I have two older children and in hindsight did not do all the right things at all the right times. I have learned many things the hard way with my children, many things through trial and error. I have watched as others struggle with toddlers and I myself am dealing with a teen. I think we all need to share what we learn from child rearing with each other since there is no actual hands on training when it comes to children. We all want the best for our children but sometimes we go into parenting with a handicap. Even though we may come from very loving homes ourselves it often doesn’t mean we were trained properly in all areas. When we are very small (usually until we hit our teen years) we think our parents know everything. When we become parents we realize how little we know and sometimes how little our folks knew. There is no blame to be placed; it was a lack of training passed down generationally, not intentionally. After all, you can only teach what you know.
There are a few things that I have learned which I would like to pass along. They fall under the discipline and chores categories for age groups. We as parents often don’t start to do either early on and then wonder what has gone wrong as our children age. We often mistake laziness for inability and defiance for ignorance. Sometimes we want our children to be our friends, this is especially true for those of us who grow up with insecurities and want everyone to like us. Sometimes we don’t discipline or make our children take responsibility in the name of love, we think we are being loving but it is just a disguise for fear. What we should really be fearful of is creating an unproductive, unruly adult which generally appears when they become teens and then the problems truly begin. If you think you are having trouble with your toddler or preschooler then “you ain’t seen nothin yet”! And I am dealing with a great deal of my past mistakes as we speak.
If you are already there, as am I, do not be afraid or discouraged. There is still hope. You just have to work doubly hard to make things right. Getting yourself positioned correctly to greater influence your teen. Responding in love and not reacting in fear. This is what I have been learning lately. I don’t know who I am talking to or what your spiritual beliefs are but I myself have been spending a lot of time on my knees praying for my teenage son. I have been learning that anger does not achieve what I am seeking to accomplish. My goal is a productive, God fearing, and disciplined human being. Love is the answer, and not passive love, but doing everything you do for their good. It sounds easy but can I just say “Whew”!
Okay, well back to the beginning. I have a girl who is and has always been the poster child for obedience, love, and faithfulness. I never had to worry about her doing what she was told, doing her chores, or following through on homework. She was and is loving, kind, and always looking for ways to help and encourage. These two children of mine were raised in exactly the same way and in the same home. That’s where my mistakes began. My son is seven years younger. I did not realize that doing what I did with my daughter would not produce the same results in my son. I think the first thing that we all need to realize is that no two children are the same just as no two adults are the same. We are all individuals with different motivators and dispositions. We can and we should have different means to discipline one child from another. One child can have a privilege that the other does not get. Life is not fair and it is not a bad thing to teach our children that not everything is created equal. I know what you are thinking, sure she can say this in hindsight, and you are right. It doesn’t mean that I cannot try to give you some insight in the hopes that I can spare someone out there some heartache later.
For those of you who have toddlers it are very important that they have structure and routine in their day to day lives. I know there are errands that have to be run during the day but do your best not to have so many scheduled activities for your toddlers. They need naps, playtime, regular meal times, and a daily routine. When you get them out on errands and you see them getting cranky because they are tired don’t punish them, just take them home for a nap. I see so many people embarrassed or getting upset by their children’s crying in the stores. Most of the time, with toddlers, it is not a discipline problem but perhaps they are tired or need the security of home.
Anytime they do act out and it is truly rebellion and anger, not fatigue or insecurity in whatever circumstance they are in, do not take it personally. They are just looking for boundaries, and boundaries will make them feel even more secure in your love. Just remember to respond in love, don’t get irritated because they are annoying you or getting in the way of something you want to do. Always think about what is the best for them. If you want to go out and shop or go to a meal with friends to relax then you should consider having a grandparent or friend babysit for you. Perhaps there are others in your network of neighbors or friends that have young children and you can swap out babysitting for each other. You do need to be able to have time for yourself but not at the expense of your toddler.
Don’t threaten or lecture your toddlers, they don’t understand threats or lectures, just handle the situation. If they are throwing a toy, tell them if they do not stop you will take it away, and then follow through. If they won’t stop doing something wrong, give them a warning; if they don’t comply make them sit down in a chair. Don’t count to ten because they will wait until eleven to do what you say. Say what you mean and mean what you say. It is far easier in the long run, they will know what is right which will produce a much better relationship and more time for fun. Try not to refer to yourself as mommy and them as Suzy or Joey. Use the words you and me, they need direct approach not the abstract.
There are chores you can give to your toddler to teach them responsibilities. Don’t wait until they are older to start giving them chores. There are many things two and three year olds can do. For example, they are capable enough to pick up their own toys and put them away. If they can play with them and carry them around they can for sure put them away! Chores give them a sense of purpose, achievement and discipline. I have noticed that many children today (including my own) do not have self control. This is something that needs to be taught. Everyone needs to learn to control their own emotions and behavior at an early age or there will be repercussions later. More than likely you know an adult that never learned self control and you can see where that has led them. Here is a list of some other chores that toddlers can handle.
Besides the aforementioned putting away their own toys –
- Dusting (using a duster or microfiber type dust cloth)
- Wipe off the kitchen table or counters
- Collect and put clothes in the dirty clothes hamper
- Make their bed
- Help unload dishwasher (giving them things to put away that are not up too high)
As they get older you can add chores that are age appropriate. When they become proficient at a chore then you can give that chore to a younger child. You know it’s time to step it up. The following are just suggestions and the previous years chores can be included in the older children’s chores but they should be progressing year to year.
Age 4-5 Chores
- Set table
- Vacuum with light weight vacuum
- Match socks and fold small towels
- Help weed garden
- Clean windows
- Help load dishwasher
- Sort recycling
- Water plants
Age 6-8 Chores
- Collect garbage
- Get mail
- Fold clothes
- Rake leaves
- Change younger child’s diaper
- Help prepare meals
- Clean sinks/counter in bathroom
- Help wash the cars
Age 9-11 Chores
- Take out garbage and recycling to curb
- Mop floors
- Make simple meals/dishes for dinner
- Wash and dry clothes
Age 12 – 14 Chores
- Clean tub and shower
- Supervise younger kids chores
- Clean out refrigerator/freezer
- Prepare meals and meal plans
- Mow yard
Age 15-18 Chores
By this time the children should be able to do anything that needs to be done in the house. They should be able to step up and take over if mom is ever sick or needs to take care of something else. When I worked in a school for the handicapped when I was younger this is what they taught the children that were deaf and blind, the ability to take care of themselves was the first and most important life skill they were taught. We are doing our children a disservice by not giving them these skills. This is practical love that we are teaching. Sometimes we feel like it is easier to do the work ourselves than to get them to do it and this may actually be the case, but the best ways aren’t always the easiest. We all want our children to go out into the world as confident, productive, and secure individuals. We need to equip them with proper discipline, self control, and a strong work ethic. It’s not always easy but it is certainly worth it when we build loving, solid relationships with our children that we can still have when they become adults. God bless and strengthen all of you moms and dads!
Ken Myers as an Expert Advisor on multiple household help issues to many Organizations and groups, and is a mentor for other “Mom-preneurs” seeking guidance. He is a regular contributor of “http://www.gonannies.com/”. You can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.