10 Truths About Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers

10-parenting-hacks for Toddlers and Preschoolers #toddlers

When it comes to being a good parent, some of us go into this job thinking we know a thing or two. How long did that last for you?  Alan and I didn’t even make it out of the hospital with baby boy #1 before we had to ask for help. That’s right. Joshua cried, and we didn’t know how to stop it. No, as it turns out, feeding them is NOT always the answer. Sometimes even that failed, and we had to figure out how to quiet our adorable crying baby.

I remember there were two buttons on my hospital bed: one to get help for myself, and one to get help for the baby. We had no pride left. We pushed the baby nurse button. The nurse entered. Alan proclaimed, without a bit of shame, “Can you help us get this baby to stop crying? We’ve tried everything!”

She scooped up my 8 1/2 pound little ball of preciousness, cuddled him to her, and stood there swaying back and forth. He grew quieter, and quieter, and then he was asleep.

Alan and I were so impressed.

Eleven years have passed since that hospital stay. Eleven years. Four little boys. Two years of home schooling. And six moves. We are constantly learning new things the hard way, and I have spent the past eleven years swaying back and forth. It’s actually hard to stop now. If you see me doing it, not even holding a baby, please just ignore it.

Today I want to save you a little trouble so you can learn these few lessons the easy way–vicariously, through me.

Here are 10 parenting lessons we learned the hard way….and of course I still have a ton to learn:

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

Parents, this may be the most interesting phase of your life. I mean, unless you’ve always had breakfast with Batman and his tiny coffee mug.

#1. When they say they are bored, never ever bother suggesting activities. If anyone comes to us with complaints of have nothing to do, we always always do nothing at all.

I’m telling you. There’s no point. They will turn down every suggestion you make.

Let’s practice.

“Mom, there’s nothing to do. Nothing to do at all. It’s so boring here. I wish we still lived in California.”

(Oh, wait, those are our issues…..)

So I say something like, “Sorry sweetie, but that’s great that you’re bored!! Being bored is so wonderful for your brain. This is when creativity happens!”

#2. No matter how many potty-training experts you listen to, potty training may take a while.

Yes, you can follow all the rules to “potty train in a day.” But there are no guarantees that it will stick. You want a more realistic estimation of how long it will take you to potty train your child?

Plan for 2 weeks-1 year to be completely done with poopy underwear. That is the horrible truth that no one seems to want to admit. I’ve even known a few parents that had to resort to suppositories to get their kid to do #2 on the potty. #2 is far more stressful for some kids than #1. It just is, and you can do all the right things, but it’s just harder for some little ones than others.

Oh, and horrifyingly gross things will happen during potty training that you may never want to admit to a single soul. And that’s okay. But you should admit it to other toddler parents because your misery is hilarious to others. Even the perfect parents. You should tell the perfect parents, and gradually some of their less-than-perfect tales will start coming out too.

My best advice on potty training:

First, have a naked-bottom day to teach them how to use the potty. (No, no, not you. Only the toddler should be naked bottomed.) Put the potty in their play area, on top of towels. Feed them lots of beverages. Once they’ve used the potty a couple of times, put them in underwear during the day. Save the pull-ups for outings and nighttime. 

Throw a celebration whoo-hoo party dance every single time they do finally go #2 on the pot.

Don’t play it cool, like you don’t care if they continue to poop on themselves once you know they know better. If they think you don’t care, why should they care???  Annoy the snot out of them about pooping on that potty! Talk about it constantly. Remain positive. We KNOW they can do this! We are so excited they are going to be a big kid. There will be a BIG prize when they finally poo on the potty.

Hey, it may take months, but eventually you will cross that finish line together! Parenthood can be slow work sometimes. That’s okay.

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

 

#3. Your toddler may actually be 2 years old before they finally “sleep through the night.”

This one was the most painful of all to me.

Does it seem like I’m full of bad news? These are the true things that no one wants to admit, I guess. I’ve known friends who did no sleep training at all, but their babies slept through the night right away. We, on the other hand, read all the self-righteous books on the market. We tried everything.

It didn’t matter. Our kids are fantastic nappers. They will sleep anywhere, and they would often go to sleep rather easily. But come 2am, there would be a meeting. Joshua woke us up until we had our 2nd baby. He was 20 months, and finally he stopped waking up. I guess he felt sorry for us since Caleb was up all night long. Caleb started sleeping through the night at about 9 months. I was as proud as a peacock.

Daniel would just go through phases. At 2 months old, he slept through the night, and we thought we’d finally hit the baby Lottery jackpot. Nope. 2 months later, he was up all night again. He kept waking us up until he was almost two too.

