Ever since I hit the toddler stage, I’ve been devouring every reading material, listening to various resources, and watching all that I could lay my hands on to make our transition to this stage of life as smooth as possible.
What I didn’t know was that it would only last two years.
I’ve spent numerous hours curating content, books, and attempting to decipher research papers on countless topics, ranging from sleeping habits to eating patterns, and from behavioral insights to understanding consequences. Those two years have flown by so fast and I feel like we just started!
I know the tools I’ve been learning along the way to help teach my toddler to emotionally regulate and learn how to cope with stress, fear, anxiety, etc. doesn’t stop as soon as they turn three. Our toolkit can be carried along with us forever; it just needs some add-ons or perhaps the exchange of one tool for another, depending on life stages.
I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on everything that I’ve learned these past few years from baby to toddler.
I learned more about myself than I had in the past 30 years of life (I’m not counting the 2 years I was a potato/sponge). When I started out on this journey of non-traditional parenting I discovered there was a lot of things I needed to work on myself before I can be the parent that I was striving to be based on my research.
In doing so, I think I reflected on my upbringing a little too much and wasn’t able to make the changes in how I responded to certain triggers. However, I’ve started to shift my mindset and recognize when things affect me and, consequently, my child. My child has also been vocal, letting me know when my anger/frustration is really getting to him!
I’ve completely changed my perspective on what babies and toddlers can do. I began this journey wondering how to entertain my baby, and it evolved into how to entertain my toddler while fostering learning.
I knew I didn’t want a lot of screen time* because I read about the negative impacts it has on babies and toddlers. So, I set out on a whole approach on hands-on learning and sensory play — no matter the mess. Again, I read the books, watched the videos and did my best to make sure that each experience was age appropriate. It was definitely a challenge for me to keep my cool when things got messy and seven times out of ten, I did pretty okay. The other times I cried to myself later thinking I traumatized my child (which I didn’t).
*I want to add that I also knew that screen time was inevitable and added that into our toolkit after he turned two years old. The only thing he watched up until then was Ms. Rachel and Hey Bear. Now he watches a lot of Youtube content that’s only approved content by me and some Disney shows like Bluey and Dino Ranch!
I also didn’t realize how much babies and toddlers retained information and how quickly they were able to regurgitate back to you what you’ve been teaching them. I’m always amazed at how much my child wants to learn. He constantly asks the right questions to find out more information. I love that inquisitive mind and even though it annoys me to no end the endless “Why” and “How” questions I get, I’m so happy to know he’s trying to learn.
Being able to have the words to say how we feel. I’ve always been the one to have a quick temper and never really voiced what I was feeling. I usually hold everything inside until it bubbles over and I’ve burst like an active volcano. It’s not the way I want my child to perceive me or how they should show their emotions.
Learning about emotions and how to cope with what we call “negative” emotions, also known as mad/ anger/ frustration/ and extreme sadness, I’ve learned a lot how to better voice my feelings and emotions as well. With that knowledge, I’ve been able to effectively have my toddler name his emotions and find out what he wants or needs faster.
Being able to say what we need in our emotional distress. This one was a big game changer for us. Once we started working on finding out our needs it became a lot easier for the tantrums to cool off. I stopped trying to fix the issue at hand and reminded him of ways to help calm his heart so he can tell me when he needs. Sometimes I drop down and sit beside him and breathe deeply until he starts mirroring or I’ll simply ask, “Do you need me?”
Nine times out of ten he wants a hug. It seems to be working because now he’ll start asking what I need when I’m feeling frustrated. I just needed to stop and take deep breath.
Being able to show understanding and empathy during their big feelings. I’ve been following some scripts that I learned while listening to Janet Lansbury’s “Unruffled” podcast and it’s really surprising to see the connection that has been made between us. Instead of saying “Oh, I hear you, you’re sad” and leaving it at that I’ve started to expand on it and tell a story. “You’re sad because we didn’t stop to get a donut and you really wanted one! Ugh! That’s not fair!”
This has helped both of us work out his big feelings together and he also feels heard and understood in the moment. I noticed that after a few times of me storytelling his big feelings he’s started to explain more about what he’s feeling and why it made him angry or sad.
Being able to apologize and repair after the rupture. When I first learned of the “repair” concept from Dr. Becky “Good Inside” it really resonated with me as something that I would like to do with my toddler. I know I feel better after an argument with my husband when we both acknowledge what we’ve done to the other to cause a reaction/big emotion out of each other.
When we apologize for OUR actions it shows that we know what we did and own up to it. I started to do the same for my toddler and I feel that cemented the bond we have and created our open communication to talk about our feelings or when we feel hurt by someone else.
With my toddler being in preschool and I’m starting to work more I’m starting to see the growth in us and the distance that is being created organically. Lately, I’ve been constantly trying to keep us on the go and doing activities together that I realized I needed to slow down and take it all in.
We’ve made it through three years already… This stage doesn’t last long.
Take your time, mama.