Things to know if you’re the Mother of a Toddler Boy

Little boys will be little boys. They are wild creatures that create messes out of thin air. Dirt, bugs, and small creatures are all new and exciting things to be explored and conquered. You are now the mother of a little explorer and you too will become an adventurer during your journey together. To get through the toddler years here are a few tips.

You need to have a good pair of sneaker and a pair of mud boots

Boys like to play outside which means you will also be playing outside. I highly recommend investing in a good pair of sneakers so you are adequately equipped to keep up with your child. Toddlers acquire the amazing ability of speed overnight and sneakers are a necessity when you must climb after them after they get themselves in a pickle on the highest piece of playground equipment at the park. If you fail to remember the sneakers you will curse yourself and your normal attire of heels or flip flops just. Your newly acquired taste in footwear doesn’t stop there, though. Rain boots will become another must-have accessory at this stage in your little one’s development.  Boys don’t understand why they can’t go outside when it’s raining, and after trying to keep them inside during a week of rainy days sometimes making the journey outside in the rain is better for the both of you. (Our sanity does have limitations.) He will want to splash in all the puddles and when he falls down face first in the middle of the biggest puddle in the immediate vicinity you will want to have your mud boots on so you can easily retrieve him.

You must show no fear in the face of bugs.

While inside you might be screaming (like the little girl that still lives inside you) on the outside you must show a calm steady exterior as you explore nature and bugs with your little boy and he places a wriggling worm in the palm of your hand. You don’t want your child to be afraid of bugs in general (he is a boy after all) so you must make a pointed effort to yourself be fearless in the face of bugs. At the same time, you do want to teach your child the bugs that will “hurt you,” so they do not try to pick up those particular bugs. “Ant’s bite you and Bee’s sting you” are recited almost daily in our household during our many treks through the backyard. Teaching the kiddo’s about bugs does pay off. . .in our house squishing bugs is fine, and once the babe learned this trick he is more than happy to help me “squish em”. I have high hopes I can pass off all bug squashing duties to him and his father in the near future.

Always check their pants pockets before you do the laundry

A boyfriends’ mom once gave me the following handy piece of advice when telling tales of her own adventurer. “Always, always, check the pockets,” she said.  She failed to do this once and ended up washing a reptile friend her explorer was planning on keeping (yet failed to mention to her).  Other things you might want to watch out for are bugs, sticks, rocks, cars, and anything else small enough to fit in the pockets of a small boy the might wreak havoc on your washer.

All meaningful breakables should be put out of reach

How do little people cause so much destruction?  It never ceases to amaze me what kinds of things my child will break.  Fatalities have included dishes, ceramic keepsakes, child proofing latches and hooks, and books.  My husband had (notice I use the past tense) a quarter scale, upright base from his band days that had since turned into a decorative piece nestled in a corner of our home. Our little one crashed into it at just the right angle and smashed it into several pieces. My husband was upset.  I was upset. It’s a hard lesson to learn that neglecting to keep things out of the reach of curious little toddler hands can lead to casualties’ of meaningful keepsakes.  I knew that this would probably just be one of many catastrophes to come, so since then if it’s breakable and meaningful it’s either packed up and put away or on a high shelf where inquisitive little fingers cannot wrap themselves around it.

Bang, Bang, Bang Goes the Baby

Bang, Bang, BANG. 

You watch in horror as your child smacks their head on the couch, the wall, the floor, their crib, a door, your leg… whatever happens to be closest to them at the moment. You think to yourself, “That was odd,” and hope you were just hallucinating from lack of sleep. 

Bang, Bang, BANG. 

Your child then repeats this odd and rather concerning behavior of banging their head and this being the second time you witness this feat, your throat drops into the pit of your stomach as you realize you were NOT hallucinating. Your child is indeed purposely banging their head on things. Now your whole body is tingling and your mind is racing as minor panic mode sets in. You are convinced there is something seriously wrong with your child, so you do what all mothers do best when they have a problem, you Google that shit. You read article, after article until you come to the conclusion your child is indeed a “Headbanger”.

Research says that about 20% of children are headbangers. Reading statistics like this does not make us, as mothers, feel any better. We don’t want our child to be part of statistics like this, and if it’s so common why do none of our friends children seem to be doing it?

Why is my child banging their head?

There could be many reasons you child is banging their head. Self-soothing, pain relief, an outlet for frustration, attention seeking and in some cases developmental disorders seem to be the main reasons toddlers head bang.  So, great how do I know which category my child falls into?

