Toddlers and Parenting
Last night as we were driving home from daycare, Ava started to take her shoes off. If you have a child, you know this is one of the most annoying and most frequent things your toddler will do when they come of shoe removal age.
It is annoying because you then have to put their shoes back on when you arrive at your destination.
And if you're me, when you arrive at your destination you have many bags to carry in to the house, and usually have to pee because you've been commuting for 2 hours.
I distracted her at first with some music, but then she played the "who's really in control game" and asked me to turn it up, and then turn it off and then turn it back on again. The second time she asked me to turn if off and back on I left it off. Mama doesn't play that game.
And then I heard the velcro sound again.
"Ava," I said calmly, "I want you to leave your shoes on."
"I take my shoes off!"
"Ava," I replied, "If you take your shoes off then you have to walk in to the house with no shoes on. And your feet will get cold and wet."
The shoes came off and I let her know I wasn't happy.
"I not happy," she said smiling, "I take a my socks off too."
"Okay, Ava. That means you have to walk in to the house with no shoes or socks."
When we arrived home I put her on the wet street. She grimaced, and then I noticed a car down the block so I cut her some slack and put her on the sidewalk.
"My feet cold and wet." She exclaimed.
She looked up at me, with a look that said, "We really doing this?"
And I said, "Come on, let's go inside."
And I started to walk towards the house. She walked unsteadily at first, and then picked up her gate galloping along like you would if you were a toddler and your pudgy little feet were upon cold and wet concrete.
Her first words when we got inside were, "I took my shoes and socks off!"
Later that night, as I was putting her to bed, I ran what happened past a friend. I wanted to check in to see if she thought this kind of limit setting was timely for her age, and if my consequence was appropriate.
She agreed emphatically. And she echoed what I'd already been thinking. Children understand natural consequences very early.
Let me break this down. If I had punished Ava for taking her shoes off with say a time out, or taking away a toy of some sort she wouldn't have learned anything, except that this person she trusts implicitly was being mean.
By not putting her shoes back on for her, she feels what it is like to walk to the house with no shoes on. She connects taking her shoes off to an unpleasant consequence that has a direct correlation to her actions.
So what would I have done if there was snow on the ground? I would have let her feel the snow and then said to her, "I'm going to pick you up and carry you so you don't get hurt. But I want you to feel what bare feet on snow feel like. That's why we need to leave boots on in the car." Or something like that.
Toddlers are hard. Ava is a challenge to parent. She is cute, sweet, smart and funny. That means she may get away with more than others. And I don't want to set her up for a reality in which she doesn't feel the weight of her actions and choices because she's protected from them by us. Or others in her life.
It is my responsibility as her Mother to show her the natural consequences in a gentle way. To ensure she understands that there are limits around her. These limits help keep her safe, help her explore, learn and grow and build the confidence she will need to take on this wild world outside her home.
And it is hard, and I do question myself. Which is why having a network of moms who parent the way I do is so critical.
So toddler parents out there, I feel you. But remember, we got this. We can parent calmly. We can parent gently. We can be engaged parents who are committed to doing this right. Which will be hard. And we will mess up. But remember, we got this. And wine. We also have wine.