Creative Child

3 Times to Say Yes to Your Toddler

by Brittany Ferrell

From the very moment that little one takes residence in mama’s belly, he or she begins making demands. Feed me! I am hungry! Give me more! My little one demanded that I eat spinach. I ate spinach salads, spinach quiche, and spinach quesadillas. I ate so much spinach that my husband swore I was incubating Popeye and yet, it still did not seem that I was eating enough spinach to satisfy my growing tyrant. The demands also go the other way, as well. Don’t eat that! I am serious…don’t eat that! Well, now you have done it. Come on, woman; get up because those cookies are not going to toss themselves! Oh sure, we are told that morning sickness is caused by hormones and genetics, but I think we all know those tiny task masters are actually exacting punishment on mama not following their rules.

Babies arrive in this world no less demanding than in utero. As parents, we respond to each and every request willingly, often before we are even asked. Feed me! Change me! Hold me! As I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, I promised her that I would always be there for her. I promised to take care of her, keep her safe, and love her more each day. These are the easiest promises I have ever made, as there is nothing I would not do for my daughter. I have sacrificed sleep and personal hygiene to attend to her every need and I do so readily because I am so just so grateful to have her in my life.

There comes a point, however, as our babies grow into toddlers that we become less willing to jump at every request. It is not that we care any less or that these tiny humans have become entirely independent. It is because these pint size drill sergeants start making demands that go beyond satisfying their basic needs. Feed me! Change me! Hold me! These are the tasks in which we continue to automatically oblige. Let me bounce on the furniture! Let me climb the stairs by myself! Let me drink out of the dog’s water dish! These are the demands that we obviously have trouble with and we begin uttering the word no like some sort of mantra. No. No. No. No. No!

At the same time our toddlers are beginning to explore their independence, we parents are beginning to assert our authority. We want to wrangle the reins of power out of those tiny hands and take control. We are the parents and what we say goes! It is our parental battle cry. Yes, we must set limits for our children. As I teacher, I know firsthand how children thrive in a structured and controlled environment.

Outside of responding to our child’s basic and most immediate needs, there are three times you should happily acquiesce to that tiny toddler taskmaster.

1. Your toddler wants you to read a story.

The life of a parent is a busy one and it never seems like there are enough hours in the day. We have job responsibilities, household chores to complete, and dinner to prepare. I get it. The other day, I had dinner on the stove and my daughter comes toddling my way with a book in her hand. I had just finished reading her the same book, five times in a row, not fifteen minutes prior. I could have tried to explain to her that if she gave me just a few more minutes, I would read the book to her five more times. Instead, I looked down at my daughter’s hopeful little face and I turned off the burner on the stove. I plopped down on the kitchen floor and gathered her in my lap to read her book.

It was a board book and took all of two minutes to read. I could have been two minutes closer to finishing dinner, but instead I spent two minutes fostering my child’s love of books and reading. I showed my daughter that books are so important that they are worth dropping everything for. I spent two minutes developing her early literacy and I will never regret it. I do not even remember now what I was cooking for dinner, but I clearly recall the enormous smile on her face as we were reading and the round of applause I received when we had finished!

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