10 Do’s and Don’ts for Toddlers {Surviving the Addition Of Your Second Child}

GUEST POST: Today's article was written by my sister, Amber VanderVennen. PICTURED: My two nieces Felicity and Faith, about a decade ago. {Toddler and I have had a rough go of things lately. Last week, one of our afternoons ended in tears - both of us in tears. My sister Amber called that same afternoon and had all the love, encouragement, and advice to share. I told her, "If you ever want to write a blog post about all this stuff, please do so." And she did. Usually I would never say, "Come to this page for great parenting advice!" But when your sister has six children and has survived four toddlers so far, you know she has great advice to offer. Thank you Amber, for taking time to write for us today!}

GUEST POST: Today's article was written by my sister, Amber VanderVennen. PICTURED: My two nieces Felicity and Faith, about a decade ago.

{Toddler and I have had a rough go of things lately. Last week, one of our afternoons ended in tears - both of us in tears. My sister Amber called that same afternoon and had all the love, encouragement, and advice to share. I told her, "If you ever want to write a blog post about all this stuff, please do so." And she did. Usually I would never say, "Come to this page for great parenting advice!" But when your sister has six children and has survived four toddlers so far, you know she has great advice to offer. Thank you Amber, for taking time to write for us today!}

What is it that makes the birth of that second cherub so fearful? How can we go from needing two arms to care for one child, to needing eight for two? That math just doesn’t add up! {Or maybe it does. Common Core, parents? Discuss.}

At any rate, most of us don’t have two at-home parents or a nanny, so how can we do this with grace and peace? 

But it occurred to me: I actually do have some experience here. As a mother of six, in my thirties, I can look behind me and say, “There’s some road there. Maybe I can encourage someone else.”

I have added a “second child” five times! Five sets of Toddler/Baby combos. All so unique and angelic, and so depraved and exasperating at the same time. So, after mulling it over, I’ve come up with a list of DO’s and DON’T’s that I’ve learned along the way.

1. DO prioritize your time with the Lord.

I promise you, this will help you even more than a half hour more of sleep. Read a Psalm and a Proverb each morning, and make a prayer list. Don’t forget to pray for your own needs and struggles, as well as others’.

I will also put in a shameless plug here for the organization "Bible Study Fellowship" that is likely in a city near you. It gets you in the Word daily, and has been the single largest catalyst in my spiritual growth. {BONUS: They have a children’s program, so you can drop off your littles and enjoy being a child of God yourself for a morning.}

2. DO buy a leash if necessary!

My first trip to the grocery store with two is forever etched into my brain {read: traumatized.} We got settled into what I like to call the Suburban cart when I realized that the buckles were broken for my Toddler. Both of them.

All was well until we began our actual shopping on the back wall. Toddler decided to jump off and run down the long aisle toward the front of the store. So there I was with a three week-old baby, grabbing her out of the car seat, ditching my cart and purse, chasing after my Sweet Little Lovely. {Which I am sure looked more like a hobble with my tender postpartum body.}

I bought a leash. I comforted myself with the thought that if I hadn’t, people would have said, “Why don’t you get a leash for that kid?!” And that was that.

3. DO strike that balance between sacrificially loving your children, and worshipping them.

Life gets busy. Ditch Pinterest and give your kids their peanut butter and jelly in the shape of...bread! Also, kids just need to play. Don’t worry so much about whether they have Michael Jordan skills or are fluent in Mandarin by the time they enter Kindergarten.

Your kid’s not that amazing. Give them and yourself a break.

Want to know what to prioritize? Family devotions. If your toddler or preschooler’s schedule is fragmenting the family so much that this isn’t happening, make a change. A friend recently told me that there is an epidemic in Christian colleges where students enter not knowing basic Bible stories. WHAT?!

First things first, and everyone will be more at ease.

4. DO stay consistent.

If it feels like a power struggle, that’s because it is. Power struggles have gotten a bad rap these days, but I’m sayin’, if you’re not winning, who is? Let’s face it. When there’s stress in the home after the birth of a baby, it’s usually not the baby. Nine times out of ten, it’s the dethroned toddler. They know it; you know it.

