When I was pregnant with my son, advice was coming at me from all angles. Every website, every friend, every healthcare professional was throwing tips at me – usually without warrant. When I got tired of dodging advice-shrapnel I turned to my mother. She had raised two kids in the 1990’s, before websites, apps and instant-info was a part of daily life. In return she gave me the absolute best piece of advice I have ever received. Advice that I hands-down attribute my well-behaved toddler’s constant happiness to.
“Don’t adjust your home to your child; let your child adjust to your home.”
Essentially when she first told me this it sounded a little harsh. Here would be this small human being with no social skills or body function control that I would then task with getting used to it’s new tangible environment – no chaser. But once my son was finally born I understood what this perfect piece of advice actually means.
THE NO-NOISE ZONE
Try not to quiet the house too much when it’s nap time or bedtime. As tempting as it may be to shut off all the lights, and lasso duck tape around everyone’s mouths – let your child get used to the noises of his atmosphere. He’ll be a stronger sleeper and less fussy because of it.
PROTECT YOUR ADULT SWIM
When it’s time to sit down and read through the mail, prepare dinner or call a friend on the phone – don’t feel guilty. Whether your child is 5 months or 5 years old, they need to be able to understand that the world will not revolve around them. Find something that your infant can entertain himself with for a bit, ask your toddler to play independently while you take care of business. The younger the child the less time you’ll be able to carve out – but it teaches them a valuable lesson.
How many times have you been talking to another parent and your entire conversation is peppered with interruptions from their child? Don’t be that guy. When you’re legitimately in the middle of a conversation, especially if it’s a guest in your home, remind your child that it’s impolite to interrupt and ask that they wait until you are done. When there’s a breath in the conversation, excuse yourself, tend to your child and again reinforce to them that you have a visitor and they need to find something to do. Seems harsh? Just remember that your adorable 3-year-old will soon be an elementary school student that will have to learn to raise his hand and wait.
TANTRUMS ARE A PRIVATE AFFAIR
This is definitely something I have learned to do more and more as Orion has gotten older, and it’s saved my sanity on multiple occasions. When my son is throwing one of those famous toddler fits (you know, having a melt down because his truck won’t fit up his nose) I simply ask him to excuse himself. It’s not a punishment – though it’s reminiscent of time-out – it’s just a polite request. Please take your screaming elsewhere, it’s awfully disturbing. I find that intention and tone make a huge difference in serving the message that he’s not in trouble for being upset; he’s just choosing a bothersome method of expressing it. I ask him to take a “moment” alone and yes – sometimes I have to physically remove him myself. Once he’s calm he likes to announce that he’s “happy now” and we have a quick exchange about why he was upset where I remind him that tantrums are things he should have alone in a quiet space because screaming is rude and obnoxious.
DON’T JUST BE MOM – BE FRANK
Of course we should shower our children in plenteous affection. Of course we should praise their accomplishments and kiss their boo-boos. In no way would I ever suggest being cold or inattentive to your child’s needs. However, I have seen the results of building your home around a child and it ain’t good. I see children unable to adapt, who are rudely outspoken to adults and authority, who seem to enjoy things less because they are too concerned with making each moment perfect instead of taking life as it comes. I also know plenty of adults who are this way and let’s face it – no one really wants to be around them much.
The take-away? Remember you are raising future adults. Your child has a fantastic life as a tiny person. No bills, no relationship pressure, no body image issues…they get to play and have snacks handed to them all day. Encouraging some guidelines and boundaries from the very beginning won’t harsh their carefree buzz but it will help them feel more secure and contribute to a more harmonious household.