Raising tiny humans is hard. There’s no question, one of the most challenging roles we will take on as parents is the day-to-day parenting of these little bundles of joy. This little that you love more than you can comprehend will break you.
Some days you will feel lost, challenged, and incapable. Then there will be a split-second where they look into your eyes, you melt and all is right with the world. You can’t imagine loving someone more than you do them. How do we survive? How do we get through the sleepless nights, the toddler tantrums, the testing of boundaries and the eye rolling phases? Consistency! Consistency will SAVE your life.
As a mother of two thriving teenage girls and over twenty years of experience as a childcare provider for infants and toddlers, I’ve had my share of challenges with all of these phases of childhood. In my experience, being consistent is the key to success. What do I mean by consistency?
Instill a daily rhythm
Set clear boundaries
Set high, but reachable expectations to empower them
By doing all of this, children feel connected. They feel empowered. They build self-confidence. Now, you may say, they’re just babies. Or they’re only five. But, no, by setting these consistent, age appropriate expectations and boundaries for our children, we set them up for success. They know where they stand within their family. They feel connected to a biggercommunity where they play an important role.
Often, the children who act out with negative behavior feel lost and don’t understand where they belong. Let’s focus on toddlers (12-36 months) - this age group is my specialty and who I work with on a daily basis in my childcare program. I have these little ones for ten hours a day, 5 days a week in my home. Without consistency, I would not survive. However, I have established a daily rhythm, set expectations and provide them with clear and concise boundaries for which they are able to thrive. Do we have meltdowns? Of course! But, honestly, for the most part, these little guys spend their day laughing, playing and learning about their world feeling safe, secure, loved and seen. How do I do this? Simple. I’m consistent. They know I mean what I say and I will follow through. We have a daily rhythm for which they know what to expect. They participate and have age appropriate responsibilities, such as cleaning up toys, putting their shoes away into their own cubbies, pushing their chair in after eating at the table. These little tasks play a big role in children feeling capable and when they feel capable, they feel connected and when they feel connected they feel confident. This results in positive behavior.
How do we establish this? Consistency! Yes, I’m going to repeat myself with this one word. Consistency!
Toddlers are really no different from teenagers, well, they haven’t mastered the eye rolling like the teens, but still ... testing of boundaries is quite similar. What you establish in the early years will help you all through the daunting teenage years as well. Follow through is your super power. I see this being one of the most difficult things for many parents to do. I get it. They’re tired, you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is deal with a meltdown when it’s time to leave the park, or while in line at target, or when it’s time for bed. These are all common, daily occurrences, but guess what? These are ALL common daily occurrences, so set yourself and your children up for success.
How do we do this? Start with communicating clear expectations ahead of time:
“We will play for five minutes, then it’s time to go to bed.”
Transitions are some of the most difficult times for young children and commonly the biggest source of breakdowns. It makes sense, they are enjoying what they are doing and don’t want to stop. I get it.
So set them up, prepare them, give expectations and follow through.
When we give in to the tantrum, we “feed the monster”. We teach them we don’t really mean what we say and there’s room for them to change the rules. Guess what? You’re making your life (and theirs) more difficult. I hear parents say, “ I don’t want them to feel sad”. Well, of course, as parents we want our children to be happy, but, I know for me, I want my children to be fundamentally happy, not just immediate gratification happy, that doesn’t sustain them. So, yes, sometimes they will be sad, they will feel angry, they will feel frustrated...good, let them feel all of that, while supporting them, acknowledging their feelings.
“I can see you are very sad, would you like a hug?”
This is a supportive statement that lets them know you are there with them, but guess what, you’re still leaving the park, or going to bed.
Our job as parents is to raise capable, thriving, adults. Setting a strong foundation early on, gives our children the structure in life to do just that. Thrive.