• 1. “Hurry Up”
    It is never easy trying to get out the door with a dawdling toddler. I used to be quite punctual. Not these days. Daily, I find myself saying to the tiny being beside me, “Hurry up, we need to get your shoes on or we will be late for class.” I have realized that this is causing additional, unneeded stress and pressure for us both. My daughter takes forever eating every meal as she tries to master fork/spoon-to-mouth coordination. Why rush her? She is proudly trying to pierce that single pea, smiling confidently as she struggles endlessly. Set time limits if need be and provide warnings. If your child is in the middle of playing and you suddenly realize you need to get a move on, let them know that they need to wrap up soon. If you are seriously late for school or a structured activity, soften your tone slightly by saying, “let’s hurry,” or “we need to hurry,” which sends the message that you are in this together and the stress is not focused on the child.

    2. “Be Careful”
    I have been saying this constantly ever since my daughter learned to sit up on her own. It is a reflex now. I have discovered that saying this takes away whatever confidence the child has built up to: balancing on the beam, using a slide by themselves, reaching for a book on a shelf, etc. The words distract and take away from their accomplishments. If you are feeling anxious while they climb up the ladder at the park, spot them and be as quiet as you can. Your confidence in them provides a solid foundation for their independence and jumping in too soon can undermine your child’s individuality. Instead try using a more supportive term to build confidence like, “you can do it.”

    3. “You’re Okay”
    This spews out of my mouth on a regular basis and I need to bite my tongue. My accident-prone toddler injures herself constantly. The majority, luckily, are only minor bumps and bruises. When she falls and scrapes a knee, my immediate instinct is to tell her she is okay and reassure her that she is not badly hurt. I have discovered in doing so that this makes matters worse. My child is crying because she is not okay. She fell and her knee hurts. She is in pain or scared from a startling fall or trip. We try to shelter our children from harm, but we need to allow them to express themselves and not tell them how they should feel. Our job is to help our children understand and deal with their emotions, allowing them to express themselves without us shushing or dismissing them. Give your child a big hug and say something like, “That was a scary fall.” Then try to distract with a bandage, book or a kiss. Then they’ll move on to their next activity and know that they are okay on their own.

    As primary caregivers, we need to be mindful to assist, explain possible outcomes via age-appropriate language, while boosting their confidence and self-esteem. They test situations, which is essential to expanding their world. They need to continue making attempts until they master their goal proudly, whether fast or slow, messy or neat, dangerous or not. We can find a proper boundary so we are watching closely without hovering or smothering. Accidents and temper tantrums from their frustration are inevitable. We can only give our precious children continuous, unconditional love and support so they know we are there on their side and by their side.