Toddlers terrify me.
I have never been much of a kid person. I babysat as a teenager and worked in the church nursery and at VBS growing up, and I have always liked babies. They are cute. They are fun to hold. They cry sometimes, but it’s nothing a boob or pacifier or bottle or change of diaper or scenery or a nap can’t fix.
Toddlers, however, absolutely scare me to death. They have strong emotions and limited communication skills; they are like babies, except they can walk and exert their wills and opinions and throw fits and still need their diapers changed and oh my word, do I miss exclusively breastfed diapers.
And here’s the thing: Sam is a toddler. He walks sometimes, he says words, and he throws a fit when I brush his teeth.
I love him to death. He’s an amazing, funny, cute kid. I’m not crazy about other children, but I love mine.
But can I just say that I am entering the next phase of motherhood with much trepidation? I just got the baby stage somewhat figured out, you know?
I don’t know how to handle tantrums, and I know his tantrums now as a 1-year-old are nothing compared to the full-blown meltdowns of 2, and 3, and 4 (and 5, and 6…etc). I don’t know how to train him in obedience.
Like, we have this lamp in our front room. He broke one lamp already, and he keeps going for this lamp like it’s magnetic and he’s iron. A firm “No! Hurt the baby!” is met with a giggle and that impish grin as he goes for it anyway. Redirection is met with a tantrum — short-lived, yes, but a tantrum none the less. We have started, in addition to the firm-nos and the redirection, giving him a little swat on his (well-padded, diapered) bottom. It’s mostly meant to be a “Hey! Listen to me when I tell you no.” That seems to be working a little better — he’ll start to go for the lamp and stop and at least think about it for a second before going to play with something else, or going for the lamp anyway.
I’m okay with this method. It seems to be working, like I said, but then some voice inside my brain, the voice of the brainwashed member of the attachment parenting cult I used to be, starts in. And I get scared again. Am I doing the right thing? How do I get him to listen to me and to stop when I tell him to stop, immediately? I’m wondering this for his own well-being — when he’s 3 and running pell-mell for the street or something, and I yell for him to STOP I don’t want him to giggle and run out in the street anyway. You know? It’s my job to protect him, even from himself.
I’m just trying to be consistent, and to outlast him in any battles of wills. Which right now isn’t too hard to do, but I’m thinking might become more difficult as he gets older. I also just try to talk to him a lot — I think he picks up a great deal of what I am saying, even if he can’t always respond back, so I just make life a running commentary: You can’t touch the lamp because it could hurt you and I love you too much to let you get hurt like that; we have to brush our teeth because having good dental hygiene is important, isn’t it fun to brush our teeth like Mama and Daddy do? I know you don’t want to be in your car seat but it’s non-negotiable, sorry. We’ll get out as soon as we get to the grocery store, etc.
But toddlers scare me. For real. Some people are great with toddlers and little kids and yet the thought of having teenagers makes them stay awake at night worrying. The teenage years? Don’t scare me. Well, much. I think Sam will be a pretty cool teenager (and by “cool” I don’t mean “socially cool” because his parents were not at all, and I am going to try my darndest to make him polite, kind, empathetic, godly, etc, but not “cool” by the standards of today’s young people), even if he will eat us out of house and home.
How do I do this next stage? And how do I do it well, not just survive it? I don’t want to just survive mothering a toddler. I want to be intentional about how I discipline and teach him. I’m sure there will be days where I just hope to make it out alive but overall, I’d like to have a more optimistic outlook than that.
I guess I say all that to say this: if you have young children, and I don’t fawn over them immediately, don’t take it personally. I just have no idea what to say or do with kids. And now I have one. Fortunately, I think he likes me, and I like him, so hopefully it’ll turn out alright in the end.
And I’ll pray a lot, to fill in the gaps and the areas where I screw up.
Any tips for disciplining a toddler? Any tips for not just surviving but thriving in the toddler stage of parenthood? Tell me stories. I need stories.