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Get in Touch With Your Inner Toddler
As the parent of a toddler, I wish we lived in a grass hut sometimes or at least a home with no drawers, windows, stoves, or plug outlets. That seems ideal on most days. Head butting a grass wall wouldn't knock your toddler silly or require a nervous call to the doctor. Often I wonder what is going on in a toddler's head. Why is the kitty litter box or the cable wire far more intriguing than a colorful, musical, child safe toy? Why is "no" easier to say than "yes"?
Instead of spending valuable time trying to make sense of the toddler's mind (I'll leave that to the experts), I have decided to conduct my own field experiments and observe and participate with my toddler (as if I had a choice anyhow). Just maybe there is something we can all learn from having these little treasured, but sometimes peculiar beings in our lives. We usually think of toddlers acting without rhyme or reason, but there is a lot to be learned from them- lessons we've long forgotten.
Here is what I've learned from my toddler:
1. There's nothing you can't do.Granted, the stunt may end up in the emergency room, but the sky is the limit when you're a toddler. The sky should still be the limit through your adulthood as well. Somewhere along the lines I think most of us forgot that, therefore setting low expectations for ourselves by listening to negativity others have fed us and adhering to good ol' common sense. Oddly enough, the more we've learned growing up, the more limits we set for ourselves, stating "that's impossible" or "that will never happen". Take it from a toddler- Unicorns do exist- if only in their mind, but that's a minor detail. For a child, the sky isn't even the limit- there is no limit. They could fly to the moon with their imaginary wings. Think no limits and use some key traits from your toddler- such as ingenuity, resourcefulness, and determination. Sometimes common sense is overrated and keeps us from trying new or different things. Just try to do some of the physical stunts your toddler can do.
2. Stop and Play With the Roses. Play with what? Certainly not you- you are too busy scurrying from point A to point B in a constant flurry of serious important adult stuff. And in between point A and point B, you lost your spontaneity, sense of adventure, playfulness, and childlike curiosity. Watch a toddler; they can make anything into a fun and creative toy. They learn by playing so why can't you? Often times I find myself in one of life's ruts and then I decide to paint or draw or make paper figures with my toddler and all of a sudden I have clarity in other aspects of my life- it's amazing. I would call it creative therapy and trust me, you don't have to be an artist to be creative.
3.Saying "NO" feels good. Saying no to others means you are saying yes to yourself- not such a bad deal if it weren't for the guilt we feel for saying no. Toddlers learn to say no as a way to assert themselves and their independence then they back off the word once they've established boundaries with certain things and people.
As adults we usually get wrapped up in the power struggle of our yes and their no and we take their "no" personally. No is best without an explanation- less personal. An explanation suggests that we feel guilty about our no and the other person picks up on our hesitation. That's when the well-meaning no begins to crumble like your grandmother's burnt toast. Watch how your toddler says no- he/she can do it without all the mental junk.
4. Stop headbutting the wall for God's sake! Do you ever think that the 10th time your toddler headbutts the wall or slams their hand in a door might be the time your toddler gets some sense knocked into them? We watch our children do some pretty stupid things not once, but several times before they finally stop trying to move the wall with their heads. However, in our own lives we headbutt some walls also. On many occasions I have been guilty of and have witnessed others in situations where we don't learn the first time and we keep going back for more. By adulthood you'd think we would outgrow this nonsense trait. We do have one thing toddlers don't- the power of self reflection. If we come face to face with a dead end or experience a failure, that is definitely time to take stock and self-reflect- no I didn't say veg out in front of the TV and forget about it. We only learn from history if we take time to reflect upon it and learn from it. So next time you witness your toddler doing something "stupid" repeatedly (which could be any moment now) reflect on the walls you are headbutting in your own life.
5. Discover the Day! Every day is a brand new adventure. It seems like toddlers pick up on a new trait, skill, or funny quirk nearly every day. I look at my toddler every morning and see the sparkle in her eyes and her eager mood. Before her day has started, she has already made up her mind to conquer the world. If she doesn't accomplish her reasonable goal that day, she is not put off by it the next day. What Inspiration!
6. Don't Hide Your Emotions. So it's not exactly acceptable to have a tantrum whenever you don't get your way, but it's also not necessary to bury your emotions and accept everything that comes your way. I read in a baby book that it is OK to let a baby cry a little periodically- everyone needs a good cry sometime. The biggest difference between adults and toddlers is that you can utilize your anger to be direct or set boundaries or overcome an obstacle. But you have the green light to punch a pillow when needed.
7. Be PROUD of YOUR Accomplishments.Watch a toddler master a new skill- it's like Rocky Balboa climbing those stairs, they're the champion, and nothing can knock them down. They look so proud of themselves- it's adorable. Often times we adults expect way too much from ourselves and whatever we accomplish seems to be undermined by everything else on our to-do list. When we accomplish something, we need to recognize our job well done and celebrate even for just a proud moment or two. Toddlers don't have a sense of shoulda's and coulda's as in "I shoulda or coulda done better". They did their best, they conquered or not, and still celebrate.