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Remember mama, your toddler is human, too

Sometimes slowing down and lowering my expectations—both of myself and my son—makes all the difference. Sometimes simply acknowledging that we both need a little extra validation and a lot of extra grace is huge.

Remember mama, your toddler is human, too

Our 3-year-old seems to be a master procrastinator. He can easily turn a one-minute task into a 20-minute ordeal. As frustrating as this can be, I am realizing that sometimes his stalling is more than just naughty or frustrating behavior.

Sometimes, he uses this behavior to slow me down and bring me to his level because he doesn't know any other way.

The other day, for instance, he was putting on his shoes—shoes that he has been putting on independently for four months—he looked up at me and smiled: "Mom, is this the right foot?"

"Yes buddy, you know it is," I said impatiently with our 15-month-old weighing on my hip.

We weren't rushing out the door like we usually are when he seems to switch into slow motion and find ways to stall. We were simply going into the basement to do laundry, but I was impatient nonetheless.

He used all of his tricks on this particular day. He began with innocent requests like: Mom, look at me. Help me with this. I want my other hat, etc. And when I didn't respond in the way that he wanted, he cranked up the silliness and eventually resorted to some good old-fashioned naughty behavior: tackling his brother, throwing toys, and using the kitchen tongs as a hammer.

The more he tried to rope me in, the more I resisted, which made for a long and frustrating day. It wasn't until after he was asleep that I realized what might be going on.

Just over three weeks ago, Alex started wearing underwear and using his little potty chair or the "big potty" regularly without prompting. This alone was a huge jump in independence. But he has also made so many other steps forward since turning three, most of which were self-driven.

He is learning to brush his own teeth and hair. He can dress and undress and put shoes on with little support. He uses a fork and small knife to cut food and he puts his dishes in the sink when he's done. His pretend play has become richly imaginative and he is more comfortable playing with other kids in small groups.

I have encouraged and praised him for each of these skills, but I have also been quick to raise my expectations of him while I prepare him for what's next. In doing so, I sometimes neglect to acknowledge how far he has come. And I forget how much he still needs me, though in a different way.

He knows that I know he can put on his own shoes, but that used to be something that we did together. Diaper changes, though often dreaded and hurried, used to be more time that we spent together and the same goes for dressing.

Each step toward independence brings with it greater responsibility and a bigger gap between him and his little brother. I think the stalling and silliness are often his way of resisting his independence—despite the pride he feels when doing things himself.

He sees how I swoon over his little brother when putting on his shoes. Or the way I tickle his tummy after I fasten his diapers. It isn't true jealousy—it's more like a tug on his heart that reminds him of how things used to be.

I know what my big boy is capable of and when the pace of our day quickens, it is tempting to hold him to a high standard—even if that means reprimanding him for dramatic or seemingly naughty behavior. But when I slow down and acknowledge the limits of a 3-year-old's emotional development, I am moved to adjust my expectations and be the mother that he needs me to be in that moment.

In some ways, I am not so different from a 3-year-old at times. I still want my husband to acknowledge the simple things I do—even the things I do every single day. Sometimes spilled coffee or ruined baked goods are reasons enough to make me cry. And when things don't go as planned or when someone is rushing me, I can feel the stress creep in and overwhelm me.

So why would I expect more from a child?

Alex has days when his threshold for frustration is low, being a big brother is too much to handle, and he resists his newfound independence. And sometimes these days collide with the days when my threshold for frustration is low, my patience runs thin by 10 am, and I put my plans above his needs.

These days are hard, but sometimes slowing down and lowering my expectations—both of myself and my son—makes all the difference. Sometimes simply acknowledging that we both need a little extra validation and a lot of extra grace is huge.

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Originally published on In Between Yesterday And Today.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It’s science: Vacations make your kids happy long after they’re over

Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family.

Whether you're looking for hotels or a rental home for a safe family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our, kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

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Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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