Respecting My Toddler

As Edie becomes more and more curious about every little thing around her, I'm noticing a distinct shift in myself and my parenting, too. A few months back I started hearing, "No no noooo," fly out of my mouth daily, and as soon as it did I felt myself deflate as I watched my child melt down. I do not want to stomp out her fire for life, and although I was usually stopping her from doing something unsafe (like pulling a knife out of the dishwasher as I was loading it), I wasn't always explaining it. And sometimes I just said, "No" or "Don't..." in response to something I just didn't have the energy to deal with, like coloring on the wall. It wasn't endangering anyone, but it also wasn't a habit I wanted to encourage. But I still felt like I was just playing no fun mean mom in those moments. There had to be a better way to handle it. How could I turn these times into teachable moments?

I am so thankful I stumbled upon Janet Lansbury early on in Edie's toddlerhood, because her way of wording her respectful parenting philosophy is so right on with my instincts. There is a reason I felt yucky saying, "No no no!" and trying to distract my babe with something else all day long. She is a person, and as a fellow human being with thoughts and feelings, I know I would not like to be treated that way. And I sure as heck wouldn't learn anything if someone yelled, "Don't do that!" as I was enjoying myself and didn't explain why. I would just try to do whatever it was again when they weren't looking. 

So it makes total sense to me why toddlers are notorious for continuing to do the very thing we just told them not to do--because I think if we asked them, they would say we are notorious for telling them not to do exciting things without explanation.

I am not at all saying I now give Edie everything she wants whenever she wants it--not at all. I'm making more of a conscious effort to talk to my girl like the person she is--to acknowledge her very real feelings and beautiful curiousity, to explain why some things just aren't safe or appropriate, and to be a present shoulder upon which she can lay down her frustrations when a moment of learning something new asks her to completely change the thoughts and actions she was just experiencing.

I know she isn't trying to make me mad by coloring on the wall--when she sees it she sees a beautiful blank canvas for her art. To attack it with her whole soul (this girl doesn't do anything half-heartedly) and her favorite colors, probably hoping for me to acknowledge the masterpiece and praise her talent only to be told, "No!" by the person you love the most would feel like quite a confusing rejection, wouldn't it? I don't want her to live in fear of making the next wrong move. 

All of that to say, I recommend this book. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about a parenting book, but I also don't claim to have it all (or anything!) all figured out and I may as well hear what those who have gone before me have to say. Motherhood, you guys. It is all the things!