3 ) Let them be in charge
Young children love to test their power and their limits. They love to test how they can interact with their world, affect their environments, and drive us crazy. From the time they learn to drop something off their high chair that we return every time, they are learning cause and effect. They are learning how they can assert power over us. They know we would do anything to make them giggle over and over again, so they keep that straight face until our shenanigans are silly enough to let out a giggle, then it’s back to a straight face to make us start all over again.
Yes, they are tiny, but they are powerful. At the same time, they are constantly fighting a world that is not in their control. We, the adults, control their timelines, schedules, eating habits, everything. Think through a morning as a tiny person: they wake me up because it’s time to start the day, which is not what I’m ready to do; they make my breakfast which is not what I wanted to eat; they put me in the car which is not what I want to do, etc. Can you see why mornings can be such a struggle sometimes? (Not to mention their communication abilities, our morning struggles, the stress we share with them over rushing, etc.)
So how can we make them happier kids? Make time for them to be in charge. Plan a morning that you clear your schedule and just follow their lead. Let them decide on breakfast; maybe have them help prepare it. Let them decide if they want to get in the car to go to the park or library or just want a morning to play at home.
One of my son’s favorite ways to be in charge is by being the official backseat driver. Every once in a while, when we have time to spare and a full tank, I let him choose the roads. If he says left, I turn left. If he says right, I go right. I often wind up waving to the neighbors who are watching the crazy lady without GPS go around the block ten times, but it makes him so happy. Not to mention that it is a great way to teach directional words!
Another easy way to let them be in charge is through play. Put your phone/computer/tablet far away and just follow your little one 100%. If they want to draw, draw. When 2 minutes later, they want to race cars, race along with them. In 5 minutes, when they want to talk to stuffed animals and read a book, read and snuggle with them. Just giving them this time for them to dictate what to do, how to do it when to do it will make them happy.
You’ll start to notice that if you build time to do this together regularly, they will be more compliant for other parts of the day when they do not have a choice. They still may resist the breakfast you chose on a busy morning and walk with a speed of 2 mph when you are running late; however, most kids are happier overall when they know that they have power in their own decisions another part of the day. Make time for them to be in charge.