Every day I open my heart and home to five little toddlers. As I nurture them, I try to teach them to be the best little people they can be.
But the truth is, they also teach me and the lessons I’ve learned have helped me become more successful and happier in my own life.
These lessons have helped me cope with the demands of my job, but they also help me with life, and there are five things I’ve learned to do every day to keep my toddlers and me in the right frame of mind and moving forward.
See if any of these would be useful in your life.
I work on me first.
I try to be aware of my feelings and moods. Am I tired? Do I feel cranky? Am I already annoyed by something else?
By keeping track of my emotional state, I catch myself before I start taking my mood out on anyone else.
By being aware of what’s going on inside me, I’m able to make unbiased decisions. I can stay grounded and mindful, to make judgments based on what’s most productive instead of reacting to my emotional state.
This is something you can do for yourself. Monitor your moods. See if there’s something that might already be contributing to your negativity before you unleash it on someone else.
I focus on the child, not the behavior, and I don’t take their drama personally.
Every child is different; every child is only human. Sometimes they have good days, sometimes they have bad days, and some children have issues.
Some kids need to scream when they’re frustrated before they can pull themselves together. When this happens, I don’t get too invested in their drama.
If that’s what they need to do, then that’s what I let them do. It’s emotional processing at its rawest, and I’ve seen it a million times. In those cases, I focus on what the child is trying to accomplish and support them in achieving their goal.
I give them a safe space, emotionally and physically, to go through what they need to get to the other side.
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There used to be a chain of wisdom. That chain has been broken, it’s time to mend it.
I don’t get angry or aggressive, I detach and let them process. I analyze what’s going on and why and I take it from there. Most kids aren’t “bad,” and those who get labeled are the ones who are often just having the hardest time coping.
You may have someone in your life who doesn’t react or do things the way you want them to, someone who doesn’t communicate in a way that you like or understand. You may know someone who just can’t give you what you want or need.
Perhaps they’re not doing it intentionally, maybe they just can’t.
It’s up to you to figure out what’s going on without taking it personally.
Is that person toxic, or are they just struggling to communicate? Decide if it’s best to remove yourself from the situation or practice acceptance. Either way, by approaching it from an analytical point of view, you are in the driver’s seat, which is where you need to be in your life.
I teach the children how to treat each other and me.
When children are playing, I back off. You don’t have to play with a child every minute of every day; you don’t have to play with their toys or make sure they’re not bored. Toddlers and children don’t get bored if the environment has the proper stimulation.
What you should micromanage, however, is their behavior. You can’t just let toddlers “work stuff out.”
Every toddler’s instinct is for survival, and they mean business when they’re around potential rivals. So, while I don’t get involved in their playing, I do manage their interactions very carefully. I call out and correct aggression.
I call out every push, shove, and grab. I catch them every time, and I give consequences every time. Children are not born socialized; it is up to me to teach them what’s acceptable.
I see this as a sacred duty, so instead of getting upset when the children fight, I frame it as an opportunity to socialize them. Instead of seeing discipline as something negative, I think of consequences as little gifts. I give them with love, to make them better people.
In this way, I am teaching the toddlers how to treat each other, I am also teaching them how to treat me. I don’t accept mistreatment from the little ones, I don’t accept hitting, screaming, demanding, dismissive behavior. I expect them to treat me as I treat them.
This is a lesson that translates into everyday life. Every day we teach the people around us how to treat us.
If we accept abusive or dismissive behavior, we show others that they are allowed to treat us this way.
If there is someone who always treats you in a way that makes you feel bad, it’s your job to call them out. It could just be that they didn’t know that a particular behavior hurts your feelings or that certain words make you feel invalidated.
We all grew up in different homes with different parents and families. What is okay for one family might not be for another, some parents don’t instill good communication. This is the stuff we don’t always discuss with friends or partners. This level of basic communication is stuff we take for granted, but those boundaries are not always clear.
If someone really cares about you, they’ll want to make you feel cherished and special, they’ll want not to make you feel bad. If someone says they love you, they should wish not to hurt you.
If you call someone on their bad behavior and they still choose to do something you’ve told them is hurtful, then it’s up to you to decide what to do with that information.
Life is too short to teach other people to treat you in a way that diminishes your happiness and erodes your self-esteem. Even if you’re a Buddhist and believe in re-incarnation, this life is still the only one you’ll live as you, and this you deserve to feel honored.
There are no wasted days.
Every day, I show up, rested, in a positive frame of mind, and with lots of plans to teach the lessons that I must. I give everything I have. Even so, some days just go a little off the rails.
But just because life isn’t going according to plan, doesn’t mean I can’t find or create meaning from any situation.
