Yes, he is 20 pounds and 31 inches tall and you can lift him up in one hand. But that doesn’t undermine the fact that my toddler is a human with functional emotions, desires and opinions. That is why we treat him as one of us, as an individual and not as a baby. We have rules and limitations of course but sometimes we just let him be. We try to make him feel important and loved. I have listed how and why.
1. He is not going to share if he doesn’t want to. Do you remember the last time you shared something. Do you remember the feelings that accompanied that act of sharing. You remember feeling noble and happy. Now, do you see that happening to my child when you took away his toy train and gave to another child? Was he beaming at your lecture on the virtue of sharing? You hear that scream mine-mine? You see sharing should make both giver and the receiver happy. What you essentially did was snatching, not a great example for both those kids.
2.If he doesn’t want to wear blue shorts he is not going to have to wear it. We respect his choices over here. We will not let him wear a bat man costume for a wedding but if he wants to choose between jeans and trousers we will let him. He can choose between apples and blueberries. We don’t give him the impression that we run his life and he has no option but to stick to our decisions. He can make them for himself once in a while. He can also make them for us once in a while. I don’t mind wearing a hat while cooking for sometime if I can see those giggles. By welcoming his ideas and choices, we want to make him feel valuable and build his self-esteem.
3. He is not going to hug you if he doesn’t want to. So you made that awesome apple pie we all loved. But I don’t think we pounced on you, kissing you all over in appreciation. Then why do you do that to my child? Of course you found him cute, when he stacked those blocks all by himself. But use words like we did. Use your hand if you want to and clap. But please oh please don’t force that hug. Now or anytime.
And understand, when this little guy refuses a hug he is not telling I hate you. He is telling you that I am not in a mood for a hug so just let me be. So please don’t feel bad or worse yet, make a deal out of it.
4. He is going to express his emotions and by emotions. I mean even the negative ones. Like anger and hate. He is allowed to in our hour house. He can use words. He can hate uncle Trey.We will try to find out why and try to work out the differences, but he is allowed to say and feel hate. He can bang on the floor when he is frustrated and scream if he is angry. He can kick, shriek and throw. We will not shame him for that. We will not criticize him for that. We will not make him feel guilty. We will not belittle him. Of course, we have rules here. We will not let him break the vase or the TV. Judge our parenting if you want to but we will not stop him from expressing his feelings. Did you not break your phone the day your boss refused a leave?
5. He needs to make mistakes and as parents, we will let him fail and fall. Yes, even that 2-year-old. He will remember to duck while emerging from below the table only after he bumps his head a couple of times. We are not going to rush everytime to make him duck. We will rush when he is trying to put his finger in an electric socket or trying touch a hot iron. As parents we will always shield him from danger but not mistakes.
6. Occasionally he is allowed to break rules. He can skip dinner if he had too much cake at a party. And yes sometimes, like when the cake is too delicious he is allowed a lot of cake. When his cousins are visiting, he can play for an hour or so past his bed time. We never made it this far, without breaking some rules along the way (think high school). He is just a toddler. We can bend rules for him- Occasionally.
7. We Don’t Lie to him, we reason. Those lies like some monster is going to get you if you don’t behave. Easy and effective. We don’t tell him that. We tell him that if he doesn’t eat he will not have the energy to play. Same goes when he tries to throw something at the TV. We tell him that breaking that TV means, spending money to buy a new one,consequently, little money is left for buying toys. A 2-year-old definitely does not comprehend that fully, but the tone of the complex sentence works. Sometimes it takes a little more time. Eventually, he will learn to understand and appreciate the consequences his actions. Well, that’s our hope.
We do all of this and more with full knowledge of the fact that he is a 2-year-old and not an adult. We do all this in the hope of raising a strong, confident and responsible adult. It’s usually simple. Just imagine yourself or any adult in his place and put his actions in perspective. Just imagine yourself or any adult at the receiving end of your words and actions to put his reactions in perspective.