Parenting Our Toddler with Grace

Toddlerhood, for me, is both one of the most fun and the most frustrating years in parenting.  On the one hand, I love the way toddlers are very baby-like even while stretching out both physically and emotionally.

Toddlers start getting more hair and longer limbs, but they are still so darned cute. When Claire was a toddler, she had wild, curly hair that I’d pile into a ponytail on top of her head.  Under the fluff was a gorgeous round face and wonder-filled eyes.  I love the way chubby toddler fingers grip a pencil or paint brush: for them holding a pencil must be like holding a shovel is for us.  I enjoy watching a big personality emerging from a little person as the toddler explores boundaries and tests his world.  I especially love the way  a toddler pushes to grow up during the day, but at night he still longs to be baby.

On the other hand, toddlers can scare me a little.  A few times one of my kids (who shall remain nameless) threw such horrible temper tantrums I would just look on in awe.  “I think he/she might be clinically insane,” I would think as the little darling thrashed around on the floor.  Learning how to handle these tantrums with dignity and continuing to treat the child with love and respect required a lot of thinking, rethinking, soul searching, and prayer.

Last week our Lydia turned 2.  I guess officially she’s been a toddler for a while, but age 2 is a big transition year for these little ones so I’ve been thinking a lot about Lydia’s development these past few weeks.

Lydia is great fun.  We laugh with her every day.  I love her amusing growing Lydia-lexicon like “otay” (okay), “boos boos” (Blues Clues), “Dee Dee” (Daisy), and “bawk bawk” (chickens).  Like most toddlers, she loves to imitate what big people are doing (including big kids). She loves to wash the windows, feed the dog, cook, and order us around.  The latter is a most recent development.  If Philip or I tell her not to do something or take something from her, she scolds us and points her finger at us. “NO! NO!” she says.

Unlike my fears of the teen years, which are just the typical fear of the unknown, I’m not nervous about the “terrible twos”.  I’ve been through it 3 times.  This stage is mostly wonderful, and the hard bits come rarely and there’s usually a warning that a storm is approaching.

Although I’m a confident parent when it comes to my toddler, I like to have my back-ups — especially my favorite parenting books.  Gregory Popcak, in his wonderful attachment parenting book “Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids”, discusses very clearly the primary goals of toddlerhood (ages 18 months to 3 years):

  • Continuing to lay the foundation of basic trust (started in infancy)
  • Beginning to take independence
  • Developing physical competence (mobility/toilet training)
  • Exercising the will

These are the toddler’s goals during this critical development phase, and our toddlers will focus on achieving these goals whether we like it or not.

Understanding where our toddlers are coming from is one of the most powerful ways to demystify this developmental stage.  I’ll explore each of these 4 goals in posts over the next weeks.  For next time: Continuing to Lay the Foundation of Trust.

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