The title “responsible toddlers” seems ironic. You might be thinking that I am over exaggerating when I combine those two words together, but trust me it is true. Doctors agree that a baby’s frontal lobe, which handles all thought and voluntary behaviour, matures in spurts, and takes years to develop. Moreover, few of these functions, like emotions, speech, and problem solving develop throughout the baby’s childhood, and perhaps even beyond. (http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a6611/your-babys-brain-the-frontal-lobe#ixzz3xJHmdRdK)
However, a one on one interaction, skin to skin affection, and eye contact form the foundations of what I call “responsible toddlers”. Moreover, what you encourage your toddlers to do shapes their character and defines their attitude. For example, if we keep on repeating how naughty he/she is, they will come to believe that they are really bad and misbehaved. A better reacting to any mischief a child does would be, “What you are doing is not acceptable, or bad, or impolite etcetera” instead of “You are bad, impolite, naughty etcetera.”
Even better, once a toddler misbehaves, it is much more amusing and successful to direct his/her attention towards something else. For example, “Come see what I have here for you”, where you go and do something of interest for him/her.
They do understand and they know everything, so do not outsmart them. I realized that once a child is not occupied with an interesting activity, this need to be engaged will be transferred towards mishaps and sometimes impoliteness.
Nurturing healthy behaviour needs a consistent hard work, lots of patience, and lots of self-control every day. Here are a few things I did before with the boys and I am currently applying with the twins:
I always encourage my kids to try out new things on their own. It could start with simple gestures, like eating alone, undressing, wearing their crocs, putting their dirty clothes in the basket, and even throwing the diaper in the trash bin. You cannot imagine how these small actions add up to their character and have them be responsible little beings.
I recently started having them help in mixing cakes, and preparing cookies with me. This activity not only gets them engaged, but it also helps in having them expand their vocabulary. While I am cooking, I give them some plastic cups, pots and spoons, some water and have them explore. They pretend to be feeding each other, and sometimes they enjoy sipping water from those cups.
I usually offer them the choice to choose between the types of fruit they want to eat, or the shoes they want to wear, and sometimes the bed they want to have their day nap in. This makes the child feel valued and respected. There is a mutual kind of respect going between the two of you and it is beautiful.
When younger, the twins, like their brothers before, have tried to exhibit tantrums at home, but our reaction to them helped them leap out of it as swiftly as they started. As a parent, we should remain calm and have them understand that we are there for them. Once they settled and were able to grasp what they did, expressions like,” I love you,” “ It is over now,” “It is ok to be angry” etcetera make the child know that we are there for him/her. Here it is significant that the child understands that he/she does not have the right to hit the parent, throw and break stuff, or hurt oneself. Eye to eye conversation in such a case is vital so you make sure all the warmth and love are seen by the child.
I insist that the twins share and do it with pleasure which can be done by how softly I ask them to do so. Of course, sentences like, “Thank you for sharing”, “You are very thoughtful” etcetera reinforces such positive behaviour and attitude in the future. Moreover, it reduces frustration when dealing with other kids.
Firmness and Consistency:
This does not mean that a parent should yell or act aggressively to have the child abide by the rules. It is the challenge to remain calm, and positive as we deal with a certain attitude. After the twins started sleeping on their own, sometimes they try to break the rule and come out of bed. No matter how many times they do that, I carry them back and kiss them again saying, “You need to sleep now.”
Being firm and consistent does not only help toddlers, but it also constructs the foundations of dealing with “easier” teen agers as well. 🙂
I dedicate almost an hour of play every day with them. It is pleasurable, rewarding, fulfilling and educational which also reminds me how blessed we are to have the time of being together.
There are plenty of activities that can be done, like painting, playing with dough, coloring, puzzle building, reading, cup stacking, block building, and the list never ends.
As I am always working on improving my parenting skills here, are a few things I am working on changing with my reaction not only with the toddlers, but the boys as well:
Limit the times I say NO:
As humans our first and easiest reaction would be “NO” to maybe every single request. Maybe it is out of fear, or sometimes out of not knowing how to react to a certain situation. This made me realise that I am encouraging a negative attitude which shows later on. So instead of saying” No, don’t do that”, or “No, it hurts!” I would say, “Gently, let us go down the stairs together”, “Gently! Pulling my hair hurts.” I can see some more positive reaction coming out even from the boys.
Let us try to save the word NO for real dangerous situations.
Respect their individuality:
We need to be always aware of the fact that our children are not us. Each one of them has his/her own character, attitudes, personalities, and unique traits. We cannot force things on them, but we can guide them through explanations and clarifications as to why certain things are accepted and why others are not. An open discussion starts really early on and moves throughout the years.
This reminds me of Gibran Khalil Gibran “On Children”
Yes, it is overwhelming at the beginning and seems impossible to even think of having those “responsible toddlers”, but it is worth trying. I would love to hear how you handle tantrums and what methods you apply. Please share your ideas in the comments below.