Childhood flies by in what seems like the blink of an eye. The newborn days may seem to drag on, especially when your baby seems to have his days and night mixed up. The toddler years are challenging, too, but then again, every stage of parenting brings along its own unique hardships. Even so, there are many things parents can do during the baby and toddler years to set their children up for a lifetime of success.
Although it might seem like a lifetime in between, the toddler years and the teenage years aren’t too different.
Does the thought of your sweet little baby turning into a rambunctious teen make you shudder? Don’t fret - there are plenty of skills you can teach your toddler that will help them navigate those difficult late childhood years. When you nurture skills in your little one, you’re making a powerful investment into her future. Here’s how your relationship with your toddler can impact the kind of teenager your child will become.1. Make sure your child hears and understands you.
Teens are really good at tuning out their parents, so practice good listening skills while your child is young. Babies and toddlers are tiny copycats, and can understand way more than they can express as they build their language and vocabulary skills. Your toddler might surprise you out of the blue by using a particular word or phrase that you often use - and that’s proof they’re hanging onto every word you say. As your child grows and develops, it might look like he’s not paying as close attention to you anymore, but realize that he’s probably still internalizing everything you say. Practice choosing your words carefully, and repeat the type of phrases and sentiments that you’d want to hear your child express down the road.2. Make your rules and boundaries clear.
Be clear on which rules are non-negotiable. Making sure your child knows what rules should never be broken during the early years can help your future teenager make the right decisions. As your toddler builds his growing sense of independence, make it clear that certain things are negotiable - like what shirt to wear, what game to play, and what he’d like to eat for a meal. On the other hand, make it clear that certain rules need to always be followed - like holding hands when crossing the street, staying away from a hot stove, and not eating non-food items. In general, rules regarding health and safety should always be followed. Help your teen understand that you value her opinion, and you can compromise on certain issues, but that there are also rules that should never be broken - being safe on social media, wearing a seatbelt in the car, and steering clear of drugs.3. Practice positivity and optimism.
Toddlers and teens alike can seem overly dramatic at times. For example, a toddler may have a full-blown tantrum if you cut his sandwich the wrong way. Similarly, your teen might have a meltdown about getting a less-than-stellar grade on a test. Teach your toddler about perspective, and your teen will be set up to deal with small aggravations in a healthy way. Help your child focus on the “big picture” and not get bogged down in minor disappointments, and your teen will be better equipped to cope with negative outcomes later in life.4. Establish coping mechanisms for big feelings.
Stress and anxiety are inevitable in life, but you can help your toddler learn to cope with daunting situations. If your little one is nervous about playing at a new park, going to a new daycare, or trying a new food, guide your toddler in facing the stressor head-on. It might be easier to protect your child from hardship by shielding them from anything that might make them unhappy, but this doesn’t do them any favors. Encourage your child to face challenging situations with bravery and determination. Your teen will someday face difficult situations, too. He might show up to a party and feel nervous about talking to people, he might feel lost trying to navigate a new school, or he might struggle with a certain class. Equipping your child with courage and self-esteem in the early years can help them navigate tricky situations in the teen years.5. Emphasize patience.
Whether you’re parenting a 3-year-old or a 13-year-old, patience is key. They are going to push you to your limits, but have a patient spirit can set your child up for success. Toddlers often want to do everything “by myself,” which is great because it means he wants to practice autonomy, but it also can mean simple tasks like getting dressed or eating a meal can take much longer than you’d appreciate. If you want your child to feel self-sufficient during the teen years, it’s important to be patient in the early years and let your child do tasks at his pace. A sense of autonomy is crucial during the teen years, when your child will want to assert his authority and assure you of his independence. Enabling your toddler to do things his way, even if it takes twice the amount of time, can help prepare him for success during the later years.
If you find yourself worrying about the tumultuous teen years, know that you can nurture skills in your child while he’s still a toddler that will set him up for an easier time in later childhood!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.