many a time. However she deserves our respect as fully as we deserve hers. So we listen when she talks, we say excuse me and thank you and please, and we try to give our reasons/explain our actions when we do need her to defer to us. "Because I said so," or "because I'm the mom," are not explanations, and in the long run they don't help her understand that the "no" she just heard isn't a no just for that exact moment, but is a request not to repeat a particular action.

Its so easy to get overwhelmed when life gets hectic, there are deadlines to meet, and this little person just doesn't seem to want to play independently even though they do it at this time every single other day. Or they don't want to go to sleep even though you know they are exhausted. Or...

I'm not perfect. Not by a long shot. I do get overly frustrated, slip up and yell sometimes. That can be a learning time for us both though too, because when I catch myself, I excuse myself to calm down, then come back and apologize. No one is perfect, including this Mama, and I want my girl to know that. People make mistakes, and the fact that we can apologize, hug, and still love each other afterwards, just as much as we did before, well... I think that's one of the best lessons I can give us all. Hopefully it is the one that will keep her coming to me when she makes her own mistakes.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to enjoy this toddler life. And take advantage of every free moment this crazy life allows me.


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