Don’t even get me started on John David. He was also almost two, and I honestly thought he would never sleep until morning without midnight cuddles. That was all they usually wanted. They wanted me to rock them. I was so sleep deprived, but I also loved the cuddly rocking, I’ll admit it.

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

We built it. He destroyed it, but he had a great time in the process.

 

#4. If you want your child to be the kind that plays by themselves, you have to play with them first.

First, get out the box of cars. Then start setting up the cars and playing things with them. Gradually, let your child take over. Then quietly say, “Oh, I gotta do this thing real quick. Be right back.” This should only take about 5 minutes. Sometimes they do latch on and try to keep you. If you have a lot to do, tell them, “I’m so sorry, I wish I could, but I have to _____. Then we can play some more.” Honesty is always the best policy.

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

Sometimes we give up and let them sit in our lap and eat. I think this morning in the picture was actually cool, and we’d dressed them in shorts, so it was really our own fault.

 

#5. At restaurants, our littles always wait until the food comes to get upset and need to be held. But we have a solution!

Part of this is because you may have fed your child bread or snacks to keep them occupied during the wait. Now they aren’t hungry, the food is hot, and they are tired of sitting in that chair/booster/whatever. Meanwhile, you are starving and want to eat your food.

If this is true for your kiddos, here’s our solution: Hold them until the food comes. If they don’t want to be held, draw or color with them until the food comes.  Try not to let them sit in a booster seat or high chair until the food arrives.

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

#6. Don’t even think about judging other parents.

(Unless they don’t put their kids in car seats. I reserve my right to judge people for that. That is a stupid risk to take.)

As soon as you think, “Oh, my child would never do that,” either your child or your next child will do exactly that.   You’ve heard of karma, I’m sure, but I don’t call it karma. I call it God. This stuff is Biblical. Here’s a Jesus quote, 1“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.2For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Matthew 7:1-2)

Each of my children were successful or weak at totally different things. The older they get the more I realize that I can actually take credit for precious little of their accomplishments.

Especially be kind to people with more than 1 preschooler. You can’t fathom the amount of work that is until you’ve experienced it.

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

Caleb was 18 months old in this picture. He loved that pacifier, and it helped him cope with life.

#7. Don’t be afraid of pacifiers. They made my job so much easier.

If they like pacifiers, don’t sweat that. Save them for bed times and car riding as much as possible, and taking it away by the time your child is 2 1/2 will not be nearly as hard as you think it will. All four of mine were hard core addicts, and we weaned them gradually from their pacifiers, all before their 3rd birthday. JD gave his up voluntarily before he even turned two. I couldn’t believe it.

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

#8. Picky eaters will drain the life out of you.

And let me tell you, we should know. One is allergic to nuts and wheat. One is allergic to PEAS. Yes, it’s possible, even just the pea protein–he vomits and everything. We are picky, and we are limited.

We crack down on picky eaters, but only to the point of 2 or 3 bites. If you’ve never tasted it, you don’t know if you don’t like it. Neither do they.

Toddlers are amazingly strong willed, but you want them to gradually eat more and more foods, so cook whatever you want and make them taste it. If you can’t make your toddler eat 1 or 2 bites, then it’s time to learn about consequences. I’ll make John David taste stuff, but if he hates it, I don’t push the issue. He eats a banana or something, and he goes on his merry way. Thankfully, their tummies are fairly small.

#9. Go ahead and start using consequences. But try to take care of it at home or in the car.

For every child, there are consequences that work, and they need to learn early on that bad choices have bad consequences. This will better prepare you and your child for society.

However, having a toddler battle at Walmart may not actually work to your advantage. My best advice there is to flee the premises as quickly as possible. Conflict at the store will definitely happen. Get out of there as fast as you can and take care of your child. They are probably just tired, hungry, or…..spoiled rotten. Ha! It’s true, and we all have to watch for this.

10 Truths of Parenting Preschoolers/Toddlers

#10. Enjoy those dimpled hands, plump cheeks, and snuggles as much as you can. It won’t be long before you are the embarrassing mom.

My youngest is 3 now. I usually don’t rock him to sleep anymore, but when I do, I always wonder, “Will this be the last time?” And the tears never fail to show up. How I do love a squishy toddler. There is nothing more precious than an innocent young one. How I love it. I know we all get tired of hearing older people say, “Enjoy it while you can,” because we are all so exhausted. Painfully exhausted! But it’s true. That’s the thing. Little ones are squishy, and our elders are wise. So listen and enjoy.

 

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April Alan is a happy mom of four boys, and she also writes at https://storiesofourboys.com. When she isn't blogging, she's usually doing exotic things like cooking, picking up kids, and coloring Mickey Mouse with her toddler.

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