If everyone is acting up, I use that opportunity to dispense lots of valuable lessons. The worst days are often the most productive ones for children.
I’ve tried to take the same attitude in my life. I can’t control everything, so I try to learn from my mistakes and make the best of the bad days when they happen.
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The best gift you can give your child is emotional strength to carry them through life.
I’m writing this article on a laptop because my computer broke down three days ago. I’d been resisting buying one because I didn’t’ want to spend the money.
But in the end, life made that decision for me, so I consciously made the best of it.
I spent two days binging on Netflix, which I rarely do since I started writing. I chose not to get bent out of shape or too worked up about what I couldn’t control. I wanted to see if I could go a few days without my computer without getting anxious.
I learned a couple of things about myself during this mini-crisis.
I learned that I need to keep better track of my usernames and passwords, that almost everything I do revolves around my computer. I also remembered that I’m okay even if life throws a wrench in my gears.
Life will never stop giving you lemons. Spend some time perfecting your lemonade recipe. You’ll probably share it with someone else at least once in your life, so being able to present something thirst-quenching can be what gets you both through tough times.
I create the life I want by making good choices.
I practice gratitude every day. I get to do what I love, and that’s a gift, but how I got here is no accident. I can enjoy what I do because I’ve created a space that provides stability and safety.
I do this in part by teaching the children to make good choices. This way, they learn to make their own lives more stable and content from the inside out.
Whenever they have a decision to make, we examine what is the best choice and why. Sometimes that means resisting the easiest option or doing something they don’t want to. It might mean sharing, taking a time-out, or not getting what they want. But these are all things that make them better, happier little people in the long run.
They learn to assess and self-correct as they go, giving them a skill that lasts a lifetime. When the children thrive, they’re content, and so am I.
I’ve always tried to bring this into my own life by making choices that I at least hoped would lead to lasting peace and contentment.
Sometimes that meant facing down some pretty unpleasant stuff. But I’ve learned that if I do the hard work in the beginning, make the hard choices, and meet my demons head-on, everything gets more manageable and peaceful in the long run.
When I come to a fork in the road, I don’t look for the easiest solution. I don’t try to do what is only best at the moment. Instead, I try to focus on the bigger picture and the longest-term gain. I try to weigh my choices carefully and plan for the future. I try not to sacrifice the future to live in the moment.
Stop complaining about your kids, it’s more toxic than you think
Complaining about your kids feels like a harmless way to blow off steam, but it can be much more toxic than you think.
For me, that’s meant many things.
It meant having only one child. We knew we’d be able to give one child a fantastic life, with enough money for a good education and two parents who could be fully present. It’s meant, quitting a terrible soul-sucking job to start the daycare when we had a small buffer to get us started. My husband believed in me, and I was able to transition to what I love and what I’m good at. It’s meant my husband and I sharing everything from housework to finances. It’s meant working out our differences even when it felt scary to fight. It meant standing up to a toxic family when their behavior put such a stress on my marriage that I couldn’t see a way forward.
All the choices I’ve made, even when I was very dysfunctional myself, were always for the express purpose of moving forward.
Even in the most messed up part of my life, I dragged myself to therapy every week. I paid money I barely had and scraped the pain from the bottom of my soul, sobbing like I’d never stop, hoping that one day I’d be free.
Free to be happy, open to love, free to be the person that I was convinced I was born to be. I didn’t always do the right things, but I kept the trajectory advancing, and eventually, I got there.
Every day as I settle in with my toddlers, I learn something new about myself. People think I’m the one teaching them, but they’ve taught me so very much.
I think we can all look at how we do our jobs or how we live our lives, and come up with a few lessons to put out there to help inspire others.
Watching the children develop and blossom is a privilege, and with the right approach, I know it will happen. I’m enjoying the journey and not just looking at a destination. I appreciate each child regardless of where they are in their struggle. I know that each and every one of them has something to contribute to my life.
Much like the toddlers, every one of us has something to contribute. Even if you think your life is too ordinary or mundane, there is beauty and wisdom in the everyday. The problem is that we are often programmed to overlook it.
Taking a page from the daycare helps me to remember to keep working on myself. To teach people how to treat me and make the most of every situation. It reminds me to control what I can to move towards peace and contentment by making good choices that keep me on track for the long term.
“While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about.” — Angela Schwindt
Thanks so much for reading!
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If you want to be a writer but don’t know where to start? Check out my book on Amazon: How To Be Wise AF: A 30-day journalling adventure to your inner Guru to help you get started. Using articles with special prompts, you’ll write 30 pieces of your own in 30 days — a whole self-help book, and be well on your way to doing exactly what I’m doing here on Medium!