As a parent you soon store a bank of useful tips and tricks on how to deal with toddlers in the most effective way. Some are really obvious and get put into practice on a daily (if not hourly) basis, like being consistent, ignoring bad behaviour and choosing your battles.
Though even those require lots of practice and trial and error to make them work for your child. Being consistent and choosing your battles (they are inevitably linked) may seem dead simple, but paired to the fact that toddlers can be highly unpredictable and you are sometimes required to make split-second decisions, more often than not at the worst of times, can turn a simple practice into a minefield for the parent. I mean, you may regret a decision the moment you make it, but once you’ve voiced it, you need to stick with it no matter what. I can get very annoyed at myself in this process, which makes dealing with a tantruming toddler all the harder.
And other tricks are less obvious and come to you after a cathartic light bulb moment which may give you the euphoric feeling that your life (and that of your toddler) has been saved and you might be able to retain some sanity after all.
Unfortunately my brain is as messy as my house and time and again I forget to apply some of these pearls of wisdom I’ve discovered along the way until I suddenly rediscover how useful they really are.
One of those tricks I keep forgetting is the one I’ve mentioned in the dummy post: pre-warning. Seems pretty obvious again, and you do it automatically for out of the ordinary situations, like unexpected outings, etc. But what I keep forgetting is that sometimes the rule applies even in situations that don’t obviously require it. A few months ago Ella got clingy at daycare drop-off. What got her over it was a simple chat in the car on the way over there about the details of the drop-off process. “We’ll walk in, there are going to be some kids there already, what would you like to do when we get there, are you going to ride a bike, or go play in the sandpit? Then mummy’s going to leave and you can stay and play and I’ll pick you up again after afternoon tea” Worked a treat even though after nearly 3 years in daycare 5 days a week (and loving it!) you would think that she already knew the process. Never presume anything!
Another one that I have to remind myself of sometimes is to create opportunities for praise. Praising young kids to enforce desirable behaviour is pretty logical and becomes second nature for most parents. But there are times when it’s not enough to wait for an opportunity to reward them to arise. The more you praise them, the less they push the boundaries, the more compliant they become. So I try to think up simple tasks for Ella to perform for the sole purpose of creating an opportunity to praise her. Sometimes changing the way I phrase things is enough. I might ask her to help me do something instead of just telling her to do something. “Could you please help me with cooking Ella? Can you put this spoon in the sink for me? Wow, you’re such a great helper!” Easy to do, but also very easy to forget.
I suppose the good thing is that toddlers (at least mine) tend to keep you on your toes as a parent. You grow as much as they do and have no choice but to participate in the crash course in toddler handling that you have been volunteered for.