I am always pretty amazed by how preschool/nursery teachers keep a room full of under 5s happy and not resembling a scene from Lord of the Flies. (No reflection on the state of my own home, naturally). They are, mostly, extremely talented people but they also have some excellent tips from which the rest of us mere mortal parents can glean a lot. I had to restrain myself from practically following my son’s preschool teacher Felicity around, begging her to tell me how to look after my own children.
Anyway two very helpful tips came from my fangirl-ish behaviour for which I am ever grateful. Both extremely helpful and exceedingly simple (the best combination?).
The first – Felicity never asked a toddler struggling with something if she could help them. You know the situation – your 2 year old wants to take her top off BY HERSELF! The top won’t come off! It has buttons at the top! She is furious! Any normal adult wants to help. So you ask, innocently, ‘Can I help?’
…In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: Big Mistake. Huge.
What you actually need to do is, preferably sitting down but definitely very casually, ask “shall we do it together?”
I cannot guarantee that this will prevent all tantrums (well not if I ever want you to trust me again) but it has definitely eased us through some hairy moments in this household.
The second tip is only really helpful if you, like me, have a child who cannot/will not tell you what they have done at school.
I can’t help myself. I start casually…’what did you get up to today?’ – normally a super helpful answer like ‘not sure’ or ‘can’t remember’. Then I am on the train and I can’t get off – “who did you sit with? Who did you play with? What did your teacher say?” And on and on. Awful. It is also true that children – especially the little ones – can find it hard to process their day in a way that allows them to report back. Or they are simply tired. Or, you know, bored of their overbearing mother asking the same old questions all.the.time.
Anyway! There is a solution! (Thanks Felicity). You just, in earshot of your child, ‘wonder aloud’ about the day. For example… “I wonder if anyone had a banana for snack today…” or “I wonder if anybody played outside today…”. Children can’t help themselves! They have to fill you in / correct you / TELL YOU ABOUT THEIR DAY!! Ha!
So those are 2 relatively specific but very helpful tips for toddlers. For some wider ranging and surprisingly useful pieces of advice I wholeheartedly recommend the advice compiled by mums on Cupofjo, one of my favourite blogs. Some real gems.