The toddler years are a burst of social, emotional, and cognitive development. As their skills of discovery, exploration, and curiosity evolve, so does their desire for independence. As parents face the challenge of navigating a new and emotional next phase of childhood, they find themselves in unchartered territory – piloting big toddler emotions while also instilling confidence in their growing independence.
When we consider the morning routine of a toddler, (for example get dressed, potty train, eat breakfast, travel to school), it is interesting to think about how much control they have in this process (other than the early hour they wake, of course). A lack of control can feel overwhelming and scary even to the most fully developed humans and for our toddlers, this can manifest in many ways. We would be hard-pressed to find a parent who hasn’t experienced a mealtime battle or stress getting out of the door on time. Working with strong emotions can feel next to impossible alongside the never-ending list of adult responsibilities. But, when you think of this from a child’s perspective, most toddlers are not given many choices in their daily routine at all. After all, what is independence without freedom of choice?
Understanding the toddler mindset, with their strong desire to be an independent doer and thinker, can help parents anticipate ways to plan and adapt. We often underestimate the power of choice as a tool for redirection or better yet, adapting and accommodating multiple needs. Presenting choices offers our toddlers a sense of control no matter what the situation and can disarm even the biggest of power struggles. As moments of concentration and cooperation can be fleeting (or interrupted), the idea of being able to read a toddler’s mind and anticipate their next move can be formidable for any parent. However, the resilience of children is always impressive, as they tend to forge ahead no matter the context if presented with the right direction. By capitalizing on our toddler’s curiosity through choice-making, we are not only engaging and motivating, but we are also affirming their wants and needs.
With every new parenting stage, we face inevitable challenges which make the previous phase seem like a piece of cake. This is perhaps why toddlerhood feels like such a mountain to climb – as we look back on more familiar routines of infant and baby life. There is something to be said for reflecting on how far we have come as parents to help us in these demanding toddler moments. But it can also be useful to look even further back to pre-parenthood, to help us empathize with our toddler today. Prior to becoming parents, adults can exercise control and live with their independence intact. We often forget that by being parents, we are also facing a new negotiation to our autonomy. During toddlerhood, whether we like it or not, there exists a real element of compromise as we both adapt to this new phase. At the end of the day, parents and toddlers must navigate this transition together, where the value of newfound confidence and independence can be shared.
Alexandra Lima is the owner of Bermuda Kids, a Kindermusik™ Accredited program offering early childhood music and movement education. For more information on Bermuda Kids please visit www.bermudakids.kindermusik.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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