So I have a friend who is a teacher- specialized in early childhood- and she's worked in a number of day care centers. She LOVES working with toddlers and really gets them. She just had a baby in Feb, and we're finding ourselves turning to each other quite a bit because I'm looking to her for advice on parenting Beni, and she's been asking me lots of questions about her mysterious to her newborn. It's a great arrangement!
Anyway...so she emailed me the other day in response to a couple things I wrote her- and I thought I would share what she wrote!
So first she started off by addressing mindset in general, which is so important! Here is what she said:
Probably more important that specific strategies is just sort of setting your mindset to being with a toddler. (Interestingly, all three courses I've taken this semester have led me to focus heavily on mindset - it's what I'm writing my mega paper on now. Obviously I'm writing about teaching, but it definitely applies to parenting and actually I think really to everything in life. The message is - your mindset has a whole lot more to do with your success than with strategies - we've all got strategies and can be taught strategies until you're blue in the face, but if you don't have the right mindset when using them, it won't matter. With the right mindset, your gut will tell you which strategies to use and if those don't work, you'll try different ones until you get success - does that make sense?)
And then specifically in dealing with toddlers:
So the two biggest messages I think I have for toddler mindset are: 1. It is their job at the age/stage of development to physically become more independent from their parents/caretakers. The best comparison I read is the toddlerhood is to physical independence what adolescence is to emotional independence. Like teenagers are all over the place with their emotions, trying to figure out their place in the world, how their emotions fit into their world, trying to navigate and control their emotional world and often act irresponsibly and do things that they are not ready for emotionally - so are toddlers physically. So all that throwing and any other physical stuff (in my experience - biting is the WORST), climbing, dumping, destroying, etc. everything that makes us crazy, is them just trying to figure out their physical world and assert their independence even through they might not really be ready for it. So your job with this is obviously to help make sure that they stay safe first of all, and just talk talk talk to them about what they're doing - what's ok, not ok, redirecting to what is ok. Literally being a broken record. And like you said, not taking it personally, as hard as it is.
2. Be consistent. Mostly be patient in your consistence. That is a huge message I got from my course in dealing with difficult students this semester. Mostly we expect kids to get it straight away and start getting twice as mad/frustrated when they seem to get it and start doing what we want and then go back to their old ways again. It is always a roller coaster - they're on a journey and we are looking for progress, not perfection.
So....I realize I haven't told you anything you don't already know! It's just a matter of keeping all that in mind when you're dealing with impossible toddlers. It's just part of who they are, and if you can remember that and understand what it is they're trying to learn about their world (and appreciate all the cool stuff that goes on in this phase with them learning about their world), it just makes it a bit easier. I really do remember feeling like a broken record those days, but it works!
She also later said:
Something else I learned in my course about succeeding with difficult children is that you have to make sure you are giving them time to make the decision on their own and you have to let them grumble about it as they're doing it without jumping all over them about that. When you have a fiercely independent kid, the key is just to get them doing what you want, not necessarily that they will do it happily - they have to save face in asserting their independence. That kinds of makes sense to me with fiercely independent toddlers too - like if they have to fuss or tantrum a bit but ultimately do it, look at that as progress and just ignore the fuss that goes along with it - if you positively reinforce simply the fact that they did it, eventually they'll start doing it without the fuss.
I just really appreciated what she was able to say to me... like she said, it wasn't necessarily anything I haven't heard before, but, I don't know- the way she said it, or the timing of saying it to me, made a difference. I love having people I can turn to (this board included), because I think we as parents/humans bring our own stuff into parenting as well (because it's pretty much impossible NOT to!)- and despite our best intentions, it's easy to get caught up in our own stuff, or forget what we know, etc.
Anyway, I have also noticed that since she wrote me, and I have been able to sort of re-focus myself, Beni and I have been having a much easier time of it, which is great. So again, that is why I thought I would share.