We've all heard "pick your battles," but it's never been more true than when you have a toddler in the house. There are times when it's simply easier to let it go and mutter to yourself, "It's just a stage—he'll outgrow it."
Why? Because there are certain fights you just won't win.
Maybe it's part of the collective toddler consciousness, or maybe there's some covert toddler training going on in child care centers around the country, but whatever the reason, toddlers are equipped with the iron will of a Viking warrior when it comes to certain things.
So conserve your energy while you can. One day, they’ll be teenagers and you’ll look back on these power struggles and sigh wistfully.
1. Don’t bother trying to teach your toddler to use her “indoor voice.”
If I had a dollar for every time I asked my 18-month-old and 3-year-old to use their “indoor voices” only to be met with blank stares, I’d be able to afford a sound-proof bedroom by now—possibly even my own villa in the south of France. I don’t know when the voice-moderating skill kicks in, but toddlers don’t understand regulating their noise level. They don't even understand that they're louder than everyone else in the room. Scream talking is how they communicate, so accept it and invest in ear plugs.
2. Give up the idea of a peaceful bedtime routine.
It seems like such a lovely idea: a bedtime that is both soothing and prompt with everyone tucked into bed at the allotted time after a quiet bedtime story or lullaby. Is that too much to ask? It is. If your bedtime ritual more closely resembles a battle scene from the movie "300," don’t worry about it too much. Millions of parents of toddlers before you have tried for a peaceful bedtime and failed. But they’ve lived to tell the tale and you will, too.
Your toddler’s taste in fashion might not be haute couture, but neither is it a reflection on you as a parent.
3. Let him have his lovey, even if it’s not very lovely to you.
That thing he loves so much that you think is completely gross and disgusting? Don’t bother trying to take it away. He will either cry until you give it back, breaking your mom heart into a million pieces, or he will find something even more disgusting to drag around with him. Grit your teeth and smile at the chewed, frayed, dead-eyed stuffed monkey that grins at you maniacally from your toddler’s sticky grip. One day he will give up the monkey and you will be able to dispose of it in the landfill properly. (Or, more likely, you will lovingly wash it and tuck it away in your toddler’s memory box where he will discover it two decades from now and shriek, “Dear god, what is that thing and why did my mother save it?”)
4. Toddler fashion is like high art. It’s not meant to be questioned or understood.
Maybe she'll choose rain boots with a magenta tutu, or shorts with a parka dragged from the donation bag in your closet, or sunglasses, a hat and 17 necklaces. Whatever the outfit for the day, as long as your kid is comfortable, let it go. It's only clothing. Your toddler’s taste in fashion might not be haute couture, but neither is it a reflection on you as a parent, no matter what the judgmental stares of strangers might suggest. Learn to stare right back at them. Snarl if you want. And remember: Self-expression should be encouraged and protected. (This lesson will come in handy during their teen years when they show up with turquoise hair and a nose ring.)
5. Give up on the food fights.
I don’t mean the one where your toddler throws food at you. I mean the one where you are convinced you’re a bad mom because your kid doesn’t eat broccoli or salmon or whole wheat pasta or quinoa salad. That fancy white table cloth at the French bistro where you attempted to convince your toddler to eat quiche would make a terrific white flag. Surrender! The cliché of the toddler who only eats chicken nuggets and apple slices is a cliché for a reason—it’s more common than not. Offer your kid whatever you’re eating, but don’t feel bad if they only want to eat the same soggy freezer-to-microwave meal every day for two years.