The greatest gift a parent of a toddler or preschooler can learn is how to ignore. I know what you’re saying, “Here goes that Calm Mom again, telling us to ignore our kids.” But, let me tell you. This is important! My husband calls it “gentle ignoring” and he is a master of it. I am terrible at it and am working on it each and every day! Personally, I think it is the hardest parenting skill you will have to master!
Why is gentle ignoring so very important for this age group? First, toddlers and preschoolers are famous for tantrums. The more you pay attention to tantruming kids, the more they will tantrum. So, put them in a safe spot, clearly say, “I am giving you a chance to calm down,” and walk away. This is not a punishment, it is a chance for your child to learn to soothe himself and a chance for you to resist doing things that are going to make your child tantrum more in the future.
Same goes for all sorts of other behavioral struggles. Siblings fighting in the playroom? Resist the urge to intervene. Little one throwing a fit over the fact that her Dora underwear are in the wash? Leave the room! Is your little one throwing a fit at your feet as you try to get dinner made? Keep cooking, Mom! Yes, you are going to HEAR everything your kids say, but you are going to have to learn to be selective in what you respond to!
At the same time, learn to praise good behavior. We are so used to noticing naughty behavior and criticizing it, that we all forget this crucial point. When your child pulls himself together after a tantrum, hug him, and say, “Wow, you really calmed yourself down. You’re awesome.” When you hear your kids successfully work out a problem in the playroom, go in and say, “Wow, you guys did a great job sorting that out!” When your little girl finally puts on her Minnie Mouse undies after having a good cry over the Dora ones, go into her room and say, “Nice undies! You did a great job getting dressed today!” When you little boy goes and grabs some trucks to play with as you cook dinner, bend down and say, “Cool trucks, buddy! I am so glad you’re keeping me company when I cook!” Cheerleading, while dumb-sounding to the grown-up set, works wonders with toddlers and pre-schoolers.