Brooke and Chris Womack have a 3-year-old and 16-month-old. Recently, Brooke was convinced there was an intruder in their house when she heard noises coming from their family room at two in the morning. In reality, it was just their son, Marshall, who had escaped from his bedroom and came downstairs to watch "Veggie Tales."
"After nearly having heart failure, we told him he needed to go back to bed," said Brooke. "It is funny now, but it was not funny at the time."
Walking through toddlerhood with your child can feel like a never-ending roller coaster ride. One moment you are laughing hysterically at something they said or did and the next moment you are ready to pull your hair out as you round the corner to find them playing in the potty. How is it possible for a tiny little being to absolutely get the best of us as parents?
Does it help at all to know that being in perpetual motion, throwing food on the floor, being curious and constantly saying the word "No" are all part of normal child development? The very behaviors that drive you crazy are what a child needs to do in order to advance to the next developmental stage. The stubbornness that keeps your child from minding you is the same quality that helps him or her get up after a fall and keep trying.
There is no question that parenting is tiring and often very frustrating, even more so when you lose your cool and find yourself throwing a temper tantrum.
Here are a few suggestions to help you regain your composure.
• Learn the developmental stages. It is easy to take behavior personally when you think your child is intentionally doing something to push your buttons. When you know the behavior is developmentally appropriate, it is easier to deal with the behavior without getting emotional.
• Pay attention to the environment. It is your job to provide safe surroundings. By taking away things that require you to constantly say "No" you create an environment that encourages your child to explore and learn and it sets the stage for desirable outcomes.
• Be the parent your child needs you to be. Your child is counting on you to keep them safe, which means constant supervision. They also need you to be the adult. Constant screaming at a child rarely accomplishes anything. The way you talk to and discipline your child is teaching them about relationships.
• The goal is to teach. The purpose of discipline is to teach. When giving your child direction, get on eye level with him. Use your child's name. Keep your instructions simple. Tell him what you want him to do versus what you don't want him to do. For example, "Jimmy, please put your blocks away." Avoid asking your toddler, "Why did you do that?" Instead talk with them about what they did in the simplest of terms. If you get long-winded, you have defeated the purpose of your conversation.
Surviving the toddler stage may seem daunting, but these years actually go by very quickly. Before you know it, your little one won't be so little anymore. Take the time now to learn and apply good parenting/relationship skills with your children. You'll find those toddler tailspins really can turn into treasured memories.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.