It’s a new year, which means it’s the perfect time to take a fresh perspective on raising your toddler. Consider these popular parenting trends and see what resonates with you and your personal parenting style.
Becoming a mindful or conscious parent
This trend is all about keeping your cool when your toddler does something that frustrates you, like having a temper tantrum or pulling the cat’s tail for the hundredth time in a day. Just like with meditation, you take a few deep, calming breaths before you react, and while you do it, you ask yourself how the higher, more evolved parent inside of you would respond. It’s okay to take a few steps away and remove yourself from the immediate situation so you can regroup. Gaining perspective allows you to act with consciousness and thought, rather than react—which doesn’t always bring out the best in us. A book to check out that speaks to this parenting style is Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clark-Fields, MSAE.
This sounds a bit academic, but it’s really rather simple. It’s about providing toddlers with skills to calm themselves when they become frustrated or angry, and express themselves when they have a need. A part of it is simply helping children define the feelings they are having. For example, if your toddler gets angry because a friend is playing with his toy, give a name to what he is feeling, as in, “Aiden, you sound angry (frustrated, upset, etc.) about Noah playing with your car. I understand. Let’s take a break and get a drink and when we get back we can let Noah know you want a turn to play with the car.” Remember, toddlers often can’t say what they need or want, so be patient. Learning to control impulses and calm down is an advanced skill, but starting to teach it early on will help your child with making friends and getting along in school in the future. If your efforts fail, fall back on refocusing his attention on something new, or soothing him to help him calm down.
Keeping it simple
Toddlers are little social scientists, and they are extremely curious about their surroundings. They love to see how we react to something they do. For example, your daughter might rub her banana into the couch and look back at you and smile. She is not trying to be naughty. After all, she doesn’t understand how hard it is to clean couches, or really that they need to be cleaned at all. Instead of getting frantic and scolding her, calmly let her know that we don’t wipe our food on the couch. The same goes when you are offering choices. Instead of asking, “What book do you want to read before bed?” Give her a choice. Two choices work best for this age. Giving choices when they are not really necessary, as in, “Do you want to put your shoes on first, or your coat on first?” are empowering to toddlers, helping the feel in charge—and consequently motivating them to act.
Moving toward healthier living
More and more parents are becoming aware of the importance of a healthy diet for their kids, and how eating foods high in sugar and starch can wreak havoc with their moods and energy levels. That’s why many parents are going a bit old school by buying whole foods, cooking more at home, and having family dinners. Family dinners are the ideal time to teach toddlers those great basic life skills of turn-taking, two-way conversations, and manners. It also sets a precedence for connecting as a family. Along with a trend toward a wholesome approach to food and eating is a trend to tread lightly on our earth by adopting habits of gardening, buying produce close to home (think farmer’s market or buying fruits and vegetables in season), using cloth grocery bags, and cutting down on foods that are packaged in plastic.
Lynn U Nichols is a longtime Fort Collins-based freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. She raised two boys while writing for RM Parent Magazine, gratefully applying the wisdom she gleaned from interviews with child experts along the way. Learn more at healthwritecommunications.com.