I’m a mom to a willful, lovely, stubborn, adorable and very opinionated toddler called Aiden (that’s a shot of us both above.) He’s 17-months-old and decided a few weeks ago that he only wanted to eat one item of food a day. That means an entire day of nothing but chicken tortellini, or yogurt or blueberry waffles – only Earth’s Best ones mind, he’s particular. I knew needed to do something before my little boy became my little monster.
I needed to hear from the experts how to do it “right,” particularly in the realms of food and discipline. So when I saw that Tribeca Pediatrics – known for pushing a no-nonsense approach to child rearing, developed by their French founder Dr. Michel Cohen – were hosting a Toddler Talk. I wanted in. It was a three hour stint on a Thursday night that I would have much rather have spent slouched in front of Modern Family. But it taught me a TON of stuff. So, here we go, these were my useful take home tips – hope they help you with your little treasures / mini monsters in training.
Think weekly, not daily, when it comes to balanced eating. Hearing this was a huge relief. According to Tribeca Pediatrics you cannot expect your 2-year-old to eat a fully balanced meal three times a day and for two snacks. What you can and should expect from your child is to eat that balanced “meal” over the course of a week. If they eat only yogurt on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, bananas on Wednesday, Tomato Soup on Thursday, Cheerios and bread on Friday, purple cabbage on Saturday, and blackberries and tortellini on Sunday, then they’ve had their balanced week. As long as your toddler eats a balanced meal over the course of the week, they are getting what they need. We have toddlers, not food critics.
Your toddler does not need milk. Your child needs calcium, fat, and hydration. If they get these things, it does not matter how they get them. My child drinks water and adores full-fat yogurt, so he gets what he needs from those things. Another child I know drinks water and eats countless sardines, which have the nutrients that milk provides.
Avoid toddler meltdowns by simplifying your day. Remember when your mom dragged you from the post office, to the grocery store, to the school pick-up, to her friend’s house to drop something off…you get the picture. Errands are not fun for us, but they are unimaginably worse for our toddlers. Try to spread your errands out throughout the week, rather than pack them all into one day. Your child is incapable of not breaking down after a certain point, so don’t let them get to that point.
How to nix temper tantrums before they go haywire. Ok, so you brought your child to that point. It happens. This is what you do in public: get down to their level. Say something along the lines of, “I know that you are upset that you cannot have yogurt chips right now, but in our house, we eat dinner before yogurt chips.” Then scoop them up and leave wherever you are, even if that’s the grocery store in the middle of shopping. In your own home, ignore their temper tantrum completely. The woman teaching the workshop said that children who bang their heads will never bang them enough to actually injure themselves. This is to get your attention, and if it gets your attention once, they will continue to use this as a tactic. At home, ignore, ignore, ignore.
Let them zzzz! A lot of parents lose the day nap too early. They should be getting a midday nap through to at least three years old and preferably right up to their 4th birthday.
Tell them what they can do (not what they can’t). As a classroom teacher taking a masters course, this was also one of my first lessons. Children do not do well-being told what not to do. They must be told what to do. Instead of “don’t throw your food on the floor,” use “your food stays on the table or goes into your mouth.” Simple and clear. You’d be surprised how rarely people use the positive when asking children to do something.
Consistency is key. Seriously. Your children can quickly ascertain if you are hesitant about a rule. Astonishingly quickly, in fact. Whatever the rules in your house, be consistent. Literally never let something slide. This, of course, means that you can’t say “no” to everything. Pick and choose your battles, and make sure your children know what they are.
Your child can hear everything you say. Your children can feel and hear your vibe. They understand a whole ton more than your think they do, so don’t talk negatively about them within their earshot, even on terrible days. Positivity breeds positive behavior. Negativity breeds negative behavior. Plus, it sucks to have your parents talk badly about you. For your relationship with your child, as well as for their behavior, be sure to talk positively, or at least neutrally, about your child.
Honesty is everything. When you are angry with your child, be honest about it. Also, model positive ways to deal with that anger. If you need to leave the room for a minute, do so. Explain to them why you are angry. Do not hold back, because they will still feel the angry vibe even if you are tight-lipped about your mood.
Please get some you time, as well as some couple time (not necessarily at the same time). In order to be a great parent, as well as a fulfilled and happy person, please be sure to love yourself and treat yourself well. Get a manicure or a massage; go out with friends; have a date night with your husband; read a book. Do whatever your need to do to get back to who you are, especially during the turbulent times. We’re raising toddlers, we deserve a break!