I'm a mom of one 19 month old boy. I'm no expert on motherhood but these are a few lessons I've learned. Maybe they'll be helpful to someone else but mostly I hope I can refer back to them in the future for Baby K #2 or #3 or #4 or #10 (kidding).
1) Distraction can work like a charm. It can stop tantrums and get a toddler to do what you want. For example--major melt down because he wants the scissors or some other dangerous object. After freaking out (which you try your hardest not to do because the object then becomes more enticing to the toddler) you distract by attracting his attention to something more appealing (like daddy, the dog, a toy).
2) Singing is good for the soul and good for getting a toddler's attention. It's also great for getting toddler to sit still for diaper changes and getting dressed. Since I've had our little guy I've been doing a lot of singing--singing in the mornings when I go in his room, singing at bedtime, singing his favorite toddler tunes. I've also been singing songs to help me get him dressed...you put left arm in, you put left arm out....you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, and that's what it's all about...He loves it and now he's at the point where he also tries to sing the songs with me.
3) It's ok to drop everything and enjoy the moment with your kiddo. Don't be afraid to stop everything, get down on the kitchen floor at his eye level and be silly with him. My little boy loves when I get to his eye level and make silly faces. His favorite is my fish face. It's even better when he tries to make the face. The work or whatever it is will almost always be there. It's ok to take a break and enjoy the moment. Good for the kiddo and good for you too.
4) On the same note, it's not only ok for kiddos to get the silly's out. Mommies can do it and it's even more fun when you do it with the kiddos. Dancing, singing, being silly is great. Do whatever works for you.
5) Getting frustrated is normal. I love my little guy to death but he frustrates me sometimes. I no longer feel bad about this. I mean, we are human, right. Some things that usually help to reduce my frustration is to give him a hug and kiss. This works when he gets angry and it works for me too. Taking a break and walking away helps too. The most effective intervention for me is to send him to daddy so that he can frustrate him a little :).
6) Toddlers appreciate it when you talk to them. They may not understand everything or respond but they like it. Whenever I ask our little guy about his day, he rambles on about something. He also repeats what I say to him. I think he feels validated when we converse.
7) Embarrassment is a part of raising children. I just figure he'll be paid back one day when I'm "old." LOL. And thankfully I'm dark-skinned so people can't see when I turn red. Ha! My toddler's new thing is yelling bug. I taught him how to say the word a few weeks ago and he yells it out even at a piece of lint. He yells it out everywhere...church, library, at the dinner table. For example we'll be in church and he'll see a piece of lint (NOT a bug) and start yelling loudly...bug, bug, bug, bug. He continues to yell this until I distract him. There's no warning so he has scared me before with his loud "bug" yell.
8) Toddler tunes on Pandora radio is awesome. It makes car rides more enjoyable. He sings-a-long instead of whining to get out of his car seat. It's also great at home.
9) Carry extra clothes for all. And just in case you forget, being a mess for a few hours is ok. There are worse things in life. Actually helping to create some of the mess can be fun at times, although it's not fun cleaning it up.
10) The house does not have to be spic and span. Coming to this realization was awesome. I still like things organized but I'm less obsessive about it. And you know what, I'm fussing at my husband less for his mess too.
11) Kids change everything--mostly for the better! We had our son when we were ready. He was planned. Hubby and I had been married for a few years. We did some traveling. We even had the dogs to practice. We were very ready but still nothing could have prepared us for the change of life. But you know what we love every moment of being parents and would not change it for the world. Although I always knew I wanted children it was something I feared for so many reason. I'm a "want everything to be almost perfect kind of gal" and I don't like rocking the boat too much especially when I'm comfortable. But looking back my fears were kind of ridiculous and I'm glad that I didn't let them make me delay expanding our family.
12) I am more unselfish than I thought I was. It's amazing how easy it is for me to sacrifice sleep, time, energy for my little guy. It doesn't even feel like a sacrifice because it comes so natural to me. I used to be someone who hated getting up early, now I wake up earlier than my son and wait eagerly for him to wake up so I can run in his room.
13) Kids make you a better person. Honestly! My son brings me so much joy. He makes me want to be a better person. I behave better because I want to be a good example for him. I am more "mindful" about what I say and do because I know there are little ears and little eyes around. I'm so used to cheerfully giving to him that giving to others also come easier.
14) Being consistent is important. AND I still need to work on this. That's all I'm going to say about that ;).
15) Discipline with love. Discipline and manners are important. My Jamaican grandpa always says "bend di tree when it young." You get the point. This is tough but I think it's best to start early and to lead by example.
15) Think of most things as a phase (both the bad and sometimes the good). I remember when I thought my son would never stop spitting up...then lo and behold he stopped. I remember when I thought he would never sleep more than 2 hours then more than 6 hours then sleep through the night. I was proven wrong. I remember when I thought he would never crawl, or walk, or run or talk or....you name it. I was proven wrong so many times. I remember when I thought he would never gain weight because he's such a picky eater...er...well, this is still ongoing and I haven't been proven wrong yet but I know I will be. It's helpful for me to think of things in phases to especially help me get through the challenging moments. Thinking this way also helps me to savor the sweet moments too.
16) There's no such thing as a perfect parent. We have all these goals about the type of parent we should be or want to be. Try your best but know that things will go wrong. Flexibility is important. For example if your kiddo is 18 months and is just finally off the pacifier--IT's OK! You should laugh at yourself for thinking that the paci will be gone by 9 months.
17) Let the past have a positive influence on how you parent. Some people have had horrible pasts and others have had rosy pasts--wherever you lie on the spectrum, make the conscious choice to try to do a good job. Although challenging, even people with difficult pasts can be great parents!
What other parenting lessons have you learned (even if you are not a parent)? I'll include them in my Part 2 of this topic.
And don't forget to laugh out loud once in a while :)