Our precious little girl is such a toddler. She is trying to understand the world around her and how she fits into it. She is growing and imitating us and laughing and dancing and talking and signing and wanting to please us and wanting to test her boundaries. She goes from zero to 100 and 100 back to zero depending on the situation, and she seems to have a little flare for the dramatic depending on how tired she is.
That being said, she is LEARNING. She is learning every minute of every day. Sometimes, after she has fallen asleep nursing, her arms and hands are still do signs as I lay her down in her crib. Her brain is running on overdrive trying to piece together all that she learns on a daily basis.
As a result, Hubby and I are learning every day with her. I was the director of a preschool, but the youngest children were three years old, which gives me a little history, but not really with children as young as Tracey Ann. Although I don't have a lot of hands-on experience with toddlers, I pretty much live by the philosophy that children will meet your expectations -- however high or low, they will meet them.
Ever since Tracey Ann was a newborn, Hubby and I have treated Tracey Ann as though her actions and verbalizations are purposeful and intentional. If she let out a little squeal, we would relate it to whatever was going on, "Oh, did you see that strike out? Way to go Cardinals!," or after a cry we would say, "Tracey Ann doesn't like that idea either."
Now that she is older, nothing has changed. We give her every credit that her words, actions, signs, and squeals are completely intentional and related to her surroundings.
My struggle doesn't come in keeping my expectations high, but come when sometimes I feel like I'm repeating myself dozens of times. It is hard to say the same thing every day and have faith that, one day, Tracey Ann will show me that she has understood me and complied with what I'm saying... BUT... with consistency, we have learned, that one day, she does demonstrate understanding.
Yesterday, Tracey Ann got up from her afternoon nap and said she was hungry. So, we went to the kitchen, got in the high chair, and she ate one bite of banana before throwing the rest on the ground. I reminded her that when she throws her food on the ground, snack time is over because we don't waste food.
So, I took us into the family room, put some toys out, put up the baby-gates, and began a workout DVD. Not long thereafter, Tracey Ann began telling me that she was hungry. I had the pause the workout several times to explain to Tracey Ann that we were not going to have a snack because when I gave her a snack a few minutes ago, she threw it on the ground.
For about ten minutes, she wandered around the family room, unhappy, telling me she was hungry, while I repeatedly explained why we were not having a snack.
After those ten minutes, she was really getting worked up and adamant about her hunger. So, I knelt right down to her eye level, and I asked her if she was ready to sit in her high chair, like a big girl, and obey Mama, and eat all her food, and not throw her food on the floor? She held my gaze while I was explaining that, and then I said, "Can you tell Mama, 'Yes Ma'am?'" and she immediately nodded her head, enthusiastically.
And you know what? Once in the kitchen, she sat in her high chair and ate her food and did not throw any on the floor. Once or twice, she sort of looked like she was thinking about it... but I got her attention and said, "Don't even think about it," and the piece of food made a bee-line for her mouth.
In this process, I did not yell, I did not get upset, and I did not react to her emotions -- a trifecta which I rarely achieve, and the result was surprising -- in this case, she seemed to learn a lesson and met my expectations for the expected behavior while we're eating.
I don't like being "the bad guy" but I don't think behaving, obedience, and a desire to please her parents is going to magically happen when Tracey Ann turns five- or ten- or fifteen-years-old. She is learning our expectations for her and what happens when she does and does not meet them every single day.
She is learning every day what rules are serious and what rules are flexible... and we are learning every day what methods work well and do not work for raising and training our daughter.
We are learning together.