Toddlers may only be small, but they’re mighty. They’re at the beginning of their life journey, and so much of what they hear, see and do in these formative years will help shape the little people they become. And it’s amazing how many of life’s important lessons can be taught during the short and sweet toddler years.
Most of us would be hard pressed to remember our own toddler years, but much of what we learnt formed the basis of who we are today. These important life lessons can all be taught and demonstrated during those fleeting, furious toddler years – with the impact lasting a lifetime.
1. Finding balance
Each day stretches before a toddler like an endless oasis of play, fun, food and perhaps a nap or two. Even at this young age, you can teach your toddler to squeeze the most out of every minute. Along with this, you can show them that stopping to smell the roses (or stare at the clouds or investigate an insect) is also really important. It’s about finding balance in your day – life’s short, so play hard but also make sure it isn’t all passing you by.
As parents, we’re not perfect. We make mistakes too – and there are times when we are stressed and stretched and can end up being far grumpier towards our children than was necessary. It’s incredibly important to teach your toddler that you too need forgiveness at times. Apologising to a toddler when you’ve overstepped the mark is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary – it shows them that even as an adult, you need to be humble.
3. Happiness is key
Some days rush by in a whirlwind of cleaning, mess making, eating, working, daycare, shopping – and very little smiling. Always take the time to make your toddler laugh. It will cure all that ails you, and above all else – it’s what we’re all striving for. And toddlers just happen to be some of the happiest folk around!
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4. Sharing is caring
While the concept of sharing is a difficult one for toddlers to grasp, it’s really important that you begin teaching this life lesson early. It can start in the home, by making sure siblings share – but also ensure you set the example. Just remember when you’re sharing the last bite of your well-deserved cupcake, that you’re passing on a valuable life lesson.
5. Shake it off
As adults, we can tend to hold onto feelings that do nothing but make us upset. Sometimes we have to forgive and forget, and move on. Toddlers too can find themselves hung up on frustrating situations that end up in a mess of tears and tantrums. They are trying to learn new skills, like putting on their own shoes or clothes – and this can result in angry outbursts. Tell your toddler that it’s ok to be upset, but there’s no need to be defeated – because they can always try again.
6. The truth will set you free
Along with all their other increasing abilities comes the discovery of lying, and often quite a knack for it! In can be a rude shock to parents when their child blatantly lies to them for the first time (although sometimes a bit funny too). Each family will need to decide for themselves how concerned they are about this behaviour, and what consequences there will be for it. Some lying is unintentional (perhaps they’re confused by a situation or line of questioning) and some is avoidant, when they know they’re in trouble. Take the time to teach them why telling the truth is so important – and ensure that you’re honest with them too. It helps to build a trusting relationship, so your toddler will continue to feel comfortable telling you the truth.
7. Compassion costs nothing
At around the 12 month mark, children will begin to show concern for others. Empathy is a huge developmental milestone for toddlers, and is constantly developing – so while they may show concern for an upset friend today, tomorrow may be a different story. It’s a great building block to creating a kind-natured toddler who takes the feelings of others into consideration, and it’s a crucial life lesson.
Toddlers are rather inclusive little beings, and you’ll find they will generally play with anyone and anything. Continue to encourage acceptance and tolerance of people and things that are different, and you’ll find your toddler’s relationships will flourish.
9. Dance like no-one is watching
We all wish we could have the wild abandon of toddlers – while they’re self-aware, most aren’t really self-conscious so they please themselves rather than others. Make sure you nurture this trait, and hopefully when they enter the world of school they can continue to be self-assured.
10. Love fiercely
Toddlers crave love and attention, and this is a beautiful thing. Teach them that a cuddle can be a cure-all, that a kiss can soothe the soul and that love is something to be treasured above all else. And if nothing else, teach your toddler that your love for them will transcend any tantrum or bad behaviour – because love should be unconditional.