Thursday, 21 November 2013

What I wish I'd known about toddlerdom before I got here

So, here is my post that's all about things about having a toddler that books can't prepare you for, no matter how many you read.

I don't care that we are going out in five minutes, I want to go out NOW

1.  The tantrum that you thought would end all tantrums will be worse later.

OK, they've just starting toddling and thus they are a toddler.  They throw a tantrum because you said they couldn't have more banana or because you said they couldn't walk round the supermarket and should sit in the trolley.  It is horrific.  They shout, they scream, they hit their fists on the floor and dig in their heels and you can't imagine it will get any worse.  Here's the problem though, they are quite small just now but they will be a toddler till they are at least three, they will get bigger, they will get stronger and they will get better at knowing how to push your button, they are clever, you see.

That said, my experience is that the tantrums get less frequent, as they child becomes slightly (only slightly) more rational, they stop being an every day occurrence BUT when they do occur, they get even more horrific.  Sorry.

2.  As an adult you have to learn that toddlers are not often rational

"Mummy, the ball is round, I want it to be square"
"Mummy, I want to splash in puddles but not get wet"
"Mummy, I want to bake a cake even though you don't have any eggs"
"Mummy, I know I kept you up all night but I now need you to be fun [read energetic]"
"Mummy, this pen won't wipe off my hand"
"Mummy, this ice cube is cold"

These are all real examples of things my toddler has been upset about.  When we first hit toddlerdom I thought I would be able to reason with her, explain to her, help her be rational.  Not so.  And toddlers shouldn't be rational because the whole point about this phase is that they are working out how the world works and how they relate to it.  It is healthy to go through it and it would be unhealthy for them to stay as a baby and never go through this.

3.  It is tiring. No, scrap that, it's exhausting.

The baby phase is physically exhausting, all those night feeds and cuddling, settling, pram pushing and soothing and it is a good thing that it passes but I have found that the next stage is emotionally draining and as such just as exhausting, albeit in a different way.

There is only so much time you can spend in the company of someone who climbs on you, moans at you, doesn't listen to you, fights the simplest of instruction but also likes to be right under your elbow at all times before it takes its toll and you want/need a break.  You know what? That's alright and I recommend you find a way to get some time out. (This looks different for different people, for me it is running for others it is a nap, whatever it is, find your way to rest.)

4.  There's no "right" way to deal with things.

No matter what the books say or your supernanny types like to spout, there is no right way to do things and it is all a bit trial and error.  Also, things might work for a while but always be prepared to adapt.  For a long time we did time out and it worked well but lately I have noticed that it has left me focussing on the negative and making me shouty.  I am about to change to more of a reward chart (well jar) based coping strategy so that I spend more time focussing on the positive and rewarding what is good rather than punishing what is bad.

On this subject, my one top tip is to know that you cannot change your toddler but you can change yourself.  The days that my toddler(s) are least compliant and most naughty are the days that *I* am tired and *I* am grumpy.  Choosing to be calm and rational myself creates an environment where others are calm and rational (even the two year olds).

5.  It WILL get easier

If you are reading this because you have found yourself thrown into a pit of toddler tantrums and unreasonableness then please know, it WILL get easier.  I am by no means out of it (not least of all as I went and had another baby!!) but I can see it easing, changing, become less of a constant battle zone.  It's true what they say, this too shall pass!  It might be hard and I think you can speed the process by engaging with it rather than ignoring it and hoping it will just disappear, but it will pass.

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