Okay, we admit it: Your toddler may not seem like the best source for life lessons, considering that it was you who taught her everything she knows thus far. However, you can learn a lot from some of the things she does naturally. Check out these practices you should adopt from your little pupil turned teacher.
Obviously, you're not going to throw yourself on the floor and start kicking and screaming the next time your boss gets on your nerves (even though you may want to!), but don't bottle up your emotions. "Toddlers are great at 'letting it all hang out' emotionally, and parents should do the same (minus the actual tantrum)," says Tina Gilbertson, LPC, a Denver-based psychotherapist and author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them. "Too often we refuse to let ourselves get mad or cry about something because we think it's inappropriate," she says. But there's nothing inappropriate, or even harmful, about having a feeling as long as you express it in a way that's safe for you and others, she adds. So next time you're feeling some type of way, let it out. "Just be honest—at least with yourself—about how you feel," Gilbertson says. Talking to a trusted family member or friend, writing in a journal, or having a conversation with the person who's angering you or making you feel sad are a few ways to express your feelings.
When you try to exercise and your toddler joins in, it's as if she's having the time of her life. She's super energetic, full of laughter, and once the workout is over, she's ready for more. You, on the other hand, are probably the exact opposite. You have to force yourself to work out, and even once you do finally get going, you may slog along reluctantly. Kids naturally gravitate to fun physical activities, yet adults often pick exercise because of an internal "should" ("I should run." "I should lift weights." "I should do yoga."), says Helene Byrne, founder of BeFit-Mom and author of Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best. That makes working out something you'll dread, which mean you'll be less likely to stick to it. Instead of doing something just because you feel you should, do something you enjoy. "Think back to when you were a kid, and identify your favorite play activities," Byrne says. "If you loved soccer, then choosing an athletic group activity like a boot camp class might work for you," she says. Loved bike riding? Try a spin class. And if you were into dancing, give Zumba a whirl.
Your toddler raises her shirt in the grocery store and has no qualms about stripping down to her birthday suit while you have company visiting. No, we're not suggesting you flash your neighbor or bare all in the middle of the post office, but you should follow your child's lead and love the skin you're in. When you feel good about your body, you'll take better care of it. In addition, the way you talk about and treat your own body will influence your child's body image. So adore your body, even if you aren't back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Some ways to boost your body confidence: Eat healthy, balanced meals, work up a sweat on most days of the week (to release feel-good endorphins), and make sure you get enough shuteye. Also, look at your wardrobe. "Buy or borrow some clothes that fit and flatter your current physique," Byrne says. "When you look and feel good in your clothes, you'll feel better about your shape." And give your body some kudos. Remember, it is capable of some amazing things! After all, it created a miracle—that cutie who's sitting her nude little bottom on your couch right now!
Is "no" your toddler's favorite word yet? If not, it's coming. If you ask him if he's sleepy, tell him "Good Morning", or offer him an apple, his response will be the same: "No!" Though his negativity can be frustrating, try following his example. Of course, you don't have to be as blunt (read: rude) as your toddler, but say no to things you don't want to do or don't have the time to do. It will reduce your stress and free up time and energy for things you really enjoy.
Your toddler makes it very clear when she wants something. She asks for it repeatedly (sometimes throwing in the cutest "please" ever), tries to butter you up by giving you a hug or kiss first, and if all fails, she breaks out in tears. Don't bring on the waterworks, but when you want something, speak up. It doesn't matter if it's a raise at work or more romance from your husband. As your kiddo is already well aware: If you don't ask, you don't get.
"When toddlers fall down, they don't waste time and energy beating themselves up for being clumsy," says Gilbertson. "They cry because something bad happened to them and it hurt," she says. Once they're done crying, they move on. This is a strategy you need to master. Instead of criticizing yourself harshly and reliving mistakes in your head over and over, give yourself a break. Don't dwell on your failures. Instead, pick yourself up, learn from it and then move on.
When was the last time you smiled simply because the sun was shining? As adults, we tend to overlook the small stuff. "However, a child can let out a joyful laugh from something as simple as spinning in circles," says Dion Metzger, M.D., a board certified psychiatrist and co-author of The Modern Trophy Wife: How To Achieve Your Goals While Thriving At Home. Look for your own little nuggets of happiness. "Recall the last time you felt 'the happy,'" Dr. Metzger says. "Was it taking a walk on a beautiful day, watching a funny movie, or just watching your toddler dance in front of the television?" Remember those moments so you can seek them again when you need a cup of joy, she says. And make sure you're attentive to (and appreciate) other tiny sources of delight, like a double rainbow in the sky, a kiss on the forehead from your partner, or hearing a favorite song.
You know how your kid conks out right after lunch every day? Start doing the same. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a short nap (think 20-30 minutes) can help improve mood, alertness, and performance. So if you're able to, sleep when the baby...er, toddler sleeps.
Even though your kid is in the "me do it" stage, he still has no problem asking for (and sometimes demanding) help when he wants. When you hear him yell "help me" in that tiny voice, you probably can't help but crack a smile. However, you may not be as cheerful when it comes to asking for help yourself. Many women are hesitant to ask for help because they feel it means they couldn't handle it all, says Dr. Metzger. Get over those "I can do everything" goals. "One of the famous quotes in our book is 'Doing it all on your own does not make you Superwoman; it just makes you super tired,'" Dr. Metzger says. Her advice? "Ditch the guilt and take the help."