** I've had a lot of you ask me for specific behavioral strategies and parenting tips to use with Toddlers & Preschoolers. I mean... obviously! They look so cute and innocent at that age, but geez, they can stump us parents sometimes, right?! So, this is post #2 in the series: "Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers"! You can find post 1 here and post 2 here. If you have any specific parenting dilemmas or questions, for kiddos of any age, feel free to post them on our Raising Smart Cookies facebook page. **
Raising a toddler and a preschooler, both very active, curious, and fearless, I sometimes feel like my entire day is filled with moment after moment of trying to prevent my kids from causing great harm to themselves. Or one another. Or our home.
But it’s SO exhausting and deflating when you feel like your whole day is spent setting limits for your kids, stopping them from having fun, preventing them from exploring. Not only does it feel bad to have days where you’re that parent full of "NOs", it’s not effective.
Our kids’ behavior does not get better as we point out all of the things they can’t do. It gets worse.
I know what you’re thinking… “That sounds great, and I obviously don’t want to be saying NO at every turn, but what am I supposed to say when my preschooler is about to jump off of the top of their swing set and my toddler is drinking out of the garden hose while throwing things at our family dog?”
Let me tell you.
When I see my kids doing something that I cannot let them do, instead of focusing on telling them what they CAN'T do, I try to think about what they CAN do. Giving our kids an appropriate alternative to their behavior increases the likelihood that they will listen. It also teaches them how to keep their bodies, others, and property safe while encouraging them to keep their curious and active spirits.
And it’s a fun parenting challenge. Instead of saying “NO!”, try to turn every “NO!” (or as many "NOs" as you can...) into a YES!. Try it for 24 hours, I dare you.
It works. And it feels good to be a "YES!" parent. The "YES!" mom that keeps her kids safe, keeps the house from being permanently decorated by Sharpies, but also allows her kids to experiment and explore.
So what exactly might this look like in your home? How can you say "NO" but really say "YES"?
When I learn a new parenting trick I always like to have a model script to follow. So hear are some situations that you parents may encounter today and how you may choose to turn your "NO"s into "YES"es!
Totally seems do-able, right?
So when your preschooler is about to jump off of their swingset, please still feel free to sprint toward the swingset, screaming "STOOOP!!!!!!!", heart pounding, mind racing, arms cradled and prepared to catch your precious little daredevil.
But after you catch them, after your heart rate slows to normal and you've given lots of hugs and can speak normally again, show your child where they CAN jump.
Trust me, your little angel will appreciate the opportunity to jump. And you'll appreciate the moment of peaceful calm.
Until you turn and see your toddler drinking from the garden hose. :)