Three-year-olds are no joke, and there are plenty of days when parenting one feels like a futile struggle. I feel as though I am constantly putting out little fires, only to have a new one appear while the last one is still smoldering. It’s a bit like a real-life version of that whack-a-mole game.
Lately, parenting my toddler has felt like one never-ending challenge. Every little thing was turning into a battle and the frustration that both of us felt was palpable. Her boundless energy and listening issues, paired with my short fuse and often unrealistic expectations were all boiling down into a recipe for failure. Redirection, timeouts, and other consequences weren’t working. I wasn’t feeling very good as a mom and I’m pretty sure my daughter wasn’t feeling so great about the situation either. I was feeling at a loss for what else I could possibly do to remedy this situation … or at least make things a little bit easier.
Having exhausted most of my options, I decided to do something that was a bit counterintuitive. I decided to try to keep the little fires from starting in the first place with a little preemptive parenting. Instead of just sitting back and waiting for a conflict to appear and resolve itself, I started giving her extra love and attention. At first it was hard to find moments to do it because there weren’t very many lags between the threenager drama, but when I really began to look, I started to find them.
I began going out of my way to compliment her when she was being exceptionally kind and I would stop to tell her how much I appreciated her when she was helping out with her baby brother. I became more intentional with hugs, kisses, cuddles, and squeezing in extra moments for make believe play (which is her favorite). And before long, I was noticing that on the days I put in a concerted effort to connect with her, she was such a joy to be around and her behavior did a complete 180. I no longer had to raise my voice or tell her to do something 20 times before she would actually do it. And aside from the decrease in frustration from the both of us, I found that the simple act of being more loving toward my daughter made her more loving toward me. It was becoming a beautiful cycle.
Of course things haven’t become pure magic all of a sudden. There have still been challenging moments and power struggles, but as a whole, they are becoming more the exception than the rule. Who knew that such a simple act of giving my daughter more focused love and care could be such a game changer?