But this progression is healthy! The essence of growing up is to go from being a completely egocentric being, to becoming a selfless, productive member of society. Adding a sibling is usually the first step, and it’s a biggie.

There’s nothing like a two year-old getting into the fridge, or throwing dice at their baby brother’s head when you’re nursing. Because they’re seeing Just. How. Much. Evil. they can get away with.

They won’t like it, but you have to be strong. Children crave the guidance of their parents and when they push back, it’s because they need that extra reinforcement of your love for them. Loving them enough to discipline and not give in.

Which leads me to...

5. DO give them a punishment they hate.

God gives us the fear of hell to deter us from sin and rebellion against Him. It’s legit. You will thank yourself later. Moment of confession: I have been the hardest disciplinarian on my oldest two children. And guess what? They’re the best behaved.

Cause: Effect.

As a homeschool family, my current toddlers have a lot of freedom during school time, and it has been easy for me to go softer on them. But dang it, they know right from wrong, and it’s a detriment to them to let them get away with it!

I’m not talking about a cattle prod or duct tape, but in our home experience, a little old-fashioned discipline produces old-fashioned results. So step it up from sending them to their Fancy Nancy-esque room with forty-two Barbies and calling it “discipline.”

Learning to obey you “first time fast” will teach them to listen to the Lord “first time fast.”

6. DON’T underestimate their ability to contribute.

Failing to empower your children with chores and work ethic is a disservice to your family, their future spouse, and the next generation. Even at two, they can help put their own toys away. They can put diapers in the trash {their own and Baby’s.} They can retrieve things you need for Baby as well.

Three and four year-olds can empty the dishwasher, match socks, help set or clear the table, and more! There are plenty of resources out there, but I like how Kevin Leman puts it, “If a kid can be doing it for himself, he should!”

Your little man may seem so sweet and lovable now, but if he’s never mowed the lawn or run the washing machine by the time he’s grown, his wife’s not going to find it very cute. If he can find one.

7. DON’T slough off in your relationship with your husband.

The first kid is an accessory. Add another, and you might actually have to HIRE A SITTER. Ask grandparents to help if you have to, or trade services with other young couples.

The best thing you can give your children is parents who love, respect, and prioritize each other. Yes, money is usually tight when your kids are little, but investing in regular date nights is much cheaper than divorce.

8. DON’T be so difficult: Surrender; allow the Holy Spirit to be more important than Google Calendar.

This one’s a biggie for me. If you’re a laid-back and accomplishing a list of tasks isn’t a big thing in your daily life, I hate you. I mean, bless you. But if you’re like me and you love your kids and time with them, but you also love, well, everything, and have a lot of energy and commit to things, then this one’s for you.

Pray about your commitments. Give up what the Holy Spirit asks you to give up, and say “yes” to what He prompts you to do. Even more importantly, when your best-laid plans for the day just aren’t working out because of sick, naughty, or needy kids, let it go! Accept it as God’s will and trust Him to give you the time you need to accomplish what He wants you to achieve.

{On a side note, if you have one of those husbands who wants a checklist at the end of the day of how you spent your time, you just send him on down to me.}

9. DON’T turn down help, or try to stuff negative and scary emotions.

Connect with others, and be honest about your needs. Take up all meal offers, or if you get laundry or cleaning offers, take those, too! We’ve been told that when you turn down help, you rob the person of the blessing of being a blessing.

Additionally, certainly get emotional and medical support if your hormones are taking no prisoners. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to make that phone call to your friend or physician.

My husband called my midwife when my second babe was about four months old. He saw the signs of postpartum depression and basically thought, “This is really inconvenient. I need my wife back!” Just kidding. But, whatever it takes, your family does need you.

As with every flight you take in life, "Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others with theirs."

10. DON’T hold back on the snuggles, books, picture-taking, or teachable moments.

Back to the beginning: Things you can pray for are that you will recognize teachable moments, that you will make the most of every opportunity, that you will truly enjoy these little ones as the blessing that they are.

This too shall pass! My first Toddler is now babysitting for us, so it pays {literally} to let them live.

Countless other rewards are priceless, too.

 

Grace and Peace,
Amber
 

P.S. If you have been there before, what would you add to this list? And if you are here right now, which of these seem most helpful?