“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” — Mister Rogers
Ahhh, the toddler years. I always wonder what these old ladies mean when they give me the ‘enjoy every single second of it, they’re the best years of your life’ speech. On occasion, they make the future appear a little bleak. I find myself thinking about redirection and need and the annoyingly high volumes that toddlerhood requires. Having a child or children under the age of five isn’t for the fainthearted, but one thing I know for certain, these years are some of the most important. I won’t tell you to enjoy (and love) every single second, but I will say we need to tough it out and quit being so hard on our kids and on ourselves.
Let’s talk about few of the phases toddlers enter that seem to never end (but I promise you, they do). Because maybe, if we all admit that our kids go through tough times, we won’t feel like failures when our kids go through tough times.
Hitting/Biting :: This is the most frustrating phase for most parents (and children alike). My son had a small obsession with little girls’ hair bows when he was a bouncy two year old. They are awfully ornate in his defense, but his thing was to grab and pull. Have you ever witnessed a two year old getting her hair pulled? It was painful each and every time, but like I said, it was his thing. I must have redirected him and said ‘gentle hands’ 56,000 times that year, to no real avail. He just grew out of it.
I have a friend whose son was a biter. I’m not going to lie, I felt bad for her. Not because I believed there was something wrong with her son, but because I knew the other moms were going to eat her alive. I’m not sure when normal childhood behaviors landed our kids on the judgmental mommy spectrum, but it’s intense out there these days. Obviously these behaviors aren’t any fun for anyone. But they are very normal. If you take your child to their pediatrician and say that they one time bit another child, they will probably laugh and say “welcome to toddlerhood”. It’s like a right of passage as a mom. Yep, all kids included. *Chronic hitting and biting are different behaviors. Don’t let the mean mommies at the playground convince you that your child is a chronic anything, but use your intuition to decide. Chronic aggressive behaviors often indicate a different need.
Distaste for Sharing :: Some kids like to share, while others don’t. I see so many posts about the importance of sharing and it is such a moot point in my opinion. Children do grow into pro-social beings and at some point in their lives and they’ll realize the benefits of sharing. Everyone wins. Yes, we should persuade our kids to share, and even let them experience the disappointment they’ll witness when they don’t. Because it’s not an earth ending decision to say no to sharing toys at the park. As parents, we can really help our children through this phase by bringing more than one toy, never bringing their favorite toy, and occasionally letting them say no. They’ll learn to share. It’s a phase that they need to experience. It’s critical to their pro-social behavior later in life, yes, but it’s not crucial each and every time. Sharing is a very hard concept for some children, but it doesn’t need to be taken personally. Each child you meet is on a journey, and it’s impossible to tell exactly where they are on that path. Give grace, it’s just a phase.
Back Talk/Arguing :: This tends to happen in public, right where we wish it never would. It’s interesting to me how I hear parents saying they want their children to grow up strong minded and confident, but as toddlers, we can barely handle this behavior. Mostly because at their age, it isn’t really rational. But it’s still uber important and normal. This has been the easiest phase for us because it doesn’t bother me to have a solid argument from my son. I really do enjoy that he cares enough about his personal happiness to plead his case. But, he approached me at the gym the other day and said “I don’t like you, I just like Daddy’. Okay, that’s fine. I literally walk away from that because for one, it isn’t true. And for two, that’s not how we get what we want in life, so I don’t feed it any attention. I’m sure if anyone else heard it, they might form an opinion about my son, me, my parenting, etc. That’s okay too. We talked it out later and I reminded him of the Golden Rule. We agreed that even when you have strong emotions, you don’t have to blurt them out. And it’s okay, it’s just a phase.
Do your children seem to phase through behavior? Which phases have been harder than others? Do you feel criticized for allowing your children to be typical toddlers?