As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a parent of two children, I have seen firsthand the challenges that come with parenting toddlers. It can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from the joy of watching your kiddo learn and grow to the stress and frustration of dealing with tantrums and meltdowns. I have been there and survived, so I know how those difficult times can push you to your wits end and make it hard to hold it together at times! I also know we can’t do it alone. One thing that can come in handy is tried and true tips and tricks (say that 5 times fast!) from someone who has been there to help you navigate this rewarding and super stressful time in you and your family’s life.
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that toddlers are still learning how to notice and express their emotions and how to communicate clearly with others. It’s so hard to be a toddler! That is why tantrums and meltdowns are a normal part of their development. It’s not that hard to understand when we think about how frustrating and helpless we as adults feel when we don’t know what to do with our big emotions or when no one seems to understand us. As parents, it’s our job to help them learn how to express themselves in a healthy way. One way to do this is by modeling healthy communication ourselves. When we get frustrated or upset, it’s important to take a deep breath and calmly express our feelings. We can narrate ourselves out loud like this: “Wheew, I am really feeling frustrated, I am going to take a deep breath to help me feel calm before I talk.” This shows our children that it’s okay to feel emotions, but it’s important to express them in a respectful way.
Another important aspect of parenting toddlers is setting boundaries. Toddlers are curious and love to explore, but they also need to learn what is safe and appropriate behavior. This means setting clear rules and consequences for breaking those rules. Consequences need to be specific to the situation and make sense, and need to be age appropriate to work well. It’s important to be consistent with these boundaries and consequences, so your child knows what to expect. For example, if your child throws a toy, you might say, “We don’t throw toys. If you throw a toy again, we will put it away for the rest of the afternoon.” This gives your child a clear understanding of what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow the rules. You are allowed to be clear about rules and expectations, and often your kiddo won’t like what they are hearing, which can be rough. Remind yourself, rules help keep them healthy and safe, so it’s an important part of your job as a parent and it doesn’t mean you are being mean.
One of the biggest challenges of parenting toddlers is dealing with their crazy high energy levels. Toddlers are literally exhausting! They have boundless energy and can be hard to keep up with. It’s important to provide a safe place for them to use up their energy while maintaining your peace of mind. One way to channel that energy in a positive way is by engaging in outdoor play. Playing outdoors is a great way for them to get their wiggles out, explore, and try to keep the house clean for a little bit! Break out the sidewalk chalk, dig in the dirt, play with a water table. Toddlers are washable so don’t hesitate to get messy. It’s also a good idea to try physical activities together. This could be as simple as going for a walk around the block or exploring your local park/playground. If it’s too hot outside, consider an indoor play place. Not only does this help your child burn off some energy, but it also strengthens your bond and creates positive memories.
Another important aspect of parenting toddlers is fostering their independence. Toddlers are at an age where they want to do things for themselves, but they still need guidance and support. One way to encourage independence is by giving your child choices. For example, you might ask, “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt today?” This gives your child a sense of control and helps them feel empowered. It’s also important to give your child opportunities to practice new skills, such as dressing themselves or pouring their own drink. Encourage them to be a helper! Let them transfer clothes to the dryer with you or wipe up a spill. This helps them build confidence and self-esteem. You will be teaching them what TO do instead of getting stuck in a rut of always telling them what not to do. I’m sure you are sick of saying “no!” all the time and they are probably not great at hearing it anyway.
Finally, it’s important to remember that parenting toddlers is a journey, not a destination. There will be good days and bad days, but it’s important to stay positive and keep a sense of humor. Laughing together can be a great way to diffuse tension and create positive memories. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Counseling can be a great resource for parents who are struggling with the challenges of parenting toddlers.
Here at Outside the Norm, we are ready to help you out with parenting challenges or any other issues you might be struggling with. We can see you in person if you’re in the Temecula, California area, or virtually over video or phone if you are in the state of California. I highly recommend checking out our therapeutic services to see how we can assist you and your family. Our team of licensed and associate therapists specializes in working with individuals, teens, children, and couples. We offer a variety of services to meet your needs and we’re here to support you on your journey.