The Most Important Thing I Do to Help Build My Toddlers’ Self EsteemSelena Mills
Both of my toddlers think they can and want to do everything all by themselves. Half of the time they are completely capable, the rest of the time they can’t — or if they could they would probably seriously injure themselves or someone else doing it.
That half of the time that they can do something on their own? It’s me (or their dad), who doesn’t let them do it because it takes too long or it makes a mess. Not always, but enough that I’ve started to take note, enough that I’ve started to force myself to stop saying “No” and start saying “YES” more. To just chill out over the mad rush of it all and slow down with my kids and let them accomplish things at their own pace. To expect the mess (and the extra time things take), and to be alright with it.
To me, this is the most important and essential thing I’ve done in helping Abby and Wyndham develop their self-esteem: Saying “Yes” more and saying “No” less. I create systems for them to make things more easily achievable: clothes that are as simple as possible to get in and out of, toothbrushes and water cups at their height, stools readily available for them to reach sinks and turn lights on and off, bookshelves at their height. You’re catching on here, right? Yes, indeed it means more mess, something I’ve just had to let go of. This stage in my life is supposed to be messy. Also? It’s not all about me anyway.
Trev and I give praise through specific and open-ended encouragement. We ask them a lot of detail-orientated questions and let them express their frustrations within reason. I even validate their frustrations and commiserate with them when the time calls, instead of squashing their outbursts as being unreasonable. That way we can get to the work at hand of how to better express their emotions in a safe way, where they feel respected and are given the space and acceptance to be mad, sad or frustrated. This has been huge!
Listening is always the key to all of these things. Gentle guidance, assistance and encouragement — all key factors in how I say “Yes.” Some examples of this model would be: “Yes, you can do that,” and I help them, but I don’t take over. “Yes, you can help me with the dishes. Keep the water in the sink, and your job is to dry!’
I don’t always succeed and there will always be mornings where we are rushed and it takes just too dang long for them to get themselves dressed, brush their own teeth and get their own snowsuits on. But I do know that if we provide that time and space for them as their parents, if we say yes, they will be much happier, prouder and more confident. A great way for anyone to start their day. The little things really are the biggest things in a toddler’s world and I’ve found that the trick to raising a confident toddler is to love and accept them for the little time-swallowing, messy humans that they are — which, and I don’t have to think hard about it, is but a drop in the bucket compared to their everyday sass, wit and general, adorable awesomeness.
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Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Regular writer here and on Disney Baby. Part-time mischief maker, all the time geek. Elsewhere on the Internets … via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve