Parents, nannies, and friends often wonder at my “ability” to stay calm and patient when dealing with children, especially toddlers. I’m commonly asked shyly, sometimes bitterly, by parents and nannies how I remain so calm when “They walk so slow…Ask the same question over and over…Have a tantrum.”
My ability to remain calm and patient isn’t because I have a super power calm/patient gene. To the contrary, I’m quite impatient in daily life, when dealing with adults. I am calm and patient with children because I consciously decide that being calm, patient and taking the time to listen and explain is the best way to teach kids these behaviors.
First off, let me say I too get frustrated. Even after my conscious, educated decision that this “is the best way of parenting and co-parenting.” I have moments when I too would like to move at a reasonable pace. I think, perhaps we will make it one full block without 5-10, stoop-stops, pebble- stops, adjustments of exactly what she wants to carry as we walk-stops.
During these moments of frustration, I remind myself that we are moving so slowly, that I need to repeat exactly why we have to leave the sandbox, not because I’m dealing with a fall-over, incoherent drunk, but a small child, who does deserve patience and explanations as she learns how to walk and talk and everything else. I remind myself how wonderful it is that she takes everything in, and then I too can look at the scenery and smell the flowers with her—because when do we do this as adults in New York City?
Remember that letting your child walk allows him to practice new skills, gives him independence and even tuckers him out for a later nap. This isn’t an anything goes experience, if you actually have to be somewhere explain to your baby/toddler why you must carry him or put him in the stroller.
Here are some tips to get you through the slow walks, and repetitive conversations:
Every day, multiple times a day, remind yourself that everything is going to take two-times as long, and that is okay.
I learned long ago to never stress about time when dealing with toddlers (an attribute I do not maintain in my adult, daily life: I am known as extremely, and maybe annoyingly punctual.) If you, like myself, have always been a punctual, quick paced person, the slow movements of your life with a toddler will be a more difficult transition.
Assess if you actually have to be somewhere, or if you’re just ready to leave.
When you are asking your toddler to move faster because you “have to go!” assess what exactly you need to leave for. We are in the habit, especially as New Yorkers, of going places, doing things. Because of this on-the-go-mentality, we often assume after being somewhere for 20 minutes that we “MUST” leave, but maybe that isn’t true. If you don’t actually have to be somewhere, like a playdate, or doctor appointment let your toddler walk. He has just learned this amazing new thing, so be patient and take your time. Remember that when you are calm and patient, you are simultaneously teaching him calmness and patience.
Getting ready to go:
So, you do have to be somewhere. Allot two-four times the amount of time to get yourself, and baby/toddler ready.
My ease with children and the reason I don’t stress about time is because I allot a significant, literally two to four times, more time to get myself and baby ready, and the same goes for getting to the place. If we are going on foot to a play-date, doctor appointment, class, etc., I decide beforehand whether we are going to take the stroller, or just walk. I try as much as I can to allow enough time for her to walk, at least part of the way. A walk that would take me 10 minutes, I decide will take me, and toddler 40 minutes and I leave the house accordingly (Yes, I know I tacked on 30 minutes for a one way trip-this gives us leeway, so I’m not stressed.)
Get everything you can get ready while baby/toddler naps.
I always get her diaper bag stocked with the things I’ll need, or might need. If we’re out for the day this means any of the below:
-Extra cloth bib, for other cleanups.
-Change of clothes.
-A book or 2.
-Food (If you’re out for lunch or dinner.)
*Have yourself ready too!
Prepare them for the activity.
While you’re getting your baby/toddler ready to go, explain what you guys are doing (As I describe in my previous post “Baby Talk.”) Prepare them for the activity, this will help them understand they are apart of it and can also be a motivator for them to move more quickly.
Ask them to keep walking with you and explain why.
If we are in a time-crunch, I’ll ask her nicely to “come along,” and I’ll explain to her why we need to move faster, with information that will likely excite her. “We have to get home to see Mama and Dada…We have a playdate with (name of good friend).” Filling them in on the details is always helpful, especially if what you’re doing is fun.
If you need them to move faster, be fun and make a game out of it!
Another nanny, and mother, I know sings a cute song while marching, the kids love it and always happily follow along.
Remember that like everyone, toddlers are going to be less likely to be motivated by an irritated tone. Stay calm and relaxed. Speak to them kindly, not only for their benefit, but for yours as well. If you speak in a calm voice with some excitement about what you are doing, it will motivate them, and also, amazingly, make you excited and will rid you of your irritation.