Creating a smooth day for your toddler is the ultimate goal of any good parent. Being a stay at home mom means I am with my toddler 24/7. I love him, and I love letting my children have independence as much as the next mom, but that independence can be frustrating at times. Two times that it are especially hard are meal times and bed time. I felt like some days were a full out war just trying to get him to eat something, anything. And bed time meant tears and frustration on both ends. I was aware that something I was doing wasn’t working, so I made some changes. And the result has been amazing. I now have a son that not only doesn’t fight me before bedtime, but he walks to the crib on his own. He still doesn’t eat great, but MUCH better than he used to, so I thought I would share some tips so you can create a smooth day for your toddler, too!
Giving my toddler choices has made a HUGE difference. He feels like he is in control. The trick to this is only giving him the choices that don’t really matter to you. For example, he doesn’t get a choice of eating or not, he gets a choice of yogurt or oatmeal. He doesn’t get to choose if he goes to bed or not, he gets to choose if I carry him or he holds my hand. And remember that whoever cares most in a situation has the least amount of power. He doesn’t really care if he eats or not, but I do. He has the power in that situation. The important thing is to not let him know he has that power. Once you lose the power, the day goes downhill pretty quickly.
When I started a bedtime routine with my toddler, it also made a big difference. He now knows what happens at night time, and he enjoys knowing. When it gets close to bedtime and he’s tired, he runs over to the cupboard where we keep his vitamin and asks for it. Then he runs to the bathroom to brush his teeth. It gets really boring for me to do the same things every day, but if he knows what is happening next, he feels like he is more in control, and he does better throughout the entire day. Bedtime routines are especially helpful to end the day well. You can read more about setting bedtime routines here.
Let Them Do It
The days that I said “no” to my son the most were the days when he was the worst. He would get frustrated that I wouldn’t let him do what he wanted. The more times I said no, the more frustrated he got. So, I took a different approach to things. I let him do more. If it’s not going to hurt him or anyone else, or break anything, I let him do it. So what if there is a mess afterword? That’s part of raising kids. I stay home so I can have good, happy kids, not a clean house. If he wants to dip his sandwich in milk, I let him. It’s not going to hurt anything, and he learns more by doing more. And, I let him do things that he thinks he can’t. For instance, if he is trying to move a chair around the kitchen and it gets stuck, I don’t immediately help him. I let him work it out and solve the problem on his own. This was really hard when I first started doing it. Up until a few months ago, whenever my son asked for help, or just looked like he might possibly need help in the future, I got up and helped him. I didn’t let him struggle or figure things out on his own. When I first started letting him struggle a little, it made him really mad. He wasn’t used to problem solving or me saying “I’m not going to do it, you can do it.” But, he figured it out pretty quick, and the best part is the look on his face when he DOES whatever he thought he couldn’t. I give him lots of praise for a job well done, and he is happier because he knows he can do hard things.
Take a Break
When the day gets a little too much to handle, take a break. It’s okay to step outside for a minute. It’s even okay to put a crying baby in a safe place such as a crib or high chair and leave the room for a minute. In fact, I think it’s essential to sane parenting. If you have to step outside for more than a minute, strap the toddler into a stroller and go for a walk. If it’s too cold outside, turn up some music for a minute and sing. Or go for a drive with your baby. Anything to stop the pace of the way the day is going. Then, when you come back to reality, you can start over. If things aren’t working, change them.
Breaks are also important for the child. Crying and screaming is the way they let out their frustrations, especially toddlers that can’t communicate well yet. If they are frustrated about something that just can’t be fixed (they want to play on the hot stove, for instance), give them a change of scenery, or put them in a crib and let them cry for a minute. I know people are going to say that I’m horrible for saying this, but it works. When I let my son sit in his crib for even a minute with the lights on and the door shut, his mood changes drastically. When I go in and get him, he is happier, and he usually forgot about whatever problem started the whole thing. He just needed a moment to himself. Don’t we all sometimes?
These are just a few strategies I use to make my day go smoother. More than any strategy, though, the thing that helps me the most is remembering why I wanted to be a mom in the first place. I want to give these kids the best life they can possibly have. I want to give them tools to be happy, contributing members of society. By creating smoother days and by extension a smoother life, they will be able to reach that goal much easier. What do you do to create a smooth day for your toddler?