by Joanne Baum, PhD
You no longer are operating in that sleep deprived state. You rarely have spit up on your clothes. You've got the diaper thing down pat, and now your child is beginning to voice his or her concerns, desires, needs, and wants with actual words, sometimes more forcefully than others. You have patience, but it only goes so far, and you're occasionally wishing there was a button to push and mum your child for a few minutes of quiet time....
Down time? Do you remember that? When you could sit on the deck and read for a few hours without interruption...where going on a date with your spouse was not a major financial investment...when babysitters were not even on your radar screen...when skiing was something you did spontaneously...and when this wonderful small human being was not even in your life and you saw parenting as an adventure you were going to embark on as a lovely image in slow motion with a pink haze filter of love looking so alluring.
Now your life is more of a fast paced jumble with you at the center playing juggler with too few arms and hands. Who knew? Not to worry -- all new parents are in the same position, loving most of it and wondering, at times, how long is 18 years or what did I get myself into.
Remember to slow down, watch your child carefully, and be in awe of and in awe with your child, all he is learning and all she is experiencing. Let your child re-introduce you to the world of child time, filled with wonder and awe.
Respect your child's individuality. Watch how your child copes. Marvel at his ingenuity, enjoy her creativity. See how your child manipulates through a day. It's all still new and challenging to you and your child.
Appreciate your child's moods. Appreciate your child's efforts to interact with the world around him. Understand your child's challenges and frustrations, and avoid some of them.
Watch for your child's signals that he is hungry, lonely, tired, needs to be changed, or frustrated and try to avoid those times by anticipating them in advance and circumventing them with fewer errands, healthy snacks, respecting nap time as necessary for your child to rejuvenate herself.
Avoid "stimulation overload", which translates into doing too much or being exposed to too much visual and/or auditory stimulation, so your child has to let out the extra stimuli in the form of a tantrum, screaming or other behaviors that are telling you you've pushed your child too much and he or she needs a quiet break.
Incorporate time outs into your family routine. You can all take them when you're too emotional to react kindly or gently. Go sit someplace, figure out what's bothering you, and how you want to handle it differently. Then exit out, go back to your family, and share what you've figured out with them. You'll be able to enjoy each other again. Anyone can ask anyone else to please take a time out so you can have a pleasant time together. It's not punishment, it's meant to be a time you can cool out/calm down, by yourself, and come back with a different, lighter attitude.
Toddlers and two-year-olds are incredibly curious small human beings. Their brains are firing off connections at an incredible rate. They are led by their curiosity -- don't squelch it, it's the way they learn. Encourage your child's explorations in safe ways. Marvel at the way your child's mind works.
Focus on your child. Answer all her inquiries and all his questions completely so you can share your knowledge and insights about the world with your child.
Respectfully parent your child and become an awe-full parent -- filled with awe and understanding. Respect involves listening to, considering, liking, enjoying and being in a mutual, interactive relationship with your child.