Finding Zen With Your Toddler
When you pictured yourself as a parent pre-children, did you imagine yourself as a calm, collected, in-control parent who could keep their cool no matter what life threw at them?
What about when you saw your friend lose her temper with her child? Did you think, ‘Wow, she must be losing it’? Now that you’re a parent of a spirited toddler with maybe another baby, work, and the daily grind to contend with, have you met that other ‘you’ yet? Toddlers are fun, beautiful, full of love and life, laughter and joy and all those wonderful things, but if there’s one age group, apart from the teenage years, that’s going to challenge your patience and understanding, it’s the toddler years. They can be infuriating.
As much as some parents don’t like to admit it, losing your cool with your two and three-year-old happens. It’s going to happen - they’re going to behave in ways that drive you crazy, and they’re going to rebel at the worst possible times. And unless you’re a truly calm and centred person, you’re more than likely going to raise your voice or lose your patience with them at one time or another. But instead of falling into the cycle of losing your cool and feeling bad about it over and over again, it might be worth considering a few tips and tricks to ward off losing your own cool when they lose theirs.
Ask yourself the question…
What is needed of me right now in this moment? It could be that your toddler needs a cuddle, needs to be spoken to softly, needs to be asked what it is they need. This helps enormously. Asking yourself this question puts a focus back on what it is you can do to help, instead of letting the situation and your temper become bigger than you. It allows you to behave in a way that best helps the situation, and to take some control back. It rarely happens that you ask yourself the question and anger is the answer.
Be kind to yourself
You know how when you’re feeling content and happy and fulfilled, you can take just about anything that life throws your way? When you’re exhausted and busy and feel hurried, you feel anxious, on the edge? Getting to that place where you’re feeling nourished and centred yourself is probably the most important, and most difficult, thing to achieve when you’re a busy parent. It’s something people without children find difficult to comprehend, and it’s something you can only truly grasp when one turns to two turns to three kids. Prioritising time to nourish yourself emotionally, mentally and physically are more important now than ever. So book a massage, get a weekend away on your own, or if money’s tight, go for a long walk, a long bath, buy yourself a nice candle and spend some down-time in the evening reading. Whatever it is that gives you space to fill the void that’s been depleted from a lack of sleep and a lack of ‘you’ time, do it. There’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘if mom’s ok, everyone’s ok’.
Make fun of the situation
This one can be difficult if you’re tired and stressed out, but it has such a huge positive impact on taking the tantrum out of the child, and replacing it with laughs and fun. This one needs persistence. There’s very few toddlers who aren’t game for a bit of a laugh and joke when it’s going though, particularly from a mum or dad who’s usually too tired or busy for a bit of fun.
If you can do one thing for yourself and your family that will benefit you all on such a basic level, it’s meditation. Getting it together to give yourself the time and space is another matter, but if you can commit to even ten minutes a day or twice a day, it can lay the foundations for a good day, because being a bit more centred is half the battle. Most arguments and loss of control of tempers happen when you’re working off a harried and busy mind...sometimes there’s just no room for more commotion.
This is so basic that it’s often overlooked, but the link between good nutrition and mental health has been well documented. With regards to your toddler, making sure he/she is eating well and regularly can go some way towards avoiding breakdowns. Similarly, a mother who’s underfed and undernourished, which can happen so easily in the early years of your children’s life, is often irritable, lacking in energy and with frayed nerves. In his book Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, nutrition expert Patrick Holford examines how specific essential fats, vitamins and minerals can improve depression and anxiety, not to mention physical well-being. Doing your best to improve and supplementing your diet, and your toddler’s, will go a long way towards getting you through the most difficult of times.
Take it easy on yourself
It’s easy to berate yourself for not reacting in a way you would have hoped to a tantrum or difficult behaviour. Forgiving yourself, giving yourself a pat on the back for all you did do well, and starting the next hour, or day afresh will give you new a new energy and enthusiasm to do it right next time, instead of banishing yourself off to the ‘bad mom’ pile. Give yourself a break!
Read this book...
Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali. This refreshing and very honest book about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, how to appreciate the joys of being a mom, and how to be the best mom you can be to a challenging toddler just might be the answer you’re looking for. “Motherhood forces women into a new kind of self-sufficiency. Our only hope for mothering happily and wisely lies in developing inner resources to nourish ourselves. Tossed around by the needs of others, mothers give and give, so we must find ways to replenish ourselves.” A gem.