The Art of Parenting Toddlers

By Hayley Goldberg, LMFT and Parent Educator

At one time or another, most parents worry they are doing something wrong in raising their children because their kids seem self-centered, demanding, and unappreciative. At no time is this more apparent than during the toddler (and perhaps teenage) years. While it may be frustrating to have children who appear to be selfish, self-centered and unrelenting, it can be comforting to learn that these traits are typical of the development of all toddlers as their independence blooms and they begin separating and differentiating from their parents.

All children grow through predictable stages of development beginning at birth and extending into the teenage years. During their development they will go through stages of equilibrium (plateaus in development where your child is practicing new skills they have recently mastered) , and disequilibrium ( a time of growth and development where your child is working on mastering new tasks and working on new abilities). During the toddler years with the rapid brain development and all that toddlers are learning, children cycle through these stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium about every six months. Depending on the stage of development they are in, the developmental tasks they are working on, and their inborn temperament traits parenting toddlers can feel joyous and wonderful or leave us feeling impatient, run down, weary, and unsuccessful in our parenting work.

As parents it is important to know about toddler ages and stages and the development tasks they are working on. It is essential we learn about and accept our child’s unique temperament, the individualized blueprints they are born with for reacting to the world around them. Children are born with a whole range of temperament clusters. The compatibility between our own temperament and that of our child’s, commonly referred to as “goodness of fit”, helps us approach situations with our children with more empathy and confidence. We can help them manage their reactions to certain things better and such empathy goes a long way in supporting toddler’s tantrums and meltdowns when they get upset. When there is a “lack of fit” between our temperament and our children’s temperament as parents we can be left feeling confused, frustrated and powerless.

Before having children some of us developed lists, on paper or in our minds, of numerous do’s and don’ts we planned to follow once our precious bundles were born. Early in our parenting journey, as early as raising toddlers, we realize how useless those lists were and we begin to question and doubt everything we thought we knew about raising children. We begin to fear that with the mistakes we seem to be making in our parenting we are moving farther and farther away from being the perfect parent we thought we would be, and this can trigger anxiety about our parenting skills. Parenting toddlers is a demanding job. Everyone will make mistakes along the way and disappoint themselves with their lack of information and poor judgment. Parenting standards are important but it is important to realize, there are no perfect parents. “Good enough” parents can raise exceptional kids who feel secure, confident, competent, and lovable, at least enough of the time. . Part of our parenting journey is addressing the “good enough” question for ourselves. Exploring our own parenting styles and feelings toward discipline can assist us in becoming more effective, patient, tolerant, and successful parents. The earlier we begin to explore this theme for ourselves the kinder we can be to ourselves and less time will be wasted berating ourselves and feeling self-conscious and insecure in our parenting abilities.

Parenting plays a critical role in the raising of our children. Being aware that toddlers are incredibly complex, and that every child is different and unique, can leave us feeling nothing short of completely overwhelmed and totally inadequate at the daunting task of meeting our children’s needs and raising kids who are independent, confident, socially strong, emotionally secure, and happy!

At New Mom School we understand the parenting challenges and insecurities that weigh us down in our quest and desire to be the “perfect mom.” We understand that parenting is an art rather than a science and how you parent one child may need to be different from how you approach another. We also understand the value of support and education early in our parenting journey. With this in mind we have developed our new toddler parenting classes. Intentionally designed to support our moms through connections with other moms and education in understanding your unique child. Our classes will provide the reflection needed to help you grow both personally and in your parenting. Topics for our toddler classes have been mindfully selected to cover a range of parenting topics critical to a toddler’s healthy development and support for their future. Topics in this series include: Exploring your parenting world; child development; temperament; parenting styles and emotion coaching parenting; effective discipline; parenting on the same team; the essentials of play; and language and communication.

I hope to see you in our new classes!