Saturday, January 15, 2011

If My Toddler Was a Grownup

I have a sweet little girl who is 22 months old. She is in her terrible twos and sometimes life with her is challenging. When she started having her temper tantrums, I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I also felt guilty because I was the one who got pregnant and couldn't be there for her as much as she needed me to. Initially, we reacted to her tantrums and naughty behavior in a very negative way. They made us angry, frustrated, and just wore us out.
For the last few weeks, I have been trying a different approach. I have asked myself what it would be like if my toddler was not this small, weak being, but a grownup like myself. Would I still scold her as much? Put her in time-outs? Forcibly put her places she doesn't want to go, such as her highchair? We all know the answer- not only would I not physically be able to do it, I wouldn't treat a grownup like that.

I have been blessed with an extraordinarily good memory. I can recall several things from my early childhood, going back as far as the age of about 1 1/2. And one of the strongest emotions I remember is that of frustration and powerlessness. Over things that I now find unimportant, such as a toy I really wanted to play with, or not wanting to go to bed at night. At that time, though, they were everything that mattered to me. Not being taken seriously was very hurtful. I want to incorporate this into my parenting.

Of course, R is still a small child and she is developmentally far from being a grownup. The question is, does that make her wants and needs any less strong, any less important? The answer I found for myself was NO. This revelation is highly impractical, as you can imagine. If I consider her wishes to be just as important and valid as mine or my husband's, every day life will be chaos. Or will it?

For the past few weeks, I have tried to actively avoid any meltdowns or tantrums by keeping R doing what she wants to do. And it has worked fabulously!!! She has been so much happier, more loving, better behaved. Which in turn has made me so much happier and more relaxed. I'm having fun with my child again and it is fantastic! What did I change? Every time there is something that she wants to have or do, I put myself in her shoes. I think about whether her request is reasonable and if it is, then why not? Just because I would like to check my Facebook page does not mean she should not be able to draw with her crayons. Sometimes, mummy doesn't need to get what she wants. If what she wants isn't doable, I explain it to her as best I can.

I know, a lot of you are going to say that she needs to learn that she can't always get what she wants, etc. To that I say true, but I, as a grownup, can tell you that not getting what I want still sucks most of the time. If my husband comes to me with a request for something, I respect him by having an open ear and at least considering his want. I vow to do the same for my children in the future, whenever possible. There will be lots of situations in which my kids will not be able to get their way- especially when it involves dangerous situations- but I will treat them like they are grownups, show them some respect, and at least listen to what they have to say.


  1. Love it! I think empathy is so important, even when Cole can't have his way because something is too dangerous I try to communicate to him that I understands he wants it and I share his disappointment.

  2. I agree totally with you.. they say that they don't understand at this age ..Well, they do.. and my child is the proof as many other children.. all they need is some extra time ,,