The Toddler Struggle: What Works?

We are deep in it now. Mae throws tantrums over getting the “wrong” sippy cup and other seemingly ridiculous things, and it is difficult. It takes so much patience. And I’ve been having to get my mind right lately, to handle each day with her. I have to wake up with a game plan, a philosophy, just something to keep me centered and grounded.

Here’s what’s working for me:

  1. I remind myself that I am growing as a parent with her. I’m not perfect and I’m not supposed to be. Every day is a learning experience for both of us.
  2. Deep breaths. I pause and take a deep breath before speaking. Sometimes I have to ignore her for a little bit, but this is better than screaming.
  3. I assume everyone, including Mae and me, is doing the best they can at any given moment.
  4. I text or call a friend to vent. This really helps so much.
  5. Schedule the day in increments (this has been the case for us since baby days). Mae gets antsy quickly and then she gets easily angry, so I have to keep her stimulated with different activities. Now an activity is nothing major, just changing from Play Dough Time (her favorite) to Dance Party Time (her second favorite). But I have a running list of activities.
  6. I’m reading Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting. I’m only about 60% through with it, but this book is changing the way I view parenting. Sometimes his tone gets a little too judgey for me, but I like what he is saying and it’s helping me and Mae. I’m thinking about the long game now, not just getting through the day. What do I want for Mae in the long run? Do I want her to be obedient always or do I want her to be curious? I can say as a college instructor that critical thinkers and curiosity are much better attributes to have when it comes to learning and thinking than obedient behavior. I want a kid who questions things.
  7. I’m picking my battles. Does it really matter if she throws a stick when no one is around? No. Does it matter if she throws dirt at a friend? Yes. I’m trying to let go of control whenever I can. This is very hard for me.
  8. When I’m there, really BE there. I am constantly balancing being a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, etc. This means I can’t give Mae my undivided attention all the time. It means I find myself telling her to “wait” often. And this is just a reality of my life, but I can now say “Let me finish washing these dishes and then I will come play.” She understands this, and I keep my promise. After I finish whatever I was doing, I sit down and really play with her. I’m present. She’s starting to really pick up on this whole “Wait for a few minutes and then we will have fun” message. It works for both of us.

What works for you? What are you reading that’s helpful? What is really unhelpful?

I still slip up all the time and lose my patience, but I am consciously working on always becoming a better mother, and that’s enough.

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