Healthy habits for toddlers are great but are not the end all be all of life. The thing is, there are many external events in our life we have no control over. If habits become too rigid, those fluctuations that are part of life, can create a lot of stress for your family.
There are 5 Healthy Toddler Habits that have taken on too much weight in parent’s lives. The underlying motivations are good, but I don’t care for the emphasis and rigor that is given to these habits. Especially at such an early age.
(1) Eating On A Schedule
I am all for having well balanced meals and eating healthy throughout the day. But I am mindful of how I guide my son with his eating. I don’t expect him to follow societal standards at such a young age because those eating schedules are just not appropriate for him.
My dad was super good about eating healthy and sitting down for meals, this is definitely something I want to continue with our toddler…in time.. There are more important things I want to focus on during toddler year. –>I follow Gentle Parenting philosophies. Learn how it can make your parenting journey EASIER.
I am the mom who makes fruit salads and ensures her toddler is getting all food sources needed. I am also the mom who you can find feeding my processed chips and ice-cream.
Being a role-model for healthy eating can be powerful without forcing your little one down the straight and narrow. Letting your toddler eat outside of meal times is something I do every day and I still believe he can develop healthy eating habits as he grows.
I can see how structured times for eating can be good, and in a perfect world I’d definitely follow them. The problem is when these arbitrary times become too rigid, teaching my toddler situational flexibility during those times is more important that having dinner at 5:00pm.
(2) Going To Bed At The Same Time
I used to really get stressed out if Luca slept passed a certain time in the afternoon. Just the thought of him staying up a minute passed 8pm gave me anxiety. (I need my me-time!) That train of thinking really hindered my ability to read Luca’s needs because I was so focused on achieving a specific outcome.
One day I asked in frustruation: “why won’t you go to bed?!” and he told me: “because I am not tiered enough”. At that moment I realized I was fighting an unfair battle. I had to change, not him.
Sleep schedules work for many, but I am more interested in my family listening to their own internal clock. Just like adults, sometimes we go to bed super early, while other times we stay up extra late. I want Luca to learn to listen to his own needs, even if it means I might not have enough time alone at night.
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(3) Teaching Kids To Be “Good”
This is a loaded subject that is multi-faceted. For the purpose of this post, I want to share my thoughts on the vagueness that is the word “Good”.
I absolutely fall into the group of people who nonchalantly throw around the “good” compliment. Its came to my attention though that good is actually subjective and vague. Your child understands that they made you happy but not necessarily what it is they did correctly. Focusing too much on outcome, versus effort, teaches your child to rely on external validation as a means of self worth.
What does it mean to good? What does it mean if I am not good?
First of all, Instead of complimenting a job well done, try highlighting the effort that took place in achieving the goal.
For example: If they put a puzzle together on their own one might say: “wow, you must be so proud of how hard you worked on that puzzle. I can tell it was a difficult one”.
If you want to go one step further, use the compliment as an opportunity to tell them “you should be so proud of yourself”, instead of “I am so proud of you”. It makes a big difference when turning the focus onto their positive feelings of achievement instead of yours.
This way you’re indirectly teaching your toddler that gratification can be sought from within and not required from others.
Getting Frustrated by your toddler?
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(4) Putting Away Toys Before Starting A New Activity
Oh! This one always gets me. Forcing kids to play in an organized manner defeats the whole point of play. A really interesting article from the parenting coach Alana Robinson goes more into detail on this.
She shares that it can take quite a while of disorganized play by part of the child before they get into a “play-state”. (Coined by Dr. Stuart Brown in his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul).
One day at the playground I was talking to a nanny and somehow this subject came up. She ended her statement with: “I always have her put away one activity before starting another, because that is how it works in the real world”.
Personally, I think the real world is pretty messy, and aspects of life always overlap! Although learning organizational thinking is absolutely a strength, micro managing children’s play is not the solution for me. I prefer modeling clean up time at the end of the day instead.
You might also be interested in:
- Why Do Children Not Listen? The Unconventional Truth
- How To Deal With Toddler Temper Tantrums – Gentle Parenting Guide
- How To Love Being A Mom – To A Toddler
(5) Learning To Self Soothe Early
Self soothing which is part of self-regulation, becomes important as we navigate the unsteady waters of adulthood. It helps immensely with establishing healthy relationships and boundaries, when we don’t need our environment to calm us down.
However, teaching these skills to a newborn is not possible. By letting a baby cry by themselves until they give up is not something I believe in. Children’s brain’s are still very underdeveloped, so they need to co-regulate through their care-givers.
This is an important step not to miss before they learn how regulate on their own. A stressed child that is silent is NOT self-soothed if their nervous system is still in over-drive. (Sort of like a dear in headlights). You might think so though because the crying has stopped.
Emotional Regulation is something I find really fascinating. There is actually quite a bit of emphasis on this within Gentle Parenting through Attachment Theory. The theory states that a child becomes truly independent when they form a secure attachment with a main care giver first.
Basically, if you allow your child to need you when they are young, you are setting them up for being more easily independent as they grow. This is because a secure attachment has been established.
Healthy Habits For Toddlers Need To Be Flexible
Maintaining healthy habits for our toddler can be really stressful as a mom. It is oh’ so easy to compare our habits to that of our friends and acquaintances and really get down on ourselves.
That stress is truly counterproductive and should be weighed in when establishing what healthy habits are important to you. It’s this precise stress that I often read about in parenting platforms.
There is a fear of failure if their toddler doesn’t eat veggies, or can’t sit still at the table. Parents are pulling their hair out when faced with resistance for what appears to be minute details in a toddler’s life. There is so much fear about what might contribute to bad habits.
I say- don’t worry if weeks go by and your toddler has only eaten goldfish and grapes. It doesn’t matter if sometimes they don’t seem to ever want to nap. We all go in and out of phases in our life. Our toddler’s healthy habits needs to be flexible enough to ride the waves of childhood, because then they have a good chance of staying around throughout our little one’s life.
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