In my experience and observation, this is the most physically exhausting stage of parenting. It is also when many parents find themselves in a state of desperation unlike anything they have experienced before. In a perfect world, I would elect to only have one toddler in a household at a time, but alas, no one asked me.
Many people ask me for tips about toddler discipline, and I can give them a few, but the reality is, this season of life is really about Toddler Management. Most of the trouble toddlers get themselves into is because of lack of supervision, and poor planning on that part of us as parents. They are in situations were they are compromised over and over again. These are some of the most common ways I see parents of toddlers shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. Do any of these sound familiar?
- *Naptime was reduced to 20 minutes in a car seat while mom ran errands.
*There are far too many choices in toys and therefore they destroy the play room Godzilla style and then completely meltdown when told to clean up.
*There is little to no private access to mom and dad, and they are in constant competion with siblings.
*There is not enough routine and predictablility in their daily life which leaves them in an almost contact state of anxiety and much more prone to act out.
*And the most common offender, they are not being watched with a preventative eye.
Toddlers are hardwired to seek out stimulation and experience it. The brain is absolutely starving for new sights, sounds, smells, and touches with which to cut new pathways. If your toddler is in a safe, developmentally appropritate environment where he or she can do this, there is much less need to for discipline and correction. Will they push your boundaries? Of course. They will regularly push to see if the limits are still there. But a well fed, well rested, well stimulated, and properly supervised toddler is far less likely to get into trouble. In my estimation, this makes up over half of the "discipline problems" parents think they are having. I routinely find myself asking questions like, "Why does he even have access to that?" or "When was the last time he had regular meals, naps, playtime and bedtime routine?"
What I want parents to understand is that no one can make parenting a toddler well easy, but there are things you can do to make it easier and more manageable. Protect their routines, be very selective about making them miss meals or naps, provide some sort of order and predictability to their life, and do your best to give them a bit of alone time with you each day, even if it is reading books or storytelling at bedtime. Let's set our kids' lives, and ours, up for success. Just because chaos is on the menu doesn't mean you have to keep ordering it.
Now, I know having a toddler can be challenging, but at least you don't have this one...