Mistakes Parents Make When Parenting Toddlers
Surviving the first year of your little one’s life is a milestone many parents celebrate. At the 12-month mark, parents begin to have visions that the sleepless nights, the endless diapers and the teething are coming to an end. Enter the toddler years. Having an infant in the house is challenging, but the toddler years have their own set of stresses and sacrifices. Living with a tiny human who is mobile, becoming more vocal and learning how to navigate the world can push the boundaries of even the most patient parent. To make sure you don’t run into any of the toddler years’ hidden minefields, here are some mistakes to avoid when dealing with your toddling time bomb.
- Labeling challenging behavior as “bad.” Dealing with screaming, crying and the refusal to do basic tasks can test your parenting chops. These behaviors frustrate even the most unflappable mom or dad and are often labeled as bad behavior. Sometimes, this is the case. Sometimes, toddlers are simply experiencing frustrations of their own. Without the ability to talk about their feelings, toddlers frequently resort to throwing fits. If you take the time to try to understand what your toddler is attempting to work through, you may recognize a learning opportunity. Or, it just could be that you cut the toast into triangles when it was supposed to be a square, it is on a blue plate when it should be yellow, and your toddler wanted the plate to be on the left of the cup. Some days you learn; other days you just can’t win.
- Changing tactics. Toddlers test boundaries. It is just the way of the world. With the goal of teaching little ones right from wrong, many parents try different approaches to discipline and rewards. Just because something doesn’t work one day, doesn’t mean it won’t work in the long run. Staying consistent can help your toddler learn what to expect—and it can prevent Mom and Dad’s having to come up with creative new solutions or punishments.
- Stretching the schedule. Making just one more stop when running errands seems harmless. Or ordering dessert after dinner. Or staying just a few more minutes to talk. “The worst meltdown my son ever had was at Target when I pushed back nap time to stop for paper towels. I knew it was nap time, but stopped any way. I paid the price,” says Melanie Green, Raytown mom. Parents often think they can make small changes to the toddler’s schedule to meet their own needs. This can be necessary sometimes, but recognize that your toddler may not handle it well. Toddlers thrive on consistency and they absolutely function better with a nap.
- Letting communication break down. One of the most common reasons behind toddler meltdowns is an inability to communicate. “I can’t tell you how many times I found myself asking my daughter, ‘What is it you want?’ while she screamed and cried,” Julie Wentz, Kansas City, MO, mom, says. “I just couldn’t understand what she was saying, and she didn’t have the words to fill me in. It was frustrating for us both.” Don’t assume a tantrum means your child wants something unreasonable. Being constantly misunderstood is hard, and sometimes that frustration bubbles over.
- GUILT. The toddler years offer many things for parents to enjoy. Toddlers learn something new every day, they say cute things and they love you unconditionally. But the trying times can be TRYING. Do not feel guilty about having a hard day or not cherishing every moment. Recognize that you and your toddler are human. You both will have good days and bad days, fun moments and stressful moments. Give yourself and your toddler a break and know you will make it through this together.
Melissa Bellach is a freelance writer and mom of three living in Overland Park.