You’re Living with a Toddler – But You’re Growing a Grown-up

My “aha” moment as a mother came when I realized that parenting wasn’t about what happened when my kids were between the ages of birth and 18. Parenting is about preparing your kids for what happens between the ages of 18 and 80.

When I realized this, I sighed relief and immediately gave up any goal about raising a perfectly behaved 3, 7, 11, or 15 year old. Instead, I set my eye on a bigger prize.

I wanted to raise an emotionally healthy, well adjusted, confident adult who had the skills necessary to live a rich and satisfying life.

You too can let yourself off the hook for perfectly behaved children … go ahead – just sigh some relief – because it all gets easier when you lift the burden and focus on raising adults.

The very idea that you are living with a toddler and raising an adult at the same time is daunting. I know it left me feeling completely ill equipped to parent from both perspectives – the here-and-now – which might include a morning meltdown from my 2nd grader, and raising a competent, thoughtful 23 year old who could navigate her morning with ease and confidence.

How, I thought, am I ever going to do this? The truth is, it took me a few years to find the sweet spot I was looking for (this doesn’t happen overnight). When I did, my parenting became a whole lot more joyful and a whole lot LESS stressful. Over the years I developed a few solid strategies to keep me parenting from my best in high stress moments with kids of all ages and still keep my eye on the fact that I was responsible for growing a grown-up.

The first and most important step I took towards reconciling this dilemma came when I took the time to create a parenting philosophy to keep me on track. This parenting philosophy guided my parenting decisions and allowed me to do two things at once:

  • Be an effective mother in the here and now with my young kids
  • And be just as effective in preparing my kids for life beyond my threshold

I developed what I call a relationship blueprint that helped me keep the relationship with my wee ones healthy and strong. This also served to teach my kids how to identify both healthy and unhealthy relationships so they could surround themselves with the kinds of people that would bring them joy and fulfillment as adults. If you’re interested in creating your own relationship blueprint – try this exercise.

My approach to parenting involves fostering children’s independence, using strategies in high stress moments that don’t jeopardize your relationship with your child and creating routines that are tailored specifically to your kids’ personalities.

Find ways to foster your children’s independence
This means you’ll need to raise kids who help out with the daily running of the house and manage their own lives. No need to spend a lot of time nagging and reminding them to pick up or remember their gear. Life is the best teacher. With lots of this practice you can feel confident that they will have the skills necessary to navigate their world when they forge out on their own.

Use Strategies that Don’t Jeopardize Your Relationship

You’ll definitely need strategies for living through Red Zone Moments that keep you all feeling connected, respected and on the same page. These strategies also develop character traits in the kids that not only serve them well as adults, but minimize some of the pesky behavior we witness in our growing kids. For example, I helped my kids develop self-control, which we all need to employ as adults, but that also helped them learn to walk away from an annoying sibling instead of lashing out and chucking a block across the room. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Create Routines Specific to your Kids’ Personalities
Institute routines that take into account the unique nature of your kids. For instance, I have one child who is a night owl and would wake up in the morning 10 minutes before the bus arrived, slide down the banister, grab a banana or a half eaten piece of his brother’s toast and sprint to the car – with a smile on his face – and I had a morning lark who was up at 5:00am doing her homework, enjoying a cup of tea, thoroughly enjoying this slow paced morning ritual. My goal – leave the house at 7:30am with all 5 of my kids buckled in. And you know what, over the course of 18 years, we had a whole lot more successes than failures. Not one size fits all. There’s room for everyone – just find a routine that works for them.

Growing a grown-up can be an exciting and fulfilling adventure for any parent. All it takes is a bit of thought, a few well designed strategies and the fortitude to stay the course when the going gets tough. As you read through my posts, you’ll find more helpful tips that break down how to use this parenting approach for your family. It’s worked with 1000s of parents just like you. I’m glad to have you here!