Motherhood

Parenting Tips – Baby & Toddler

I would like to start off by saying that I am no expert mom. In fact, I make mistakes daily just like the best of us. I know that I will never be an “expert” mom but, every day I strive to be better and open to new ideas and ways to grow my little ones.

Raising children is a huge responsibility. As parents, we influence our child’s future in more ways than I think we even know! I strongly believe that who our children become as adults is a direct result of our example and influence as parents when they are home with us.

I can truly say that I had the most wonderful parents. They really set good examples for us and invested every moment they had into making sure that they had a positive influence in our lives so that they could raise well rounded adults.

Since becoming a mom, I can now see more than ever why my parents raised us the way that they did.

Many times when I need parenting advice, I think “what would my mom do” and I have so much knowledge from my own childhood to pull from. I also ask my mom friends and often go to the web for fresh ideas on raising kids.

I am still in the early stages of raising children (3 year old and 9 month old), but I have picked up some parenting tips from my own upbringing and just from my own experience that have really made a huge impact in raising a (so far) happy, respectful and mannered toddler.

Of course, my kids are not perfect. They still throw tantrums, still don’t always listen and still do the usual things that children their age do. However, I am slowly learning with each challenge, how to handle it better and how to prevent behavioral outbursts from becoming long term problems.

Here are some of my tips for thriving in the stage of motherhood that I am in (toddlers & babies):

Routine & Structure

From the moment my babies were born, we got them both on a strict routine. This included a feeding, play, and nap/bedtime schedule to begin because after all, babies basically just eat, sleep, poop and repeat.

As much as possible, we stuck to the same routine every day until our babies knew the cues.

The daily routine for the first 1-6 months looked something like this:

  • Morning diaper change
  • Feed
  • Play Time
  • Feeding & nap
  • Diaper change
  • Play time
  • Feeding & nap again
  • Repeat until bedtime

For the first 6 months while I adjusted to having a new baby and working towards a schedule, it was hard.  I gave up many activities and outings because I understood how important a schedule was to a baby.

In the evenings when I was sitting in the dark trying to get my baby to sleep for the night, I would sometimes feel like I was missing out. Some nights I even cried because I would sit there for what felt like hours trying to get my baby to learn that bedtime is to be strictly followed.

Looking back now, I am really glad that I sacrificed some of my time in the beginning because both of my kids are happier and thriving because of it. Not only are they thriving, but bedtime is easy now and my husband and I have our evenings off to spend together and relax.

Not all kids adjust to schedules easily. My son adjusted really easily and was always a great sleeper. My daughter, not so much.

She actually woke up all through the night until 8 months old. We recently found out she is lactose intolerant so once we switched her milk and cut out dairy, she started sleeping through the night but she still wakes up once in a while looking for her binky or for a feeding.

She also doesn’t really like to nap every day so I literally drop everything when it is her nap time if I have to and I will sit in bed with her or on the couch for an hour so that she can get some sleep. I know sleep is important so sometimes I just do what it takes for her to get at least one good nap per day.

I planned their schedules in a way that both of their main naps are at the same time. This has given me the flexibility to get things done while they nap or stay with Claire as needed on the days she doesn’t want to nap alone.

My son who is 3.5 years old still takes one 2-3 hour nap every single day and goes to bed at 7:00-7:30pm most evenings. Our daughter takes 2 naps per day, each two hours long most days. Like I said above, she has her days when she fights napping. Both kids have a bath, books and are in bed at the same time every night.

We have had people criticize and even laugh at us for putting our kids to bed so early but we don’t care. I always notice a huge difference in my sons behavior on the days he goes to bed at 7:00pm vs. the days he goes to bed late.

Most kids don’t sleep in! So if you put them to bed late every night and they wake up early, they are losing an hour or two of sleep here and there and by the end of the week, it can add up to a lot of sleep loss.

