One of the most important qualities I wanted to make sure my now teenager daughter and I had with each other while she was growing up were honesty and trust. I raised her with manners and morals — important values I think that all children should have. And now, raising a teen and a toddler, I've realized that these life lessons are important for my little one to learn, too. In fact, they're a good life lessons for us all.
When times get tough and my tot and I are in the middle of a temper tantrum stare down, here are the most important things I always try to remind myself of:
1. Lead by example. If you want you toddler to be and act a certain way, make sure your actions are consistent with that, too. Get down to their level and look them in the eyes. When you do this you communicate better with them and let them see through action you respect them. If they turn their eyes away, direct them to look into your eyes so they understand what your expectations are. You will be surprised how much this works (I certainly was!).
2. Use an "inside voice" no matter what. It's hard, but one thing I never let my toddler do is raise their tone with me. It is easy for the habit to start when the little ones are young and as parents we tend to let them get a pass because we think they don't know any better. I disagree. They are perfectly aware around 2 years old that screaming at their parents is not okay. When your toddler gets crazy, try to turn the discipline into a fun game of "Follow the leader" or, "I do, you do." This shadow game is amazing as your kids grow — they won't even realize their actions are being redirected!
3. Weekly check-ins: Use them! Start with mommy and me time when your kids are younger. As you child grows, turn it into a movie night, a mommy and me date night, or just making sure to ask how their day was at dinnertime. I love this time together! It allows us to better understand our children as they are grow into individuals.
4. Do more things together. Try to pick one thing — no matter how big or small — that you two can do together. It helps children learn the boundaries of work and play (since we can't devote every hour to our little ones!). Setting aside time together will help them realize, too, that they don't have to act crazy to get your attention — they already know they'll get it. All it takes is five minutes. I practice this with my toddler son by playing puzzles after we finish eating breakfast. We do puzzles and play together. It's our time together and I know how much both of us value it. Also, try to give your little one a chance every now and then to call the shots — you'll learn a lot about how their mind connects things and what they enjoy.
5. Be open and honest. Be sure to recall what you didn’t like about how your parents did things with you. Keep that in mind when you interact with your kids. It's okay to make mistakes (hey, no mama is perfect!) but I always like to keep it in perspective. If I didn't like one way my parents raised me, or if I saw a friend treat her child a certain way and I didn't like it, I try not to emulate that.
6.Teach them that there's a time (and place!) for a disagreement. In my house, we have a rule: discuss disagreements in private. The tug-o-war scenario will not be a pretty one if both of you are in a public place. The privacy of discussion will show that you respect your growing tot enough to not humiliate or embarrass them, even if they are wrong. Plus, it sets up a model for how your kids will handle arguments as they grow. With friends, significant others, you, your husband or even their siblings — they'll want to keep their disagreements private and out of public eye!
7. Never let them see you sweat. Seriously, mama! Be clear. Be firm. And always take a breath before reacting. It is so difficult to be rational and clear headed about what you are trying to communicate when you don't think about it first. I literally say to myself as I take a breath, "composure" because it helps remind me to keep my cool. Also — they're kids! Of course they're going to look for any opportunity to stump, rattle or break you down! It's in their nature. If you say no, mean it.
Remember: It all starts with us.
How did you teach your kids morals and values? Was it hard? Share your tips!