This is the second week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.
These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgment.
Being a parent or caretaker requires a level of compassion that is almost second nature from the beginning. It’s as if when the child is handed over, they also hand over the inherent tools needed to be loving, compassionate, and caring for the little one.
Just kidding. That’s the narrative we’re told when we’re about to become parents.
That isn’t actually the case: it takes time to fall in love with this new human being. While some things do come naturally, being compassionate may take longer to foster and that’s okay. Compassion isn’t given, it’s developed through a lifetime of experiences.
Going several months with sleep deprivation makes it hard to want to understand what’s going on inside the little one’s head, but it’s something to consider, especially when they won’t stop screaming.
In a child’s ugliest moments, it is important to see things from their perspective to better serve their needs. As with Gentle Parenting, this isn’t about being permissive, but finding ways to use available parental tools in the most effective way.
Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.
The Difficulties of Growing Up
Understanding babies and toddlers is a rather foreign concept. As adults, we are furthest away from them developmentally as possible. Teenagers can be easier to understand, if only because we may have recently come out of that developmental stage.
Toddlers have a difficult life.
As silly as that sounds, it is true when looking at things from their perspective. Several years ago, before I even thought of having Jai, I read a post about how hard toddlers have it. I haven’t been able to find the exact article, but there are others out there with the same concept. It talks about life from a toddler’s perspective and speculates what they might be thinking.
Life From a Toddler’s Perspective:
- You can understand most, if not all, of the words spoken to you, but you have limited ability to respond in a way that your caretakers understand. Certain noises or actions will elicit responses, and while they may not be an effective way to get your needs met, it gets the ball rolling.
- You rarely have a say in anything. You could be playing with a toy, watching your favorite show, eating your snack, and your caretaker picks you up and asserts their will on you in some manner. Moves you to another room. Straps you into a chair. Changes your diaper. You did not want or ask for any of this.
- Once more: you don’t have a say. There’s food put in front of you and you don’t like the taste or are bored with it. But your caretaker won’t let you out of your chair until you consume an arbitrary amount. You are put in your crib for a nap, but you don’t feel tired and don’t want to be left alone.
- Rules are abstract concepts. You want to explore and try everything now that you are mobile, but every time you get close to something interesting you get yelled at or moved. You eventually get that something is “no,” but that’s a “no” at the moment and may not be a “no” in a while. So you want to test to see if there’s consistency.
- There is no concept of self-preservation. You can walk and you see your caretakers go downstairs, why can’t you on your own? Now they get upset when you venture too close.
- There is no concept of ownership. Everything your caretaker has is yours and everything of yours is yours and everything the other little human you’ve been brought to see is yours, and now there’s crying and you don’t understand why your caretaker is being stern with you for taking that toy.
- Emotions are new and shift every day. You don’t understand what they mean or why you feel this way. The only way to feel better is to have an outward release of those emotions by yelling, crying, or throwing something because why not? This causes your caretaker to react in ways you don’t understand.
- In the same vein, learning happens all the time, but you don’t understand your limitations. You see your caretaker do something or an older child do something that you want to do, but you aren’t able to do it in the same way when you try which is very frustrating.
The list can go on and on, but the point is made: it’s difficult to be a toddler when it’s hard to understand what is going on and you don’t have the tools to manage it.
Keeping these ideas in mind when dealing with a little one will help raise personal awareness and compassion for your child. Essentially every part of being a toddler is frustration, from not being able to understand to not being able to manage emotions. When they are throwing a tantrum or being resistant, it’s nothing personal to the caretaker, it’s because they are incapable of managing their feelings the way adults have been trained to do.
Therefore when confronted with a toddler’s frustration, the adult can take a step back and be compassionate to what might be upsetting their little one.