Sometimes toddlers and preschoolers do funny things, and parents ask, “Why is it that I can’t get Little Jimmy to drink anything but chocolate milk with his school lunch?” “Why is it Little Abby only has worn cowboy boots for the past three months every day?”
And then there are mothers of older teenagers and sometimes their list of worries can be much more serious and upsetting: sexting, driving home with a drunk driver, car accidents, drug and alcohol use, graduating high school, teenage pregnancy, getting into college, saving money from a job so there will be something to start out in life with, the possibility of rape; the list goes on. Even if we have total confidence in our wonderful teenagers and their abilities to make great choices, the list can still be there in the back of our minds.
It is an interesting juxtaposition.
Thinking about some of the bigger issues that older teenagers can face makes the issue of chocolate milk and cowboy boots seem what they are – small issues that will pass in time. It is not that these topics don’t deserve thought and consideration. Not at all! But sometimes it can be helpful to hear and see older children in action. The older child and teenager is where your toddler and preschooler someday will be.
This is not to negate the really important job of raising a toddler and preschooler because these years are the foundation of the years to come. You may really not be over-thinking it, but just building a long-range perspective can take years.
I remember being a new mother and I DID feel like a deer in the headlights with my toddlers and preschoolers. Now I have an almost 14 year old and a five year old, with a ten year old in between, and I am starting to understand where mothers of the older teenagers are coming from with some of their worries and a bigger picture than picky eating or sleeping (although those things are super important at the time and when you are in the middle of it!). I am forever humbled at every turn.
Going back to basics always helps. SOCIETY makes parenting toddlers and preschoolers MUCH HARDER than it should be. We have forgotten what tiny children are all about and what the media and often even what mainstream groups that cater to toddlers, preschoolers and their parents show us as “normal” is actually a version of adulthood brought down and made over for these tiny ages – and so much of it is commercially driven, at least in American society.
The rules of parenting the toddler and preschooler should simply revolve around rescuing your toddler from near-death several times an hour (exhausting!), rest and sleep, trying to get a toddler to eat and potty train (exhausted yet?), helping guide a toddler’s wants and needs, and playing! Where society makes it hard is that it is not child-friendly, and with all the “experts” out there, mothers have forgotten how to be the expert on their own child. Also, there are no longer great support networks for new parents that provide the “real deal” as to what these tiny ages are about!
Remember, the way to get these things “done” with a toddler or preschooler is
- Rhythm – Rhythm and consistency, not over- talking and over- explaining, is the KEY to discipline!
- Outdoor time
- An unhurried, happy life
- Rest and sleep
- Not feeling as if a tiny child constantly needs bigger, better, to be pushed, more stimulation, more classes outside the home – RESIST the urge to bring the adult world to your child. Ask yourself, did I do this when I was a child of that age or did I do it in middle school and high school??
- The idea that childhood should be PROTECTED
- Free yourself from the idea that a small child needs to be entertained. They need meaningful work and over time they need to develop the ability to occupy themselves in the home environment with play
Developing a long-term understanding of the development of the human being can be a helpful guide in a society where developmental stages are not valued. I am so grateful for all the parents out there that do try, that do worry, that do work to help guide their children. Thank you for being such good parents!