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Talkin' Sleep

Top 5 Struggles of Parenting A Toddler and How To Make The Most Of This Stage

​​Parenting a toddler can be… quite a journey. Trying to reason with a toddler feels like dealing with a mini version of yourself, remembering the forgotten parts. Parenting toddlers brings unique challenges. These challenges can be much less challenging if you understand how your toddler’s developing brain actually works. Realistic expectations save sanity! It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, chaos, and laughter. Buckle up, as I tell you the top 5 struggles of parenting toddlers, and how to make the most of this stage. Because who can resist pulling their own hair out while trying to get a toddler to do something, on time?

Developing Brains 

First off, let’s talk about the elephant in the room; toddler brains. Picture dealing with someone whose brain is still a work-in-progress. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, it’s easy to forget that their brain is still under work. A lot of work. I’m guilty of this too; especially when you have a really smart and expressive toddler who is hitting milestones. It’s easy to fall for the idea that their little brains operate the same way as yours (an adult). Your toddler’s brain is still developing in areas like thinking about other people’s points of view (this develops during the preschool years). Reasoning, planning, and executive function, isn’t complete development till middle adulthood, yes, really!

No seriously, your toddler is not trying to be difficult on purpose; it’s just science. To navigate this challenge, it’s important to understand that toddlers see the world from their own perspective, and their own perspective only, not because they are assholes but because this capacity to see someone else’s point of view, is still developing. 

This expectation that they care about your point of view, can lead to a lot of stressful moments for both you and your toddler. For example – how often have you told them your going to be late to work only to see them do…nothing. Remember, when your toddler doesn’t care or understand your morning work rush, it’s not a personal attack, it’s just that their brain is focused on what they are doing (not on what you want them to do).

Development Pace

Does it feel like everything is both constantly moving AND also moving at toddler speed: AKA snail’s pace, at the same time?! Walking out the door? Be prepared to wait forever or face a tantrum. This is not happening because you’re doing it wrong, it’s just that toddlers need more time than adults to process and understand commands. They also need support to actually follow through on them. Our modern society is not designed for someone like you, a parent with a toddler. Everything is just extra hard when you’re taking care of a little one who has their own agenda and brain-under construction.

Here’s a practical tip to make things easier. Count to 10 after making a request to allow them time to process. It’s likely that by that point, they will start understanding what you’re asking them to do and possibly even do it.

How can you make the most of this pace? Well, this might sound annoying, but take it as an invitation to learn to slow down and appreciate the beautiful and simple things in life! Imagine seeing your toddler see snow for their first time ever. They’re in complete awe of something they’re not used to seeing. How cute is that! 

Relationship Dynamics 

Just when you thought you had your baby phase all figured out, BAM! Your little one is no longer a baby. Toddlerhood comes in with new challenges and joys, with your toddler off exploring the world and expressing their demands and preferences. It’s such a bittersweet transition that you might find yourself missing the baby phase, or maybe even have feelings of guilt for not enjoying it more. You’re not alone in this rollercoaster of emotions. The toddler phase can come with lots of chaos, and it’s okay to feel nostalgic for the baby days. 

During this transition, feelings and emotions are going to come up. For you, not your toddler 😊. This transition to toddlerhood can remind you of the bittersweet reality -that things end and change in the blink of an eye. This realization can also reassure you and give you a sense of pride that your little one is growing and becoming more and more independent. Toddlerhood could be easier than babyhood because they can finally do so many things on their own.

How to make the most out of this situation you ask? Well, these transitions are there to remind us that everything eventually ends or goes through changes; we should take this as an opportunity to savor the enjoyable moments. For me, this really resonated once I had my second child. Learning from my motherhood experience from my first child, I learned to enjoy small moments. When you have a baby for the first time, it can feel like the challenging aspects of the baby phase will never end, there is nothing like your baby turning into a toddler to remind you that everything eventually passes. 

Loving Boundaries and Limits – What’s That?! 

Limits and boundaries….. every parent’s least (?) favorite word when it comes to parenting. As your little one begins to transition into toddlerhood and assert themselves as an individual which comes with demands and preferences, loving limits and boundaries become essential. Keeping their world predictable helps them feel safe and secure – this is a requirement for restful sleep and functioning. The problem is, saying “no” to your adorable toddler can be very hard for a variety of reasons. At the same time, setting boundaries provides a sense of stability and security for your toddler. See you and my dilemma here? 

If you struggle with setting boundaries, you’re not alone. Setting loving limits and boundaries can be difficult, especially if you didn’t grow up with them. You might feel like setting boundaries is going to ruin your relationship with your toddler, or hurt your bond in some way. Setting loving limits and healthy boundaries means that you can say no and still stay in relationship with your little one.  Saying “no” doesn’t mean that you are invalidating how they feel, an important aspect of raising emotionally healthy children. It’s the perfect balance between supporting their feelings and still creating the structure that they need to feel safe and secure.            

Navigating Emotions

Your toddler is going to have, and express their feelings about you saying “no” to their requests. This is the moment when you might feel that irresistible urge to turn your “no” into a “yes” or a “maybe?” and change your answer only to eventually explode with anger and irritation at some random point in the day. Yes, this has happened to me too. Saying no to them, doesn’t mean that they’re not allowed to have feelings about it or that you can’t support how they feel about it without actually changing your answer. Okay so, you can accept how they feel because this helps them learn to accept themselves and build their self-esteem.

Someone having an opinion about you saying “no” to your toddler doesn’t mean that you should change it into a “yes”. You can instead focus on helping them accept their feelings and express themselves in a healthy way, even if it doesn’t mean getting their own way.

We Want To Hear From You!

What do YOU think is the hardest thing about dealing with a toddler? Let’s exchange stories in the comment section. Remember, this chaotic journey will eventually pass, and amid it all, embrace the little moments with your toddler.

Looking to learn more about your toddler’s sleep patterns and how much sleep they need? Download our FREE normal Toddler Sleep guide HERE!

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