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7 Parenting Mistakes I Made When My Older Child Was A Toddler

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I’ve learned from my parenting mistakes in an effort not to repeat them

I’m far from a perfect mom, just ask my family.

But I don’t have too many regrets when it comes to raising my daughters. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have some regrets. However, they pretty much only apply to my older daughter, who is now 4. In terms of my younger daughter, who just turned 1, I’ve made a real effort not to repeat these “mistakes” in order to establish more happiness and health, both physically and emotionally, this time around.

Here are 7 parenting mistakes I made with my older daughter that I’m trying to get a better handle on now with my youngest:

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  • Loosey-Goosey Bedtime Hours 1 of 7
    Loosey-Goosey Bedtime Hours
    My older daughter used to eat dinner at 5:30 and go to sleep between 6 and 6:30. Then when she was about 16 months old, my mother-in-law came to stay with us and we kept her up later during that week. As it turns out, she never went to sleep early again. In fact, her bedtime kept creeping later and later. We didn't mind at first because we enjoyed the extra twilight hours with her. That is, until we realized she wasn't getting enough sleep at night, and by then it was too late and the die had been cast — she would not go to bed. She just turned 4 and only now do we have her on a something resembling a schedule again.
    Lesson learned. Exceptions to bedtime are OK, but toddlers do well with routine, and when you break it once too often, you can pretty much kiss it goodbye.
  • But Still Not Much Flexibility 2 of 7
    But Still Not Much Flexibility
    I was pretty rigid with my first daughter about her activity schedule. (Except, you know, bedtime. Ahem.) I kind of freaked out whenever there was a change to her daily routine, thinking she'd freak out. But yes, while kids thrive on consistency, most also enjoy a little variety.
    Acting like a drill sergeant stressed me out and surely did nothing to benefit my family.
    It's harder to be rigid with my second daughter's routine because she's beholden to her older sister's calendar of activities, and while I feel bad that she gets dragged around more often than I'd like, I'm glad that it also allows us to be a bit more spontaneous and easy-breezy.
  • Gave Up Too Easily On The 2nd Nap 3 of 7
    Gave Up Too Easily On The 2nd Nap
    When my older daughter was a baby it took about six or seven months to establish a nap schedule. She took one in the morning and one in the afternoon. About a month before she turned 1 she started protesting her morning nap a bit. It was shortly before we were going on vacation, and I decided to do away with the first nap completely.
    Big mistake.
    While some kids give up their first naps around the time of their first birthday, many hold onto the two-a-day for at least a 18 months. My daughter had a hard time adjusting without that rest in the morning, which made our day-to-day life that much crankier and more difficult.
  • Stayed on Strict Germ Patrol 4 of 7
    Stayed on Strict Germ Patrol
    My older daughter stayed home with me until she started preschool at age 3. Sure, we ventured out to story time at the library, gym, dance and music classes, but I generally tried to keep her away from other children, their runny noses and coughs and germ-laden toys like I was a Secret Service agent protecting the president on a trip to the Middle East.
    Guess what happened? She started preschool and picked up every conceivable virus and illness for an entire year.
    It's not as if I'm now encouraging my younger daughter to lick water fountains and swim in public toilets, but I want her to build up her immunity before she starts school in a few years so she can actually go to school instead of stay home sick every other week.
  • Repeated Her Favorite Foods 5 of 7
    Repeated Her Favorite Foods
    My older daughter used to eat anything I put in front of her — anything. When I discovered things she really liked, I'd make more of it the next time and feed it to her more frequently. What happened as a result unfortunately, is that the longer she'd go without seeing a food, the more likely she'd be not to eat or even try it again, despite having enjoyed it on previous occasions. She's now 4 and has 3-4 meals she'll eat. Period.
    This time? My younger daughter eats everything and I try not to repeat a meal in the same week if I can help it. She will be a good eater, no matter how much she might be tempted at some point to emulate her sister's strict diet of peanut butter and jelly, cheese pizza with no cheese, and pasta with red sauce.
  • Worried About Other People’s Opinions 6 of 7
    Worried About Other People's Opinions
    It's hard to imagine that there was a time when I actually listened to what other people thought of my older daughter. Which is to say, I appreciate compliments about my family as well as constructive criticism. But going against my own instinct because someone tried to pass off their opinion as fact? That's absurd. It took me a while to make that distinction when I was a new mom.
    That doesn't happen anymore.
  • Apologized For Those Temper Tantrums 7 of 7
    Apologized For Those Temper Tantrums
    I'm not a delusional mom who thinks her kids walk on water. Yes, I happen to think my offspring are beautiful, delightful, sweet, hilarious, and charming, but I get that (A) not everyone else sees them that way and (B) they don't always act like cherubs.
    But the fact of the matter is they're children and no one should project adult expectations onto them. Yet when my older daughter was a toddler and occasionally inappropriate at inopportune times, I found myself apologizing for her. Looking back, that makes me feel disloyal to my daughter. Why would I apologize for a toddler acting like a toddler, often when she was stuck in situations where it would be impossible to act otherwise given her maturity level?
    I'm not embarrassed by my children or their natural behavior. For better or worse, I won't apologize for them when they're doing nothing more than acting their age.

Photo credits: Meredith Carroll

More from Meredith on Toddler Times:

Read (even) more from Meredith at Babble’s Strollerderby, follow her on Twitter, and check out her weekly syndicated newspaper column at MeredithCarroll.com

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