Everything the parent does and says while the brain is still in those Theta and Alpha brainwave cycles is SO critical because it stays with them for life! It becomes their Operating System!
Have I mentioned they’re also the most sleep-deprived years for the parent and the most challenging as they navigate being their child’s emotional coach??
Learn more about what your child needs from you, below:
NBI: Need Behind It
Even those feisty toddlers that constantly want both independence and dependence and drive us mad are always showing us that their need is great… just for both at once!
For a child to separate from you and grow into their best selves, they must have a trusting relationship with you. They need to know they can count on you no matter what they do. Their trust is built on knowing that you understand all (or most!) of their needs.
Routines are good for you and me
Toddlers have no sense of time, so it’s important to give structure to their day by creating basic routines. They do have a sense of: this comes next.
Routines are comforting to toddlers and actually create the space for flexibility.
They also learn tasks by repetition. But don’t expect them to do it on their own once they’ve appeared to master a task; you’ll be embedding these routines for several years, until they are 8 or 9:
“They need our help. And routines do just that: they help toddlers sequence from one step to the next. While this helps move them towards your goal.. It also keeps organizing their brain – every day in about the same way – to eventually take over the routine themselves. This is part of the building blocks of self-regulation.”
– Dr. Tovah Klein, How Toddlers Thrive
While a basic routine is important, don’t plan to adhere to it strictly. Every day is different so you’ll do the best you can.
Just as some nights you may wash them up with a washcloth rather than a long bubble bath, try to stick to the basic order of things rather than being too rigid with schedules or plans. Remember to adjust things as your child grows and their needs change.
The real reason why bedtime is so hard
And finally, know that the reason why the two hardest routines of the day, bedtime and leaving in the morning, are so challenging, is because these are the times of greatest separation anxiety.
To your young child, both bedtime and getting dressed means having to say goodbye to you.
Think about a time that you felt sad and anxious about having to say goodbye to someone. What could they have done to help you feel better? How can you remind your child that it’s only temporary? How can you make that time more sacred and comforting?
- For bedtime, offer them something of yours to keep, and put up a picture of Mommy & Daddy by their bed. Remind them that if they need you in the night, there is either a mattress on the floor next to your bed that they can come sleep on, or they can crawl in with you. Make sure their own bed is a cozy place in the corner of the room.
- For getting dressed, be very playful and fun, and use that time to help them accomplish the task of getting dressed themselves. Allow them to pick out their own clothes (prune down their available choices so they aren’t overwhelmed), and then try to offer them lots of opportunities to master these skills by only helping as much as they need it. Hold the sock but have them push their foot through, lay out their pants the right way but have them pull them on, etc.
Through it all, be supportive and kind. Young children need to know that you are there for them and will meet their needs no matter how they behave. They need to know that they won’t be shamed, yelled at, threatened, or punished for their behavior; rather, that they can always trust you.
If that’s really hard for you, it’s totally understandable. Please set up a session with me, I can help you get to a place where you can maintain joy no matter what! My goal is to help you achieve your parenting goals through true healing, not keep you dependent, medicate you, or diagnose you or your child with some disorder (like therapy). Being a present parent requires true healing which doesn’t happen from just reading a book or listening to a podcast.