Moms always mean well (duh!), but sometimes, even with the best intentions in the world, we end up enabling some bad habits.
Sound familiar? As a first-time mom, I was guilty of excessive pacifier use, running into my infant son’s bedroom the second I heard a peep, rocking him to sleep every night…the list goes on. Still, you get the point: you think you’re doing the right thing, but really, you’re probably making it harder on yourself down the road.
So, Toddler Moms, here are five things you should really stop doing right about now:
1. Keep the television on.
According to TIME, 90% of parents reported that their children under two watch some TV, and more than half of parents think “educational” television is important for their young child. Actually, the reality is that “television-viewing fosters less parent-child interaction, cutting down on what experts call ‘talk time,’ in which a child hears lots of vocabulary words that in turn help develop his or her language abilities.” And as we know, these developments are essential for our toddlers!
Television has also been linked to sleep problems and obesity. And those fast-paced cartoons our kiddos are glued to? They can impair their concentration in the long run. Yikes.
So this is what experts (our pediatrician included) recommend: television should be a no-no under two and remain minimal even after that (two hours max according to the American Academy of Pediatrics).
We can all agree that TV makes our lives (a lot) easier sometimes, especially during those particularly tough rainy days, but ask yourself if it’s really worth the short break in the end. Come up with some activities to keep your little one busy, like making salt dough or for really little ones. Try this mess-free sensory activity!
2. Soothe all tantrums.
Let’s be real here. Our kiddos can be expert manipulators. Show any weakness, and they’ll milk it like crazy. So if you start trying to soothe each tantrum and meltdown, you’re heading down an endless path of suffering.
Remember when your child had to learn to soothe himself to sleep? The same thing applies to tantrums – it’s often best to let them get over them by themselves and teach them not to depend on Mommy or Daddy all the time to make everything better. Because sometimes (okay, most of the time), there’s really nothing to fix at all. It’s just a dramatic tantrum over nothing, and it’ll pass.
3. Skip naps.
Moms often think that if a baby is crying when they put them down in their crib for a nap, it means they’re not tired and probably won’t end up falling asleep in the end anyway. They couldn’t be more wrong! As the New York Times article, “A Child’s Nap Is More Complicated Than It Looks,” explains:
Today, researchers believe that very young children take naps because so-called sleep pressure builds rapidly in their brains — that is, the need for sleep accumulates so quickly during waking hours that a nap becomes a biological necessity. It is not just a question of how much total sleep that children need in 24 hours. Possibly because of the intense synaptic activity that goes on in their highly active, highly connected brains, young children are less able to tolerate long periods of time awake.
According to many sleep experts (including the sleep consultant we worked with when my son wasn’t yet sleeping through the night at 6-7 months), depriving babies of naps affects their development, mood, and behavior. Sleep is also essential for the maturation of infants’ brains and the consolidation of their memories and has been linked to higher cognitive scores; several studies have also shown that babies who get less sleep throughout the day gain more fat as infants and are at higher risk of becoming overweight by age 3.
I think it’s essential for parents to be in tune with their baby’s physiology. Don’t schedule appointments or classes during nap time, and put your foot down if anyone asks you to work around it for their own personal needs. The most important thing is to have a healthy, happy baby, and the value of sleep in this equation should never be underestimated. That being said, you know your child’s sleep needs better than anyone else – whether they need one, two, or three naps, make nap time happen as consistently as you possibly can.
4. Only offer favorite foods.
Our kiddos have their favorites: string cheese, pasta, chicken nuggets, chocolate chip cookies…we think we’re keeping them happy by offering these foods at mealtimes, but really, what we should be doing is keeping their meals as varied as possible. That’s the only way to make sure you won’t have a picky eater on your hands in the future! And if your child seems to not like a particular food, don’t give up. Offer it again a few days later. Their tastes often change at the drop of a hat (my son hated avocado, and it is now one of his favorites!), but this is only possible if you offer new foods in the first place. Keep it interesting in the kitchen, no matter your child’s age. For inspiration, you can check out these creative purées for babies 6-12 months old!
5. Compete against other moms.
We’re all semi guilty of this, right? When our babies aren’t yet rolling over or walking before their first tooth pokes out, we can’t help but worry if the neighbor’s baby is hitting these milestones. Not only do we often get sucked into this “race,” but we also feel guilty if we don’t live up to the “supermom” standard. You know, the kind of mom who bakes marble cupcakes and signs her one-year-old up for weekly piano lessons and ballet. That mom, who seems to always have it together when the rest of us are just struggling to make it to bedtime.
It’s human nature – we always tend to compare ourselves to others, ignoring the things we do well (maybe even better than other moms) and magnifying our flaws because, well, we’re always tougher on ourselves than we should be. Learn to stop competing with everyone else, embrace your unique motherhood, and say bye to mom guilt.
Note: If you’re guilty of any of these points above, don’t feel bad. So am I. I’m ready to bet that most of us are, at some point in our motherhood journeys. No mom is perfect, and the reality of it is that your child will most likely not be scarred by any of these. We’re all supermoms in our own, unique ways… remember that!