Why It's Okay To Hate Your Toddler

You're not alone.
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Hating toddlerhood? You’re not alone.

This is an actual post from a parenting group I belong to on Facebook.

Swear. To. God.

At post time, there were 171 Likes/Comments… and counting!

If you’re one of umpteen parents challenged by devilish little ones, you’re clearly not alone. Frankly, what’s not to hate? Toddlers are irrational, highly emotional, demanding – and completely powerless over their lives. A perfect storm, particularly because they possess ZERO capacity to act reasonably once they’ve hit their limit (or sooner, depending on the provocation).

It’s just how they roll.

In developmental terms, they have the vital job of exploring their vast world – and asserting their (presumed) mastery of same – by any means necessary.

Fortunately, there are some very effective parental workarounds for the conundrums that beset toddlers and their handlers. In this post, I share some of the most exasperating questions I hear from clients, as well as my tested and proven methods for taming the oh-so-terrible 2s and 3s!

Why can’t I stop the meltdowns?

Kids throw tantrums because they’ve completely exhausted their physical and/or psychic capacity. When we put toddlers in situations that exceed their capacity, we invite catastrophe.

That makes Rule #1 for stopping the meltdowns to be mindful of your toddlers’ limits – and don’t exceed them.

Rule #2 is to prioritize the “red rules” – those things you and your co-parent (and other caretakers) agree are non-negotiable and always enforceable. For example, considering most toddlers are sapped by bedtime, do you really need a list of five hygiene-related tasks every night? Could simply brushing their teeth be the one must-do, leaving flossing, moisturizing and the like for those days when they’re in a more agreeable mood?

Rule #3. Stop talking and start doing. Even just 30 seconds of this video gone viral proves the point.

While having a deep convo with your kiddie may seem like the in-touch-parent thing to do, “processing” with a 3-year-old is a complete waste of time and oxygen.

Picking them up and buckling them in the car in their pjs, if necessary, so you can get them to daycare and you to work? That they understand in a heartbeat.

If I let my toddler win an argument, aren’t I teaching them that my rules don’t count?

See Rules #2 and 3.

Plus, pick your battles. Give your children choices so they can learn to assert some control over their lives. You’ll be surprised to see just how empowered they feel when they get the opportunity to select from two options.

Don’t be surprised, however, when they select door #3 ― from which you haven’t proffered a thing. But if that option doesn’t put them in danger or isn’t truly inappropriate, let it go! Rain boots on a sunny day? Plaids with stripes? Who cares! Allow your toddler to assert his or her independence on things that ultimately don’t matter.

Why is my toddler so temperamental and whiney?

Most toddlers who present that way have exhausted their capacity, and you’re seeing the manifestation of that. Much of the time, whiney kids are actually hungry or tired or have some other physical or emotional need you can fulfill.

And yes, sometimes toddlers are just whiney. Remember, though, their lives are all about are wresting even a minuscule measure of control from a situation in which they are generally powerless. So when they whine or scream “no” about something you ask them to do, they are simply trying to assert their independence.

Why are transitions so difficult for my toddler?

Toddlers like routine. In new or unfamiliar situations, they’re simply less resilient.

When you interrupt your established routine with a new activity or a trip, they often deal with their anxiety by whining or tantrumming. So prepare them for the transition as much as possible.

An upcoming trip? Try this: “We’re going to Grandma’s tomorrow after our Mommy and Me class. You’ll get to sleep in your cousin’s room on a special cot. Do you want to bring your bear or your blanket… or both?” Talk about the upcoming activity in a positive way, and share the fun they will have as a result.

Is it every OK to spank my toddler?

In my opinion, it is never, ever okay to hit a child. I’ve raised my voice at my kids. I’ve bribed them. But I never spanked them.

Why not?

It’s not an effective strategy. It doesn’t teach them anything, except that mommy or daddy can be scary.

If you want to spank your toddler because she isn’t listening, for example, forgo the swat and figure out another way to teach him to listen. As the adult, it’s your job to experiment with multiple ways to make your point so your child learns what you expect from them.

Speaking of raised voices… save your SUPER voice for truly dangerous situations. You want your toddler to hear that voice and freeze.

How should I respond to my very picky toddler when it comes to food?

Again, choice is helpful here. Keep healthy foods cut up and accessible.

Make new foods available. Don’t try to cajole your kids into eating them, but be sure they see you eating them! Try not to give them their staple favorites at each meal, or they will be inclined to shy away from new options. Be willing to keep trying, but know it may take a while for picky toddlers to adjust.

