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The toddler years

Parenting is a journey like none other. Even with countless parents having gone before you, yours is a unique road nobody has ever travelled before or will ever travel in the future

family_toddlerI began my parenting journey six years ago. I now have a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. This journey has been very tough but it has also been a learning experience. Once you are a parent, you should always be ready for things not to go as planned! During the first few months after her birth, my daughter would cry through the night until early morning due to colic. Nothing seemed to reduce her pain. I felt very helpless, sleep-deprived and frustrated, and most nights I cried along with her. When doctors told me that she would have this for six months, it became too much for me to handle. In my daily prayers, I found hope, and an answer too, as my daughter’s colic reduced. By the time she was 3 months old, it was completely gone. Now, it is a great joy to see my children grow, achieve milestones and acquire new skills. But the challenges didn’t end with dealing with my infant daughter’s colic, as the list below shows and as most mothers know without my telling them:

Handling fussy eaters

This is one of the biggest challenges for moms. My daughter disliked most food. I had to adopt various methods to feed her. She disliked milk, so I gave her cheese, kheer, shrikhand, paneer. This problem becomes worse when the children are sick. I try to give them little by little at intervals, but it is still a big struggle to get them to eat. Sometimes I give vegetables stuffed in parathas or as cutlets. They both love dal, so palak dal is always well received. Once I told my daughter a story about how Popeye the sailor ate spinach and became strong, and how it would make her strong as well. She has liked spinach from then on. Fruit shakes made at home has been my way of feeding them fruit and milk. I add chopped dates in cornflakes instead of sugar and they both love it.

My kids loved to eat by themselves from the time they turned 1. It was messy and took a lot of time. I had to feed them afterwards as what they ate by themselves was never sufficient. Once a parenting expert told me that I should allow them to eat on their own as it helps them experience and learn things like texture, taste, etc. Within a few months they had learnt to eat well without making much of a mess.

Consistent discipline

This is the other area where we struggle a lot. To a great extent it can be done through firm but loving instruction. I have realized that consistency is key to disciplining a child. There are times when I ground my daughter for misbehaviour and take away some privileges from my son for defiance. I do this only after warning them repeatedly to stop. They know that Mom will walk the talk. This is true about rewards as well. I make sure that if a promise is made it is fulfilled. This has helped the children to develop trust in us. Both parents have to be consistent in this area or else the child will learn to manipulate them. Once, I told my daughter she couldn’t go out to play as she had misbehaved. In the afternoon, when I was taking a nap, she asked her dad and went out to play. He was not aware of what I had told her. Next time, when I told her that she couldn’t go out, she immediately said she would ask Daddy and go. All she needed was one incident to learn to exploit a loophole and I, too, learnt not to leave any loopholes.

Time for yourself

While they were small babies they were always near me. Most of my daily routine involved caring for them, comforting them, cleaning them, feeding them. It helped me and my kids to develop a bond and trust, but it was exhausting. We mothers need rest to meet all the demands of a child and the best way is to rest when they are resting. I had to manage all this alone as we had no family members or friends staying close by. Hence, it is good if husbands can also help with household chores as much as they can. They can babysit the child while Mom takes a break. My kids love to be with Daddy as they have some exciting time of play with him. It is important that a mother’s personal needs are met or else our frustrations will affect the children, too.

Nurturing your marriage

Nurturing your marriage is also very important for you and your children. Both parents have so much to do, leaving them with no time to spend with each other. My husband and I have found that we need to plan our time together, come up with a schedule and stick to it. It’s worth spending some time in each other’s company. It is a great example for the children as they grow, to see us and learn from a good marriage. I know how important this “us time” is. I had some apprehensions about our marriage. I thank God for my husband who helped me out of them through the many discussions we had.

Appreciating your child’s uniqueness

Each child is unique. I can see this in my own two kids. My daughter loves to be outdoors, she is an introvert and is sensitive. She loves to paint and dance. On the other hand, my son is outgoing and social, and he loves cooking. Storytelling helps to put my daughter to bed but it only ends up making my son more excited and continue playing. Everyone keeps quiet so that he can settle down and go to sleep. So, when my son was born, it was altogether a new learning experience. I realized that you couldn’t have a twenty-point manual on parenting to help you to be the ideal parent. We all learn from our mistakes.

So in conclusion, in my few years of parenting toddlers, these are the principles that have helped me tremendously:

  • Be creative: Whether it is about the children being fussy about food or lacking discipline, learn to be creative, and experiment. Don’t be straitjacketed by the way it was always done or by others’ expectations.
  • Draw clear, consistent boundaries: Whether it is putting toys back or finishing the food on the plate, draw clear boundaries of what is permissible and what is not and take the child into confidence about these boundaries by explaining the reasons to them. Be consistent with these boundaries and help the child respect them rather than daring to cross them.
  • Take time off for yourself: Being always closeted with the kids, with no time for yourself, will leave you frustrated and this will show in your interactions with them. Take time off for yourself and never feel guilty about it. Find ways to spend the time depending on your situation – work, study, exercise, meet friends. Choose what gives you joy, not something that adds to the stress. Get as much help and support as possible from family and friends.
  • Invest in your marriage: If parents do not have time for each other and are constantly at loggerheads with each other, the stress will affect your kids. Build your marriage intentionally and give space for your relationship in your daily schedule.
  • Build your faith: Praying with and for our children and for ourselves helps us take the burden and place it on God. My spiritual side is what sustained me through difficult times, and it is my anchor to keep the boat from rocking.

Each parenting journey is unique. Never feel discouraged by comparisons or expectations of others. Celebrate yours as you strive to make it better!

This article is adapted and reprinted with permission from Family Mantra (www.familymantra.org), a magazine that addresses urban family issues, to strengthen and restore families

Published in the September 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine


About The Author

Sreeja Sunil

Sreeja Sunil is a homemaker and lives in Bangalore

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