I love my kids with everything in me, and yet sometimes my toddler makes me want to pull my hair out. I know it can’t just be me. My goal is to be more intentional with my toddler, and maybe you’d like that too. Even so, sometimes, I sing my own rendition of Gonna Make Me Lose My Mind to him just to keep a slight grip on reality.
Over the years of babysitting, teaching, nannying and now parenting, I’ve come to the realization that when I want to turn around and run (or throw a temper tantrum right along with him) is actually the time I need to turn toward him the most. If I’m honest, my toddler’s behavior is often the result of my distraction, preoccupation, or unintentional parenting. I’m not saying my little threenager is off the hook, I’m just realizing how much of a difference being intentional in my parenting makes. I’m far from perfect, but these are six ways I’m trying to be more intentional with my toddler.
Set a Timer
How often during the day do we as moms hear “Will you play with me?” So. Many. Times. And how often during the day do we respond with “Not now” “Maybe later” “I’m busy” or “Just a minute”? When I transitioned to a full time stay at home mom, I was sure I’d finally get to spend time just playing with my son. I was shocked when I looked up one day and realized that I’d spent the entire day putting him off because I was busy doing other things. And now he was in full on terror mode, just trying to get my attention the only way he knew how!
I feel so blessed to be able to stay home with my kids full time now, and it was a wake up call to me to realize that I was missing the point already! To combat this, I’ve been more intentional with planning our week ahead of time, to make sure we have at least one outing where we can play together. And during the day, I will often set a timer for 15-30 min, put my phone in another room, and just let him lead our play. It gives me quality time with my son and it fills him up, too. His behavior is always better when I am intentional with my toddler and make sure that we have time together.
Another writer for QC Moms has some great toddler-centric activities you could try.
Put Down the Phone
When my phone started showing me how much time I actually spent on it, I realized that I had been wasting alot of precious time. *face palm* I don’t want my kids growing up seeing mommy’s face with a rectangle in front of it. I don’t want my kids to learn to tune people out or to numb their problems by going to their device – and that’s exactly what I was teaching my son. It’s an ongoing struggle, but I’m committed to putting the phone down especially at mealtimes and when we are playing. Having my full attention makes my toddler feel loved and valued, which in turn helps him make better choices. (And being on my phone less hasn’t exactly been bad for me either!)
Schedule One on One Time
We added a second child into our family this past summer, and since then I’ve become keenly aware of how much less one on one time I have with my first born. It’s been hard on both of us! My husband and I started to take just him on adventures or out for a special meal, and when my husband is home we make a very intentional effort to play with him when his sister is sleeping and to take turns playing with him one on one. This has made a world of difference in his attitude and behavior, and I can always tell when we’ve not done it enough! He adores his sister and acts like such a big helper that it’s easy to forget that he still needs that special attention too.
Make Time for Questions
If you have or ever have had a toddler in your home, you know that adults are basically like human google to them. The questions never end and they expect you to be able to answer all of them. It’s so tempting to just shrug, tune them out or say “I don’t know” but questions are how they learn! I have to remind myself all the time that there will be a time when I have to wrestle words out of him, and I want to be intentional with my toddler now, so I’m trying to reprogram my brain to be thankful for all the talking!
We try to make mealtimes and car rides times where we all talk together, and I do my best to answer the questions that he has. (Never have I felt more inadequate at explaining things!) Bedtime is also a time that my son loves to ask questions and wants to talk. Sure, a lot of it is stalling and sure, I just want him to go to sleep so I can sit in silence but again – he’s not going to want me to tuck him in and talk with him when he’s a teenager. I’m trying to soak it in! Because I am in fact, not Google and do not know everything, we started a note in my phone to hold all our questions and we research the answers together later.
Get on Their Level to be Intentional with your Toddler
When someone is taller than you and possibly annoyed with you, don’t you just feel a little bit like a peon? But if someone is annoyed with you, and takes the time to sit down with you and have a conversation, wouldn’t you feel like some of the tension drained out of the situation? I constantly have to remind myself of this when I aim to be intentional with my toddler.
Getting on his level communicates that I care enough about him to come to him, that I realize he can’t physically, mentally or emotionally meet my level yet, and that I want us to reconcile. Yelling at him from across the room or booming at him from above his head not only comes across harsh (though there is a time and place for it, i.e. safety!), Let’s be honest – he’s a boy! He probably hasn’t heard a word I’ve said!
When I get down on his level, put my hands on his and speak softly he listens nine times out of 10. Sure, I want to blow a gasket and it takes a lot of deep breathing on my part, but it’s so worth it! It’s a lot easier to break through his imaginary world and have an actual conversation when our faces are at the same level.
Hug When You Want to Yell
I never knew I was an angry person until I became a parent. Truly. I never knew it was possible to come unglued in quite this way until I had a toddler. I read somewhere about the concept of coming closer when all you want to do is yell, and I’ve found it to be life-changing.
One day, my son and I were about to go round and round and all of a sudden I just stopped and asked, “Do you need a hug?” He looked at me with tears and said, “YES!” We hugged, we talked and we moved on. To me this combines everything above because it’s making time for him, getting on his level, and coming close when we both want to run away.
It forces me to remember that he isn’t in control of his emotions and that I have a responsibility to be in control of mine. It’s really hard to be upset with someone when you’re hugging them. It’s kind of like a reset button. No, it won’t fix everything every time, and yes there still needs to be consequences. But taking a minute to breathe, hug and refocus can be so healing – for both parent and toddler.
I’m no perfect parent. I still lose my temper and have to apologize. I still get sucked into my phone sometimes. But I’m trying every day to be more intentional with my toddler and in my parenting, especially in these early years. These little humans are going to run the world someday, and I want to do my best to give them the great start they deserve.
Here’s to imperfect progress and more intentional parenting!
How do you handle your toddler’s crazy days? I’d love to hear your take on how you try to be more intentional with your toddler too!
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