To The Parent Too Busy For Their Child…

African American father and toddler daughter

Preschooler driving you CRAZY?  Just recently, my 3-year-old – a bubbly babe, full of life and laughter pulled a switch-up on me in what seemed a matter of days.

Smiles turned upside down, laughter evolved into cries accompanied by puddles of tear drops and conversation was completely replaced with whines and violent hand gestures.

Could this be the terrible three’s (after all, she didn’t go through the terrible two’s)? Is she sick? Was she feeding off the stress I was feeling over recent changes at work and in my personal life? What the hell is going on? All questions that ran through my head on a daily basis.

Bribe her with candy? Maybe an extended day at the park or the pool will brighten her day? But no matter what I tried, it appeared the storm was worsening. It’s safe to say, after a solid week of manic meltdowns, uncontrollable outbursts of anger, frustration and sleepless nights I was at my wits end. In fact, it was following a meltdown of my own that I had an epiphany.

While my daughter’s cousins were in town and they appeared to be having the time of their lives – lighting fireworks, hitting up cookouts, riding bikes, etc – as I hid in my corner everyday plugging away on my laptop – it hit me. I haven’t spent much, if any, quality time with my minion. Sure, she seemed unbothered with me as I’d go in for some morning “love,” but that didn’t mean it went unnoticed.

So, even while my friends and family were adamant that her misbehavior was “just a stage,” and “totally normal” for a toddler, I wasn’t feeling it. That night, I completely unplugged – no laptop, cell, or social media – it was all about my little girl. Sure, I was EXHAUSTED – after all, I’m in the middle of planning a cross-country move amid knocking out 15 stories a week and a part time school load. But, if I couldn’t squeeze in a little extra time for my little one now, then when?

For eight hours, I laid on the floor where my girls had created a makeshift “fort,” holding my toddler close. It was not until she asked to be “released” the next morning, that I let her go. Before I knew it, it was as if the sun had smiled down upon me. We had weathered the storm. Lesson? While it’s easy to feed into all the theories surrounding toddler temper tantrums, many times, all it takes is YOU.

YOU taking an extra 15 minutes out of your day to read to your child.

YOU asking your child how they are feeling.

YOU holding your child close, until they ask to be let go.

YOU simply probing your little one(s) about how their day is going.

While this may sound like common sense, far too often we (parents) get caught up in the motions – often forgetting that a little bit (extra) goes a long way.

So tonight, hold your children close. Tell them you love them (and mean it). Most of all, if your child has been acting out lately, take a minute to evaluate your actions – how much time have you spent with your child this week? Do you engage with your child when they are speaking to you or do you blow them off with a ‘not now honey! I’m busy?’

The answer may surprise you!