This One Hack Showed Me How to Enjoy the Toddler Years | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Parenting during the toddler years can be quite the rollercoaster ride. One moment you’re enjoying a snuggle with them on the couch, the next you’re navigating a full-blown temper tantrum because you handed them the wrong color cup. It’s a challenging season of parenthood, to say the least. It’s easy to get caught up in the hard moments, allowing a meltdown to overshadow the good moments.

I, too, found myself allowing those negative moments to get in the way of enjoying these magical toddler years. Sometimes I was hyper-focused on a meltdown that happened earlier in the week, or based my performance as a mother on my child’s behavior at a playdate. And all the while, I was missing out on the growth, progress, and happy times. I was completely blindsided by these “small-ish” moments that got me down.

It’s common for parents to focus on the downsides of parenthood. This is especially true during the toddler years when meltdowns and tantrums are part of the daily routine. In fact, this tendency to focus on the negative is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history.

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The Science Behind Focusing on the Negative

Mary Dobson, a licensed clinical psychologist and CEO of LIFT Wellness Group, explains that our brains have evolved to prioritize negative moments and identify problems as key survival mechanisms. She says, “Our brains are literally hardwired to spot potential threats and to mitigate them before they can cause harm. This tactic was an excellent adaptation for evolution but does not help us on our modern-day quest for happiness and satisfaction.”

Alex Anderson-Kahl, a nationally certified school psychologist and founder of the blog “Healing Little Hearts,” agrees: “We are predisposed to remember negative experiences more vividly than neutral and positive ones, a crucial skill for our ancestor’s survival.”

He explains, “Negative experiences or potential threats to a child’s safety, happiness, or development can feel especially pronounced.” For example, “A child might have several positive interactions during a playdate, but if they have a meltdown or conflict, that’s often the event parents discuss or address afterward. This is because negative events stand out and may feel more urgent or problematic.”

We’ve all been there: A playdate filled with laughter, sharing, and joy, but if it ends with a meltdown or conflict, the negative moment becomes the focal point of our memory. It’s comforting to know that our brains are wired to prioritize these emotionally intense moments. Whether positive or negative, they stand out more vividly.

Embracing Imperfections and Emotions 

Let’s get real here—as parents, we don’t always look at our kids’ behavior with an impartial perspective. Instead, we zoom in, scrutinizing every little detail. We become fixated on their behavior, convinced that it’s our job to iron out all the kinks. That self-imposed pressure cooker often leaves us feeling frustrated when our kids don’t follow our script.

“Our closeness to our children prohibits a bird’s-eye-view, and so our impressions of their behavior are extremely micro,” Dobson points out. 

She explains, “Many parents become hyper-focused on their children’s shortcomings and feel responsible for correcting them. With this self-imposed sense of responsibility comes pressure and frustration when children behave in ways that are counter to our expectations.”

As a mother who just quit her job to stay at home, this resonated with me. I was feeling as though my child’s behavior was a direct reflection of my parenting skills. Was I cut out for this? 

We all need a gentle reminder that despite our best efforts, “our children will experience and express the full range of emotions, and that we ourselves did, too,” says Dobson.

Source: @jess.liao

Journaling: The Hack to Shift Your Focus

I was tired of coming home from playdates and outings just to dump all of the negativity onto my husband. Instead, I started making a concerted effort to share the joyful moments. I focused on things like something funny she said or a heartwarming moment that made my mama heart sing.

Along with verbally sharing the highlights of my day, I started keeping a journal, writing down a joyful moment at the end of day. Now, before I go to bed I reflect on the day’s events and instead of dwelling on the challenging moments, I focus on the positive. Did my toddler share a toy with a playmate, communicate in a new way, or sing along at storytime?

Not only has this helped me realize there are more positive experiences in the toddler years than negative, but it has also helped me cultivate a sense of gratitude. It was truly eye-opening to see how many positive interactions I have with my toddler. This helped me to shift my perspective and my overall outlook on parenting.

Bonus points? My daughter will have a keepsake journal of our special times together.

Breaking Free From the Negative Bias

Sure, I still get stressed when my daughter is having a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store. But my overall perception and mental health has drastically improved since I began journaling and focusing on the positive. 

As parents, we’ve all experienced those draining moments that come with the territory. We bond over bedtime struggles, behavior issues, and the uncertainties we face. We open up to each other about struggles and setbacks in solidarity, bonding with other mothers and wearing it as a badge of honor.

But we can’t forget to focus on the good parts. The sweet, soft, and joyful side of parenting. The cuddles before bedtime, the newly mastered skill, or the imaginative play. Those magical moments are there every day—we just need to look for them.

By embracing the positive, making it an intentional and conscious effort, whether by sharing with your partner at the end of the day or writing in your journal, we can enjoy the magic of the toddler years.

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