5 Parenting Tips to Survive the Toddler Years
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Toddlers never seem to stop. There is no “off” button (or even a “slow down” switch!). They’re bundles of energy with a thousand questions, a million things to say, and all without a full understanding of their own emotions. The lack of emotional regulation is what makes these years challenging.
As you might expect, sometimes that can make for stressful situations with your little ones.
You might not like to come out and say it, but do you ever feel annoyed by your toddler? If so, it’s okay! That’s normal. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child.
It does mean, though, that you can implement positive parenting strategies to help both yourself and your child. Let’s take a look at five tips you can start using today.
1. Let Go of the Guilt
Many parents feel guilty or like there’s something wrong with them if they find their toddler annoying at times. But, the first step in finding some resolution is to give yourself a break. Don’t feel pressured into “loving every minute.”
By learning to love yourself more, even in those moments where you might feel guilty, you can have a better understanding that this too shall pass. As a result, you’ll be able to work through it with your child more calmly and stably. And if you find yourself about to yell or say something you think you may regret, it's perfectly acceptable for parents to take a brief time out before dealing with a problematic behavior.
2. Look at Things from a Toddler’s Perspective
When you start to find your child annoying, try looking at things from their point of view. What are they doing that annoys you? How might they perceive the same actions?
It might be difficult to think like a toddler. When you try to understand where they’re coming from, though, you can help them to understand better how to express themselves more positively and calmly.
3. Identify Emotions
Many times, toddlers act out because they aren’t able to fully comprehend or express their emotions. They are feeling something so intense they want to burst, but they don't have a word for it yet. Imagine how frustrating that would be!
If your toddler isn’t fully aware of what their own emotions genuinely are or how to express them, they may act out by throwing a tantrum. Teaching your toddler to identify those emotions and showing them productive, helpful ways to express them will benefit you both.
They will be able to let go of some of their frustrations, and you’ll have a better understanding of how they’re feeling, so you can help.
4. Reframe Your Expectations
Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or the quality time you spend with your toddler is before and after work, it’s a good idea to reframe your expectations of how things should be. Many people have an idealistic picture in their minds of what quality time is supposed to look like with a little one.
The good times will be there. You’ll have times where you’ll laugh with your child, read to them quietly, or when they’ll cuddle up next to you and want nothing more than a hug. But, there will also be times that aren’t great. They’ll be sad, or cranky, or they’ll make a huge mess.
The sooner you let go of your expectations on what quality time needs to be, the less likely it will be for you to get annoyed over the little things.
5. Let Them Be
Sometimes, toddlers act out in a certain way because they want your attention. It doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s “good” attention. They just piece together the fact that you’re focused solely on them. So, they continue the behavior or repeat it frequently because they know it gets your attention.
If it’s a behavior that annoys you or isn’t appropriate, there’s a simple solution: Don’t act on it. That’s easier said than done. There’s a fine line between discipline and giving in when it comes to your child’s tantrums.
However, if they’re doing something that isn’t going to truly get them in trouble or harm them, and it seems like they’re just “whining” or they’re upset for no reason, give the situation some time to breathe. If your child sees that you’re not going to act on it, they may be less likely to do it again.
Remember, you’re not a bad parent, and this situation is normal! But, you don’t have to feel “stuck” in it forever with the right strategies in place.
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Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!