In the cases of self-soothing and pain frustration, the offenders often bang their head repeatedly or rhythmically while they are playing or when trying to sooth themselves while the crib. Frustration bangers head banging seems to come more in bursts when they can properly express their feelings or become overly stimulated. Attention seekers may head bang when they want attention from you. Head banging can be a sign or a developmental disorder, but I caution you not to burst into tears yet as headbanging alone is not enough to diagnose a developmental disorder and head banging in itself is quite common.

So what do I do?

Some researchers say you should ignore the behavior, that they will outgrow it. That might be easy for them to say but they don’t have to witness this odd behavior several (or a lot more than several) times a day every day. I am sorry, but when my child is doing a behavior to himself that seems hurtful I am definitely not going to stand around to watch the show.  Every time he would smack his head on a cabinet or door, or even the floor I would cringe and fight back tears. There had to be better advice than Ignore the behavior.

We tried holding him when he got frustrated and telling him “No hurt baby,” when he would bang his head.  We tried really hard to make sure he got lots of positive attention.  We rocked him, a lot.  We would place him in a room with carpet, pillows or a bed so he wouldn’t hurt himself (as badly). I figured out my child was a frustration head banger and I engaged other moms for advice. One comment a mother said stood out with me.  She said not to worry too much, that it lessens with time and growing communication skills. We had already been trying to teach the babe sign language, but after this comment we ramped up the signing effort and I also made an extra effort to observe him more intensely so I wasn’t missing any of his communication cues. For us the sign language helped immensely. The more he learned to communicate with us the more the head banging began to diminish.

The experts say that most children outgrow head banging by age three, so between now and then while you are trying to deal with this newly discovered toddler trait, try not to worry too much, keep your child as safe as you can while they are head banging, repeat to yourself, it will be okay.  I found this snippet by Dr. Alan Greene to help me, “Curiously, one large study of this habit in healthy children found head-bangers to be measurably advanced compared to their peers. If anything, then, head banging in healthy children can be a sign of increased intelligence.”  It made me think the problems of head banging might be small compared to the problems that come with a highly intelligent child.

Welcome to the Seven Depths of Hell (aka Having to bring your Toddlers to the Grocery Store)

Sometimes I would rather be sitting in a car with no air conditioning during a Texas summer than be walking the aisle of the grocery store with my toddler. Don’t get me wrong, I love my child, but some tasks are tenfold more difficult to accomplish when you have a very active toddler in tow.

My child has never wanted to sit in the seats of the cart, where many children seem content to sit and observe while they are wheeled around.  We went through a phase where he would sit or stand in the main basket with the groceries, which was great.  He was in the cart and as long as I didn’t get too close to the Broccoli (which he still to this day will grab a head and start eating) or anything else he might be able to get his hands on we could cruise through the store with no problems.

Next we began the carry me phase. . .he would stay in the cart maybe through the produce aisle (if I was having a streak of luck) and then would insist that I carry all 30+ pounds of him around the store while I pushed the cart or else deal with him screaming bloody murder.  We have thankfully moved past that stage but have entered a new stage where he wants his feet on the floor and to “help” me with the groceries.

This current phase is definitely the most challenging I have encountered and it involves lots of redirection of him and breathing and patience for me.  My first experience I let him push the cart and directed him to the items we needed to purchase and I let him pick out items and put them in the cart.  This worked beautifully, through the produce aisle. . . we then got the the bakery items and he was all “Ooo’s and Aahh’s pointing at different bread items and looking at me to name them for him. . . I was breathing and attempting to redirect him to the cart to push some more when he saw cupcakes. . . why do they have to have cupcakes on display all the time???  After a battle of yes those are cupcakes, no those are not your cupcakes. No, we are not getting cupcakes, I finally managed to wrangle him back to pushing the cart.  We stopped and got lunch meat which he missed throwing into the cart and threw in front of another shopers cart. . . Lucky for me it was another Mom with a toddler.  She just laughed and smiled at me while he picked it up and threw it again, this time making it into the cart.