There are days where I am out and about and the kids nap in the car or in their strollers or if we do something in the evenings and get home late, they also go to bed later. As a general rule, we try to limit our schedule and bedtime changes to two days per week (usually on the weekends). Monday – Friday we try to stick to the schedule as much as possible.

Every family might have a different routine/schedule but I do believe that choosing one that works for your family and sticking to it will help your children thrive. I feel like routine gives children a sense of security because they know what to expect.

Organized Living

I don’t like living in a chaotic mess and I have noticed my kids don’t either.

I am not saying your house has to be perfect, but if your house is so full of stuff that you can barely even walk, then you might want to consider tidying up a bit!

My son is funny, if the house gets messy and cluttered he will actually point it out. He will also lose interest in playing in his toy room if it is cluttered and messy. If there are too many toys, he also loses interest.

Instead what I do is keep a closet full of toys and rotate them out. This way there aren’t too many that it becomes overwhelming and when he gets bored of the toys that are out, I swap them for some other ones.

One thing we do every day is make his bed and put all of his clothes away. Charlie knows that everything in his room is his and keeping it tidy and organized will teach him to be tidy and organized as he gets older. It also teaches him responsibility and helps him start the day feeling productive. I started making the bed with him as soon as he understood what we were doing and it is a positive thing we do together.

Reading

We have books in every room in the house.  Sometimes I find them under the beds, I trip over them and I even have found them in our bathroom drawers and cabinets. We have been reading to our children from early on, even before they could sit up.

There is something about reading that really stirs the imagination and gets the brain thinking.

Children’s books are positive, colorful and imaginative. Growing up I remember spending hours reading with my siblings and even to this day I specifically remember my favorite stories.

I am amazed how quickly reading helped Charlie’s vocabulary grow. Not only that, but he has learned to be creative and take his imagination to new levels.

We read several books before bed every single night. It is a great way to slow down the day and end on a positive note. I like to think my son is dreaming of his favorite book characters and scenes from the pages and not some garbage he may have seen on television.

No television

Charlie goes weeks without watching television. My husband and I don’t turn the television on until both kids are in bed.

Occasionally, I will let Charlie watch a movie but I am very picky about what he watches. Even “children’s” movies and shows nowadays have vocabulary, jokes and scenes that I find inappropriate for his age.

I also strongly feel that putting him in front of the television is robbing him of his childhood and creativity. While watching television, his mind and physical body come to a complete stop as he just stares at the images on the screen.

Don’t get me wrong, being home with them all day can be hard and sometimes I want a break and television seems like an obvious solution but I often resist the temptation and go outside or find something else to keep them busy.

We came to a decision to almost completely cut television out when we started noticing a trend. Every time Charlie would watch television, he would act out when we would turn it off to the point where sometimes I couldn’t even reason with him. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t just sit there and watch more and more.

I never take toys away from him, so he just couldn’t understand why I was taking television and electronics away.

So to avoid these unnecessary tantrums, we cut it out almost completely and now he doesnt’ even ask to watch anymore. Instead I often find him playing in his room or in a corner reading a book.

Call me old fashioned, but I feel like television for young children can’t bring anything good. Whatever happened to playing outside all day or building forts or just being a kid?!

Foster Creativity

Crafts, books, games, flash cards, forts, cooking, etc. etc. etc. Do them with your kids and do them every single day.

Let your kids exercise their imaginations and create things with their own hands. Tell them how great their projects are and how proud you are of them!

I like to let Charlie color and draw and I like to hang his artwork up in his room or on the fridge. We also like to pretend like we are cooking and he makes me all sorts of meals like “apple pizza?!”

Bottom line is, let your kids make messes and be kids. This will help their cognitive skills and eye hand coordination.

It’s ok if things get a little messy, you can clean later.

The great outdoors

Imagine being stuck in the house day in and day out. Wouldn’t you go crazy too?

We get out of the house every single day. If the weather is bad, we wait for the rain to stop for a little and go play in the backyard or out front until the rain starts again.

When the weather is better we walk to the park or just explore the neighborhood. I let Charlie climb and jump and run and explore as he pleases. He is always so excited to go outside and he is always in a better mood after an outing.  In fact, both of my kids are in better moods after getting out of the house.

If the weather is really bad, we go to Target and I let Charlie play with the toys or we simply go for a ride when daddy gets home from work. We try to get out of the house every day, even if it is only briefly.

Conversations

Sometimes in the evenings or when Claire is napping, I like to just sit next to Charlie and ask him questions and spark up a conversation. Have you ever had a conversation with a toddler? They are amazing! I love to just get to know him more.

What is his favorite toy right now and why? How was his day? What was his favorite thing about today? I also love to just ask him to tell me a story. I love seeing his little mind think and come up with some exciting tale that will make me laugh and stay interested.

I never want to look back and realize that I don’t even know my own kids. I believe that getting to know them and building a relationship starts with the little conversations when they are young.

I always want them to know they can talk to me about anything and that I will listen and be there for them.

Don’t be afraid to discipline

I will be the first to admit that I  hate disciplining my kids and I am not good at it. I feel terrible and guilty and many times I avoid it even when I know it is needed. My main fear is that my kids won’t like me if I discipline them.

But the more I learn and read, the more I realize that they will actually love me more if I discipline them.

This sounds backwards, but they will learn that I am disciplining them because I want to either protect them from making a mistake that could harm them or because I love them and want them to thrive.

My parents always disciplined us when we deserved it and I truly look back and am thankful for it. I have escaped many heartaches and troubles because they put their foot down and didn’t’ let me make stupid mistakes or decisions.

One thing that has really helped me overcome my fear of discipline is to sit down after “the storm” passes and everyone calms down and talk about why we had to discipline. I have Charlie tell me what he did wrong and I make sure he understands why he cannot do it again. I also want to make sure he understands that I love him and want the best for him.

We always end with hugs and kisses and move on.

Don’t underestimate

Before I became a mother I was so ignorant as to how smart little kids are. I assumed they weren’t listening in on conversations and I didn’t even bother really talking to them because I assumed they didn’t understand.

Boy, was I wrong! Charlie is 3.5 and he understands everything! I have to be careful what I talk about around him.

One day we were driving and there was a really slow, bad driver in front of us and my husband got annoyed and I said “dummy drivers.” Charlie spent a week saying “dummy” to everything! He used it in context too, which was even worse!

I also say “freaking” a-lot and the other day I heard him playing in his room and he said “move out of the way you freaking car.” Good think I wasn’t using a different choice word, if you know what I mean!

I have learned to never underestimate my kids. Not only when I am having a conversation but also when I am explaining things to them.

Sometimes Charlie asks me questions that seem really hard to answer for a toddler. Instead of dumbing down my response, I explain things to him the way they truly are and he usually understands! Obviously if he asks me something that he is too young to know about, I deflect the question but, most things I can explain to him and he gets it.

Be human

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we have bad days too and we may take it out on our kids. It happens, nothing to beat yourself up over. The important thing I have learned is to be able to humble yourself and say you are sorry.

Be able to approach your child, no matter how small and apologize when you know you were wrong. If I snap at my son or get irritable, I always tell him “I’m sorry for being mean, I shouldn’t have done that, will you forgive me?”

I want to teach my children how to apologize. How to admit when they are wrong and humble themselves. What a valuable life skill that will go far not only in their future careers but also in their own future relationships with their friends and their spouse/children.

Motherhood has been my greatest challenge. It has literally pushed me to my limits at times. Yet, I have seen the most positive growth in myself than in any other season. Motherhood hard but it has been the most rewarding and satisfying thing I have ever done.

Each day I am learning how to be a better mother and as a result a better person.

Children are resilient and they are so gracious. It’s a good thing, because I do make a lot of mistakes! No one said we have to be perfect, we are all just doing our best and that is enough.

What are some of your parenting tips?

Love,

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