I’m pretty darn sure that upon reaching their Toddlerhood milestone, each toddler is secretly issued with ‘The Ultimate Toddler Guide: How to Give Your Parents the Best Toddler Experience’. I imagine it covers the variety of ways to approach eating, how to determine whether you like a particular food on a given day (or hour) and when to nap or not based on your parents plan for the day. It guarantees that every parent of a toddler gets the same experience regardless of individual personality types – Parent Equality if you will. The ultimate objective of the ‘Guide’ is to make sure parents are continually left guessing about what their young offspring are going to do, never complete confident and comfortable that they will behave as normal on a day you need them to; Or on the day you assume they will being brutally brought back to reality when they don’t sleep and then throw their lunch all over you.
No parent will ever know what knowledge and guidance is passed on to your delightful small people. But based on my experience, if I had to guess at some of the contents…:
- Eating: Parents will always think they are trying hard enough to make you nice ‘healthy’ food. But it’s important that you teach them to try harder; Encourage them to do better by demanding food as regularly as possible. They need to learn that just because you’ve had breakfast that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t immediately have snacks to hand. They will make you some nice stuff but don’t let them get too complacent and think that you’re guaranteed to eat a meal because it’s your ‘favourite’. As a general rule of thumb you should aim to ‘stop liking’ a meal every third or fourth time you are presented with it. Also vegetables and fruit are nice but biscuits are always better so be sure to reject anything other than biscuits a couple of times a day;
- Clothes: When you get food, water or other more questionable substances on your clothes, or when you go to bed, it is nice to have a change in to something fresh and clean. But if you let your parent think that you enjoy it too much there is a risk they take-up too much of your precious time faffing with your clothes. So it’s important to make your discontent know if they take clothes off and when they try to put them back again;
- Nappies: No-one wants to sit in their own filth, but having to lay down and have your nappy changed is a violation. Grown-ups should really have put more effort in to finding a way to keep your botty fresh, clean and dry without the need for a nappy change. So when they do change you they need to suffer through the experience too. Not wearing a nappy is actually much more pleasant and something they really should consider letting us do, so give them a live-action running demo before they get that fresh nappy on to show them one of your solutions to the problem;
- Sleeping: Parents think they are within their rights to make plans without consulting you. They will assume you will sleep at a certain time of day and make plans based on that without checking what you want to do. Teach them a lesson by trying to stay awake a bit longer than normal if you sense they might have something up their sleeve. Requesting one of those unexpected extra snacks will help give you a bit more energy to stay awake an extra hour;
- Bedtime: Going to bed should be your choice. So even when you are tired it’s important that you don’t let them assume you want to go to bed. You can mix things up a bit by refusing to go upstairs some days, resisting getting changed on others, not letting them bath you on some nights and then running off before they can put you in the cot on the rest. Then just to confuse them, take yourself off to bed early now and then (whilst they are taking an unauthorised break and drinking one of their parent ‘hot drinks’ is a good time);
- Showing them they need to do better: This one requires a lot of commitment because you are likely to be told you are “naughty” or get shouted at when working on this particular skill. But it’s a really crucial one to keep control over your parent. There are endless ways to show your parent that they’re giving you a sub-par experience but some simple ways that always work are:
- Running off (great for clothes or nappy changes);
- Making ‘grumble’ or ‘whimper’ sounds;
- Throwing (this is a good one to use when showing your ‘dislike’ of a meal);
- Drawing on walls / furniture;
- Emptying out a bag / tissue box / cupboard on to the floor;
- Laying down whilst crying and banging hands / feet on the floor (parents call this “Tantruming” for some reason).