Now instead of pushing the cart he decides hanging off the cart handle while picking up his feet is fun, so he acts like a little monkey and we make it through dairy.  In paper products he helps me put toilet paper and paper towels underneath the cart and gets complimented by two elderly ladies about what a great helper he is.  Yes, he was a great helper, thankfully they were long gone when in the next aisle he screamed bloody murder when I wanted to put him in the cart or carry him.  He settled on letting me put his butt on the handle and half holding him we wheeled to the front.  We made it to the checkout line, my saving grace, as his little hands can stay busy putting the items on the belt, and as long as he isn’t too close to the checkout computer screen (because he turns them off) and gets a sticker, we are home free.

As I check out I can think of at least three items I forgot.  I don’t care.  I can work around them, I am not going back to get them. . .

Getting Your Child to Eat Well

One of the biggest challenges of parenting is getting your child to eat well.(Sometimes it’s just getting your child to eat at all!)  One of my sisters lived in France for a while and talked about the cultural differences between the United States and France which I found fascinating, so when I happened across a book called French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon (http://karenlebillon.com/) I immedietely checked it out from the library (and then bought it because I didn’t have time to finish reading the borrowed copy).  If you have a picky eater I highly recommend checking out this book!

In it you will find the 10 rules of eating:

french-food-rules-kids

1. Parents, You are in charge of Food Education!  Educate yourself about the food you are putting into your body.  Let your children know what they are eating!  Talk about what is in the meals you are making!  Teach the children how to cook!  Let them be involved!

2. Avoid Emotional Eating.  This is where I like to say you are not a dog, food is not a reward.

3. Parents Schedule Meals and Menus, KIDS EAT WHAT PARENTS EAT.  Okay, parents, this is where a lot of us go wrong.  Our children won’t eat what we make, so we get them something else.  Kids are pretty smart little creatures and if they have figured out that if they don’t eat their food you will make them a grilled cheese instead, they will repeatedly not eat their food to get to the grilled cheese sandwich.  Solution: Don’t make the grilled cheese sandwich.  The child can eat what’s on their plate, or they can NOT eat and NOT have a snack later.  I promise you your child will not starve by missing one or two meals here or there.  I recently pulled this with my own child.  He would not eat dinner and then wanted a candy (left over from Easter).  I told him he did not eat his dinner so he could not have a candy, but if he wanted to eat some of his dinner (that I had left out because he hadn’t eaten it) he could have a candy he proceeded to eat enough of his cold dinner to satisfy me and got his candy.  Dessert is fine if they eat their dinner but no dinner, no dessert which in this case was a childs size handful of mini M&M’s.

4. Eat Family Meals Together.  This is part of healthy families on so many levels!

5. Eat your Veggies.  Try to provide your child with a variety of vegetables, even try letting them pick some from the produce aisle that they want to try! You might be surprised in their choices.  (I have been known to get stuck buying an extra head of Broccoli if the babe is left within arms reach.  If I step away from the cart for the 5 seconds it takes to grab a different vegetable, I turn around and he has a head of broccoli up to his little mouth and is taking a big ole’ bite out if it. . . better add that to the cart. . .)

6. You don’t have to LIKE it but you do have to TRY it!  A women I worked with for a short while said in her house she had the rule of three.  You weren’t allowed to say you disliked a certain food until you had tried it at least three times.  I thought it sounded like fantastic advice.  (She was Canadian.)

7. No Snacking!  This is a hard one in my house as my husband is a big snacker. . .and it’s hard to tell the child NO when he sees you (or your spouse) snacking.  So I’ve told my husband if he must snack he needs to do it where the babe cannot see.  If the child snacks before dinner, getting him to eat dinner is a battle.  More often than not if he hasn’t snacked he is hungry at dinnertime and will eat dinner (He will also go from fine to starving in 2.2 seconds and have a meltdown when dinner has 5 minutes left to cook if it is not ready at exactly 6:30.)

8. Slow Food is Happy Food (and as my husband likes to say Happy Food tastes better).  Eat slowly, enjoy your meal.

9. East Mostly REAL FOOD. This means you might actually have to learn how to cook!  Processed foods have so many things in them that are so incredibly awful for us.  Try to eat mostly foods that don’t come in a packages.  Someone taught me a trick about staying on the outer rim of the grocery store  this is where you will find the veggies, fruits, meats, dairy; the processed foods tend to be in the aisles in the middle.  Limit your trips in the middle.

10. Relax. Again, Eat slowly, enjoy your meal, throw in some conversation and make it a time to enjoy your family and/or company.

Check out author Karen Le Billons website for recipes and tips or to buy her books French Kids Eat Everything and Getting to Yum  http://karenlebillon.com/

(Illustration by Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything)