Mother Theresa said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” Our need to be loved is core to our very being. So, what happens after you’ve forged a wonderful bond with your baby and then you have to set off to work again? Your time with your baby is reduced, and you’re desperate to maximise the time you have, but you’re anxious to fit everything in to the little time you have. Plus, your energy levels are low and you’re preoccupied with work. Your baby is now a toddler with a mind of her own, so she doesn’t always follow your lead, and temper tantrums have taken centre stage.
The good news is that love is still something your toddler desires more than anything. Here are five ways to have a great connection with your toddler:
1. Remove distractions
Modern technology means that moms are on call 24/7. Even when your laptop is closed, your mind is often preoccupied with social media, work tasks and more. It’s vital when you’re with your child that you remove all distracting devices from your presence, but also from your mind. This is a ‘no excuse’ zone where your child is given full rights to your attention, and nothing takes priority over this. This sends a powerful message that says: “You are so important that I will not allow anything to take my attention away from you.”
2. Make eye contact
When you speak to your child, crouch down and look her in the eye, and say her name. For example, “Yes, Taylin, what is it that you want to tell me? I’m listening, honey.” She’ll feel that she’s been seen and heard. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that typing on your computer while your child pours her heart out to you is ‘connecting’. She feels unseen and devalued.
3. Enjoy kiddie time
Set aside 30 minutes three times a week to become your child’s playmate. Join her in a certain area in the house or outside and let her lead the way. She’s ready to show her autonomous streak and will love telling you exactly what to do and how to do it. You are empowering her, and she’ll feel valuable, affirmed and loved. Also, setting aside time creates a sense of security for her. She doesn’t feel she has to badger you to get the five minutes of attention that she craves.
4. Pretend play
Your toddler’s intelligence is maturing and her thinking skills now allow her to use things to symbolise other things. For example, she may place a plank to her ear and pretend that it’s a cell phone. This enables her to open her world to many unknowns. She can explore them through fantasy play. When you join her in this world, you speak her language, because here she can show you how she truly feels about life and her understanding of the different roles, such as that of mother and father. You play along, and when bathtime comes, you can lightly chat through any observations with her.
5. Listen and reflect
Yes, you are the parent. Yes, you have many years of life experience. This often makes you feel that you need to teach your child to guide her. Sure you can facilitate her learning, but first you need to truly understand the world through her perspective. It may make no sense to you, but it’s the viewpoint from which she thinks and acts. Listen and reflect on what she tells you, without judgement. Ask her questions to clarify and acknowledge your understanding. Challenge her by asking questions that will encourage her to think in a broader manner and grow her thinking.
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