Things you wish you'd known when parenting your toddler for the first time
Being first-time parents to a toddler can sometimes be a bit daunting. Are there things you wish you had known in advance, before your baby became a toddler?
The other day, I was looking at photographs of my cheeky 2-year-old toddler when he was a newborn. I remember the day he was born as if it was only yesterday.
I remember his spiky hair and tiny, frail limbs. I look at his curls and strong, sturdy limbs now and wonder, “How did that happen?”
I look at him now, grinning cheekily at me, and see how independent he is, how he has a mind and will of his own. And I remember how totally dependent he was on me just 2 years ago.
Where did those 2 years go, I wonder. Is it possible they have whizzed by so fast, encompassing so many changes in my baby, who is now an active, and sometimes challenging, toddler?
Being a parent to a toddler is not always easy.
Many toddlers between the ages of 1-3 years old are experimenting with language, yet still haven’t got fully developed linguistic skills to competently express their needs, feelings and emotions. And when this happens, the result is often — you guessed it — tantrums and meltdowns.
Add to the tantrums fussiness with food and sleep (and many other things actually!), excessive energy and sometimes uncontrollable emotions… and it’s safe to say that toddlers are complex little beings.
Mums, are there things you wished you had already known when it comes to parenting your toddler for the first time?
There are heaps of things I certainly wish I had known before both my boys entered toddlerhood!
As your baby becomes a toddler, you enter a new phase in motherhood that doesn’t require waking up every 2 hours to feed your baby, burping, swaddling and tummy-time.
According to Angelyn Seet-Loh, the Director at ParentLink Singapore:
“Toddlers have reached that stage in life when their bodies are starting to get physically stronger and more balanced. There is a lot more involved in trying to walk upright than it is to just lie down and kick around as an infant.”
And this is just one of the differences between toddlers and newborns or younger babies.
As you can imagine, looking after a toddler presents parents with a whole new set of challenges, and some might say that this phase in a child’s life can be one of the most difficult for parents to cope with.
So for all you wonderful mums and dads of toddlers, this article is all about things you wished you had known when parenting toddlers for the first time.
And parents of infants who are not yet toddlers… for you, this article is all about preparation (and perhaps inspiration) for that stage!
You wish you’d known that you’d need more patience…
If your child is not yet a toddler and you think you already have ample amounts of patience, think again! Bucket-loads of patience are needed when you have a toddler (or 2) in the house!
For all you parents whose kids are yet to enter the world of toddlerhood, here are just a few things that toddlers often do that will probably require you to amp up your patience levels (parents of toddlers — I’m sure you will agree!):
- They can easily sit for 2 hours in front of an almost full plate of food, with a mouthful of food stuck in one cheek for most of those 2 hours.
- A 2-year-old boy who is being potty trained will happily announce he needs to “pee!” only AFTER leaving a big puddle on the floor — over and over again — which means you will clean the mess over and over again!
- They will demand for your attention all day, every day, whether you are sick, tired, hungry or just want time for yourself in the bathroom.
- They will throw tantrums in the most public of places, such as a crowded shopping mall or supermarket.
You wish you could understand ‘toddler talk’…
“WANT SCHMIK!” How many times have you heard your toddler ask for things in his own ‘language’ but you have no idea what he is asking for/talking about?
While ‘toddler talk’ can be very cute and amusing to listen to, it’s often not the most effective way for a toddler to communicate exactly what he or she wants.
As you try to decipher his demand to no avail, you see him growing increasingly frustrated and if you don’t figure out what he wants in time, you can bet your last cent that he will throw a tantrum.
You wish your toddler had a built-in switch to prevent and control tantrums…
‘The Terrible Twos’ — whether you have a toddler or not, you probably would have heard of this term and know it goes hand in hand with tantrums.
Handling a full-blown toddler tantrum can be terribly challenging and distressing, both for the parents and for the child.
But there is actually a reason for toddler tantrums, and it’s not because they want to embarrass you in public! According to Angelyn Seet-Loh:
Most toddlers develop much more emotionally and mentally than they do in speech ability, so their ability to express their thoughts and emotions has not caught up with what they are thinking inside. So, imagine you had all these things you want to say, do and tell people but there is this invisible tape over your throat… and all you know to do is to scream and shout to get some attention.
If your child is not yet a toddler, do remember that the best way to deal with a tantrum is not by throwing one of your own (though it may feel very tempting to do so!). Instead, deal with your toddler’s tantrum by:
- Keeping your cool
- Remembering that you’re the adult
- Talking about it with your child once he/she has calmed down
- Letting your child know you love him/her
- Preventing tantrum-inducing situations in the first place
You wish you knew how to deal with your toddler’s demands for independence…
From a helpless newborn totally dependent on you for everything, your toddler now wants to do everything by himself. From eating and dressing to wanting to cross the road by himself without holding your hand — he wants to do it all alone.
If you don’t let him have his way, it often results in a dreaded tantrum.
According to Dr Sears, this newfound need for independence coincides with a toddler’s motor skills developing during the first half of the 2nd year, and his mental skills developing in the last half of the 2nd year.
This results in them wanting to do things independently, but not yet having the ability to think logically to see them through their attempted actions.
Here’s what Angelyn Seet-Loh has to say about toddlers and independence:
Toddlers are like mini teenagers. If toddlers could talk as well as they are thinking, they could be saying, ‘Mom, let me do it myself, please. Just let go of my hand! Let me make a mess. It’s okay. That’s how I am going to learn.
You wish your heart could expand just a little bit more…
Because despite the tantrums, the need for independence in all matters, the constant testing of your patience and tolerance, the food splattered on the walls and so on… despite all this and more, you feel like your heart is bursting with love for this little person.
As you watch your little one sleep, you still see a hint of those chubby infant cheeks and those sausage-y baby thighs. That pure innocence that all babies are born with is still there in his sweet face.
You see your toddler’s beautiful, pure smile when you come home from work and forget about that mega-tantrum he threw in the mall the other day. You know at that moment, no one else in the world could ever be so happy to see you as your little one.
You hear your 2-year-old lisp, “I wuv you,” for the first time and forget about the food splattered on the ceiling.
You feel his small arms around you in the most genuine bear hug ever and forget about him demanding to eat his dinner without a stitch of clothing on.
And when it comes to the tantrums and other not so desirable behaviour that accompanies toddlerhood, in the words of a fellow mum of a toddler, you remind yourself, “This, too, shall pass.”