During this week our family went camping – yes, with Toddler. Camping is full on with a toddler but with lots of helping hands from my big kids and our friends who were with us, we came home having enjoyed our time away and feeling relaxed, and even able to do it again! But while I was away I was very aware that having Toddler with us changed things- I was very aware of some key parenting lessons.
- Having a Toddler shouldn’t stop your family from doing what your family does. I think this is an important lesson for all new parents to learn, and for all parents of more than one child to remember. If you went camping as a couple, take your children camping. If you travelled, travel. If you gardened, garden. Sure things look a little different, some things have to be tweaked or altered but we need to bring our children into our life, not just fit our life around them. That being said, I was very aware that having Toddler with us was made completely possible because of the training that has gone on before. Which leads us to lesson #2
- Have the same expectations when out and about Though the times of the day were different, we did keep to roughly the same routine – she had cot time, and nap time, she sat in the pram instead of the highchair, she went to bed roughly the same time. It was amazing to see the little girl tired and cranky settle down to playing in her cot, just because it as familiar, and she needed some space from all the buzz of activity and people. When Toddler threw a wobbly in the pool she quickly gained self control because we had the same expectation – no grumps, no arching the back. Which leads to lesson #3
- What happens at home, needs to happen when you are out and about. When there was misbehaviour Toddler was removed from the activity until she was calm and would listen. A few times I held her (her back to my tummy) while she yelled it out and a few times she went in her cot for some time out. If a toddler has complete reign to do whatever they want, how ever they want when they are out and about it soon becomes very uncomfortable for everyone and it is no fun. Maintaining a sense of routine (completely flexible because you are there to have fun together) and being consistent with expectations makes it do-able for all – toddler and parent!
- Understand and work with their limitations. A little person can only take so much – we need to be aware of when their limits are reached. When they get too tired, too stimulated, too many people in their face. We need to help them cope by recognising the signs and moving them on. This means that we may have to get up and move away from our friends, or from the swim we are enjoying, or the game we are playing. But while our little one does not have the self control necessary to be around people when they are tired, we need to be there for them. Though they can fit into our family, they are still little and learning, and we need to be gracious and accept them for where they are at on their learning journey.
These are some of the ideas that I came away with. And though they were in the context of a 2 day camping trip they are applicable for any outing we go on with our little kids – be it visiting with friends, going to church, or doing the grocery shopping.
You can see the rest of my Living with a Toddler for 31 days series here.