Toddler years are magical and challenging. My youngest child is just transitioning into a more independent and mature stage of her childhood and I am desperately trying to capture in my memories every aspect of her personality, character, and innocence and that toddlers possess. But I had to train myself to appreciate every aspect of this early stage of the child’s development. Here is what I’ve learned.
Parenting a toddler becomes painful, tiring, and exhausting when (like pretty much in every sphere of life) our expectations do not line up with reality. Yet, when we understand the way a child’s brain develops and the processes that occur within their little bodies, when we get equipt with the right tools to support the child’s emotional, physical, and psychological growth, we feel much more in control and can adjust our expectations to meet the reality of raising a toddler. We gain a totally different perspective that transforms our relationships and parenting experience.
We are often programmed to focus on ‘educational’ experiences for our little toddlers. These are certainly important and beneficial, but they stand lower on the pyramid of the child’s needs. Once we have attended to their emotional and physical needs, we can confidently start nurturing their curiosity and cognitive functions.
“Michael Potegal PhD, a paediatric neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota, has spent many years studying tantrums and how and why young children have such emotional outbursts. He concluded that “…these outbursts are as normal biological response to frustration, as a yawn is to tiredness.
He says, “…it is so normal, that one could make a science out of the progression of a tantrum and predict one down to a second.” Infants from eighteen months to four years are hardwired to misbehave. Potegal says that the underdeveloped prefrontal lobe is what allows children to master language and the child’s disagreeable behaviour “…is most likely an evolutionary trade off for the sake of human communication.” While this might make parenting more challenging, it is good to know that tantrums actually serve an evolutionary purpose”. Source
“Help me to do it myself”.
Below I posted “Letter from a toddler” written by a wonderful mum DTRoman. We often hear advice that to understand the child’s perspective, we need to lower down at their level to observe the world from their point of view. This letter is a small window into the child’s world to help us comprehend their perception of reality. It is there to help parents and educators align expectations with reality and make parenting and caring for young children a fulfilling experience.
“Today I woke up and wanted to get dressed by myself but was told, “No, we don’t have time, let me do it.” This made me sad. I wanted to feed myself for breakfast but was told, “No, you’re too messy, let me do it for you. This made me feel frustrated.
I wanted to walk to the car and get in on my own but was told, “No, we need to get going, we don’t have time. Let me do it. This made me cry. I wanted to get out of the car on my own but was told: “No, we don’t have time, let me do it. This made me want to run away.
Later I wanted to play with blocks but was told: “no, not like that, like this…” I decided I didn’t want to play with blocks anymore. I wanted to play with a doll that someone else had, so I took it. I was told “No, don’t do that! You have to share. I’m not sure what I did, but it made me sad. So I cried. I wanted a hug but was told: “No, you’re fine, go play”.
I’m being told it’s time to pick up. I know this because someone keeps saying, “Go pick up your toys.” I am not sure what to do, I am waiting for someone to show me. “What are you doing? Why are you just standing there? Pick up your toys, now!”
I was not allowed to dress myself or move my own body to get to where I needed to go, but now I am being asked to pick things up.
I’m not sure what to do. Is someone supposed to show me how to do this? Where do I start? Where do these things go? I am hearing a lot of words but I do not understand what is being asked of me. I am scared and do not move. I lay down on the floor and cry.
When it was time to eat I wanted to get my own food but was told “no, you’re too little. Let me do it. This made me feel small. I tried to eat the food in front of me but I did not put it there and someone keeps saying “Here, try this, eat this…” and putting things in my face. I didn’t want to eat anymore. This made me want to throw things and cry.
I can’t get down from the table because no one will let me…because I’m too small and I can’t. They keep saying I have to take a bite. This makes me cry more. I’m hungry and frustrated and sad. I’m tired and I need someone to hold me. I do not feel safe or in control. This makes me scared. I cry even more.
I am 2. No one will let me dress myself, no one will let me move my own body where it needs to go, no one will let me attend to my own needs. However, I am expected to know how to share, “listen”, or “wait a minute”. I am expected to know what to say and how to act or handle my emotions. I am expected to sit still or know that if I throw something it might break….But, I do NOT know these things.
I am not allowed to practice my skills of walking, pushing, pulling, zipping, buttoning, pouring, serving, climbing, running, throwing or doing things that I know I can do. Things that interest me and make me curious, these are the things I am NOT allowed to do.
I am 2. I am not terrible…I am frustrated. I am nervous, stressed out, overwhelmed, and confused. I need a hug.”