I promise they won’t starve themselves, however. Eventually they’ll get hungry enough and will eat something you’ve provided. If you’re still not sold, there are plenty of picky-eater tricks to try online.

I’m a stay-at-home parent. What do I do with my toddlers all day long?

Toddlerhood can be especially tough for stay-at-home parents who don’t love this age. If you fall into this category – as do a lot of cerebral and verbal people who want their kids to get their puns – I want you to feel permission not to love these toddlin’ years.

Regardless of your predilections, the same solution applies. You’ve got to find ways to use your community. Meet up with other moms of toddlers. The kids need toddler-to-toddler interaction, and it also helps them to hear from and interact with other adults.

Leverage every low- and no-cost opportunity your community provides – and there are plenty. Libraries. Bookstores. Toy stores with play stations. Indoor malls.

Distraction is what you’re after.

If you need to spend the morning at the service station while your car is serviced, pack a bag with 15-20 things that will amuse your kids for at least 5 minutes each. If you need to take a shower – give your toddler a morning bag with several toys, keep the bathroom door open and scrub-a-dub.

Toddlerhood may make you feel imprisoned at times, but remember… it’s not a life sentence. These few years – and all those adorable things your kid says and does – will be over before you know it.

When is the best time to make the transition from crib to toddler bed?

Hold out as long as you can! I wouldn’t take a toddler out of a crib until they demonstrated a full ability to climb out of it. In fact, pad the area around the crib and wait until your toddler’s dismount is a perfect 10!

I kid.

If your toddler can be in a crib comfortably and safely, I say leave them there. Why make the transition before you need to? Their development will not be impaired. When you think about it, a crib is just a toddler bed with safety rails.

Whenever you decide to make the switch, make sure the rest of their life is relatively calm, and do what you can to ease the transition for your toddler.

Is co-sleeping okay?

Co-sleeping is an individual decision. I personally think it’s better for parents to be alone and for toddlers to learn to self-soothe, so it wasn’t the right choice for me.

Most experts say it’s OK if it doesn’t create tension between parents – and as long as the child isn’t totally dependent on co-sleeping.

Should I make a point to interest my children in non-gender-traditional toys and activities or let them choose?

It’s always important to be thoughtful about the toys you’re bringing into the house. Truth is, though, I bought my older son dolls, and he used them as projectiles. He even pretended carrots were pistols.

My other son, born after my daughter, did play dolls with her – until the day, unprovoked, he declared those days were over.

Interesting, from the ages of 2-4, that same son carried a purse (black patent leather with a pink heart!) that held all his little toy planes and trucks. He just liked to have his belongings with him. At 4, he unceremoniously traded in his purse for a knapsack.

It’s safe to say toddlers absorb some gender identify info from a variety of sources, including toy stores, and opinions on gender-specific toys vary widely. My opinion? Be mindful of what you buy – and of your own bias – and then do what you believe is right.

Is there a right or wrong time to send my toddler to preschool or daycare?

I’m going to fall back on the “personal choice” option here. Well, that… and an honest understanding of your tolerance level for this stage.

If you have the freedom to be home and explore the world with your kids…

If you (generally) love doing so…

And you’re good with giving your toddlers ample opportunities to socialize with other toddlers…

Then feel free to keep them at home with you. What’s important developmentally is that kids begin to practice individuation from Mommy and Daddy at this point of their young lives – but they don’t need to go to school to do so.

If you’re not in love with toddlerhood, or you need coverage, by all means, enroll your child in a preschool or daycare program that gives you the respite you need to be the best parent possible when you trek home, toddler in tow.

Here’s the crux: You don’t want your child to get to kindergarten without being socially exposed to other toddlers and adults. Beyond that, do what works for your family ― although I’m not sure I’d endorse the following option.

Why is it so hard to remember that, as the parent, I am in control?

I understand that it feels as if you are being held hostage to your toddlers’ irrational demands. But feelings aren’t facts.

Naturally, you can’t lock them in room and walk away. Your job as a parent is to stay in control despite their protestations (NO! I can do it myself! Mine! “Listen to me, Linda!”)

Toddlers aren’t the only ones with finite capacity for life’s frustrations. Parents, especially the caretakers of toddlers, don’t get enough sleep and may not be eating as healthily as possible. But even when you are not feeling particularly resilient, it’s important to continually remind yourself that you ARE in control.

Here’s the last word on taming your toddler: When things don’t go according to plan, don’t negotiate, legislate!

And enjoy the ride!