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Parenting Newborns, Parenting Children

When C was a baby, I had a ton of new mom friends, both online and in “real life.” I belonged to three newborn support groups. We leaned on each other for everything, asking all sorts of questions of each other. No topic was off-limits.

When you have a newborn, there’s no shortage of parenting advice. And I, along with every other mom I knew, sucked it up like a sponge. None of us had a clue what we were doing, and we took advice from anyone who seemed halfway sane. We were desperate for sleep and terrified that we would somehow screw up parenthood. It was all very new and terrifying.

At some point, though, that all changed. Maybe we realized our kids weren’t as fragile as we thought. Maybe we started to realize that, aside from figuring out how to keep our children alive, parenting is different for everyone. Whatever the reason, we stopped asking each other for parenting advice.

Parenting advice for newborns is different, too. It’s easy to package up in small chunks: Weird looking poop. The four-month “wakeful period.” Starting solids. There is, amazingly, a “quick fix” for many baby-related problems.

Toddlerhood, though, is a different animal. Discipline is a huge part of life now. And discipline – which is not at all fun to talk about – requires a lot of work and a full-time commitment. Plus, no one wants to hear that they aren’t doing it right. I’d venture to say that a lot of parents know they aren’t doing it right, but they don’t think they have the energy to do what’s required to fix their problems.

And because there’s no such thing as “let her cry it out for three days and she’ll stop climbing on tables at restaurants,” we don’t ask for advice. We don’t want to hear what we know is true: Sometimes you have to leave the restaurant. Sometimes people stare at you in Target when your child has a temper tantrum because he can’t have what he wants. And you have to do it every single time, until they learn what behavior is acceptable and what behavior isn’t. In my experience, there are no exceptions. It is, especially in the beginning, exhausting (especially when you’re doing it alone). But it’s also 100% worth it.

I use a method called Positive Discipline, which I love. C attended a Montessori school when we first moved to Marin, and the teacher is an instructor in this method. Essentially, you treat your child as a person who deserves respect. And you understand that developmentally, your child can’t be expected to behave as an adult would.

I am very kind to C, but I’m also firm. As a result, she says please and thank you. She cleans up her toys before she takes out another one. Obviously we have our challenges, but generally speaking, she is a very easy little girl.

At this point, it’s hard for me to tell whether I lucked out with her personality, or if I’ve been using the same method since she was 18 months and it simply works. My guess is that it’s a bit of both, because I’ve seen her behavior with other people, and it’s very different.

Parents of toddlers – what do you think? Is toddlerhood harder or easier than babyhood? Do you talk about discipline with your kids? Would you take advice (or ask for it, or give it)?

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher is the Founder + CEO of Mighty + Bright. She's a young cancer survivor, mom, and former single mom.

3 Responses

Coco McKown

Coco McKown

July 02, 2020

ooof…. not there yet. I’m finding babyhood is manageable. But he’s also not mobile yet. I know we have it easy right now!



July 02, 2020

Toddlerhood is easier AND harder. It’s easier because you can enjoy the benefits of communication: you can say “I love you” and be understood, and receive the great reward of your child saying it to you, unprompted. It’s harder because of the behavioral issues, and how my child sometimes go “nonverbal”, so overwrought with emotion she can’t make any verbal sense. We don’t specifically talk discipline, but rather how a particular behavior makes us feel. We also believe in positive discipline and practice it whenever possible, but it isn’t always easy.

friend from afar

friend from afar

July 02, 2020

Man I love this. I agree with Dean, it is easier AND harder, but I have to say I am also speaking as a mom of two typically developing kids. (You know me and my work history so I have to make that caveat.) The problems are more complex- that goes for most of us who had relatively ‘healthy’ babies, but the parts that get easier for a typically developing kid include the ability to communicate verbally- to both understand and be understood. To reason. To negotiate. To discuss. (Going on a tangent now…) Too many times I would see my fellow staff get frustrated with parents of kids with autism for ‘giving up’ or not doing the harder stuff or not sticking to a program. And I would look at that 16 year old who could communicate no better than my two year old, and my heart would break and I would get it. For me, there was an out. There was a light at the end of the tunnel of minimal verbal communication. For them? This was as good as it gets. I can’t imagine. You know, it took me being a mom to realize that. The people who were frustrated? Not parents. I think we both judge each other- out of our own insecurities and our own feelings that the method we chose is the right one- and we support. It’s a both/and sort of system. It’s tough to navigate.

But about C, and whether she does what she does because the system works or because she is who she is? I’m going to agree with you and say it’s probably a little bit of both. I remember reading a lot of books when A was a baby and JD’s dad said, “Throw that out, Krista. No book can tell you how to parent your kids.” I was sure I was right and he was wrong- what did he know about parenting kids just because he had 4 of them? (haha). I mean, truly… he was the worker and JD’s mom was the one who did a lot of the ‘parenting.’ But the more that time has gone on and the more that I have seen two totally different personalities emerge in my little gems, the more I see what he was saying. I love to read and consult resources on parenting. I love gaining new perspectives and ideas. But I don’t subscribe to any one method and I don’t put too much stock in what anyone says. I’ve seen these things work and I’ve sworn by them, and then I’ve seen them not work. My kids are who they are and I don’t know which came first- the difference in my parenting strategies or their personalities- but somehow they have come together so that what I do with one is not necessarily what I do with another. I don’t even know how that happened, but it was necessary.

This is a really long answer but I just love the topic and I miss talking to you. Just to add to this… A is much more likely to ‘boss’, much more resistant to clean up if it’s spoken like an expectation or directive, much more set in her ways. K will say please and thank you literally for everything. It amazes me. I tell him he’s great and he says, “Thank you, mommy.” How he knows to do that is beyond me. It comes naturally to him, it seems. I tell him what to do and well, he just does it (for the most part.) With A I have to do more thinking because she is a really precocious kid. I have to set limits but be understanding of what she needs. I have to rationalize and explain because she really NEEDS to know the why’s of things, and once she hears it she commits it to memory. She tests and she negotiates. This is all part of who she is and, according to Parenting Magazine (haha) normal for kids ages 5-7 so she’s just a little early. I think she’s been doing this since she could talk, LOL.

I love how different parenting is. I love how unique the challenges are. It is hard and scary and can be downright dangerous (how many people do you know who DON’T feel like their parents screwed them up somehow?) but at the end of the day here we are, sticking together and trying to figure out what works. And if we take a piece from this and a piece from that and piece meal our styles? Well, that just makes for some pizzaz along the way. 😉

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