Habits are an interesting thing. They can immensely help us live more meaningful lives, but they can also prevent us from reaching our true potential. Parents focus a ton on establishing healthy habits for toddlers. This makes sense as so much neural development is happening during those first 3 years of life.
As a mom, I have noticed that I focus less on mainstream habits such as eating and sleeping schedules or saying thank you and goodbye. I tend to be more laid back in this matter. Instead, I am very concerned about my toddler’s emotional well-being. With good emotional intelligence, all these other daily habits are easier to implement.
–>Need new healthy snack ideas at home? Check this out<–
What Are Habits?
Habits are the daily actions we take without having to think about it. Like coffee in the morning, brushing our teeth or checking our email. It’s a mechanism the brain has developed to archive certain tasks and make room for other activities that require more brain power like problem solving.
Habits can be very tough to break, which is why many parents are so cautious about introducing potentially “bad” habits to their children. Often I find that many lose the forest for the trees, focusing on superficial actions rather than the underlying behavior that trigger them (which is why I love Gentle Parenting). Emotional Health trumps certain healthy habits in those formative years.
Many parents are concerned that laying in bed with their child until they fall asleep creates a bad habit of not being able to fall asleep alone.(which on its own is such an arbitrary concern)
I’d argue that not supporting that need for connection at night is a lost opportunity. Our young one’s need to feel supported in daily transition, which builds healthy attachments between child and parent. Being left to “figure it out” on their own, sends the message that asking for help is only acceptable for certain things and not others.
The message I want to send is: you can ALWAYS come to me and we will figure it out together. –> Learn more on how to be this kind of parent…
Nurture Healthy Habits For Toddler’s Emotional Well-being
These are the 11 main habits I foster regularly with my 3 year old toddler. If he can embody these things as he grows, healthy habits will be easier to maintain in those adult years.
- Learn how to listen to his own body (and what it needs).
- Asking for help.
- Trying new things.
- Learning body consent.
- Feeling safe to have big emotions.<–and what to do about them
- Not feeling pressure to manage other’s emotions.
- Having times during the day to be bored.
- Playing outside every day.
- Engaging in disorganized play. <– my favorite toddler subscription boxes
- Pushing boundaries.
- Being kind to others.
Are Healthy Habits Important At A Young Age?
Some habits are definitely important to establish in youth, in particular around eating and moving our bodies. Although I am pretty laid back in regard to offering treats, we always talk about what foods make us grow strong, while which ones are just for enjoyment.
At a young age, our children are learning about the world. Their life those first 3+ years can have a big impact on how information is filtered and make decisions down the road. It’s also the time in which they are more likely to embody your lessons.
Don’t worry though- healthy habits can be established at anytime in life, so your child is not doomed if they end up with a vice or two. Focus on emphasizing the “why” of certain habits in combination with role modeling can almost guarantee you they will follow suite (after the rebellious teenage years)
How To Encourage Healthy Habits
The best tip for encouraging healthy habits with toddlers is to take the emotion out of it. We always brush teeth morning and evening. We always go outside to run and play, or eat fruit for snack. When the emotional side is taken out of the equation, you stop asking yourself how you feel about it and are more likely to follow through
Missing a tooth brush now and than won’t break a long term habit. Watching TV at night for a week won’t mean your child will never go to bed early again. Life has fluctuations and habits need to be flexible enough to ride those waves of change.
If we bring in the Ipad to bed, I will mention that we are doing it tonight, but that it’s a treat. I explain that at night we need to rest our eyes, and watching a screen prohibits that from happening. Sharing your own weakness around certain unhealthy habits humanizes the subject and can help. “Its hard for mama to stop watching TV too sometimes, but lets try together”.
Pick Connection Over Control
I always question myself as a mom, wondering whether my actions are helping or hurting. We all want what’s best for our children as they grow. Healthy habits for toddler is everyone’s goal but the implementation can be a challenge.
Our toddler doesn’t want to spit after brushing his teeth and he hates washing his hair. Getting him to eat a well-rounded diet has me feeling like a magician trying to make the impossible happen. So at what point do we need to step back and ask ourselves which battles to pick?
Let’s do this diligently and foster connection over control. Let go certain expectations and stop worrying that your toddler doesn’t seem to pick up on your healthy habits. If you continue to model what you want to see in your children, they will naturally follow suite in time. Especially if you help foster their emotional health.
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