How to Start Bonding with Your Toddler

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Parent-child relationships are very important from a young age. If you’re struggling, here are some tips to start bonding with your toddler again!

Give yourself some credit, mama.

You are an incredible and loving mom. You try your best to keep your house clean, cook well-balanced meals, and even get you and the kids out of the house a few times a week.

You encourage your littles to be themselves, treat others with respect, and look for every chance to learn and explore the world around them.

But you can’t help but feel like you’re extremely disconnected from your toddler. What gives?

I get it mama, I’ve been working through this myself lately with my own toddlers. (Although I guess my 4 year old isn’t technically a toddler anymore? Whatev, let’s go with it.)

In fact, that’s why I’m writing this post today. What better time to share these tips than WHILE I’m figuring them out myself, right?

Last year was absolutely horrendous for us and I couldn’t have been more disconnected from these babes.

Every time I turned around I was yelling at someone, losing my last effing nerve before lunch, and wondering if I was cut out to be a mother. Everyone else I knew made it look so easy!

Fast forward about 6 months and now I’m soaking up every bit of love I get from these babes. The days I start screaming are rare, and I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job.

I know you’re wondering, HOW did I make the shift?

Don’t worry, I’m about to explain. But first I want to explain a bit of a background as to WHY I made these changes in the first place (other than me craving some form of sanity).

why are parent-child relationships important?

If you’re one of the many that has concluded “this is just how it is”, you wouldn’t be alone. I remember being left without hope and thought I just wasn’t handling it well.

But according to my research on this topic, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In fact, the relationship you have with your child can directly affect brain development all the way through adolescent years and beyond. Yeah, no pressure, right? LOL.

The simple answer to why relationships are so important is that it affects them in HUGE ways so the best thing we can do for them is to nurture the relationship from the time they’re little toddlers all the way throughout their lives.

signs you need to reconnect with your toddler

So how do you know it’s time to start working on a MAJOR reconnect with our children? How do we know it’s not just typical #MomLife stuff?

Well, first of all… that “mom life” stuff has been conditioned by society to make us believe that the chaos is just how we have to live. If you’re content with how things are going – great! We all deserve to be happy.

But if you’re not? Something has GOT to give. Oftentimes, it’s a disconnect in the relationship.

Now if you’re looking for more specifics, keep reading. I’ve got a few for you.

nobody is listening anymore

At this young age, kids not listening is incredibly common. They test buttons, they have their own wants and needs, and it can be painful to try and get things done.

But did you know that reconnecting with your child can actually FIX THAT? Yep. It is important to note that this is a long-term solution so you won’t see results right away… but when you see them finally happening, it’s pretty amazing.

RELATED: How to Get Your Toddler to Listen Without Yelling

According to Dr. Laura Markham of Aha Parenting:

“Brain research has found that when we feel connected to another person, we’re more open to their influence, so you’re making it easy for him to listen to you.” (source)

Note: At some of the earlier ages, children do not have impulse control yet so be sure you have realistic expectations for the current stage of development your child is in.

your toddler seems to be going out of their way to upset you

It’s one thing to not want to listen, but it’s a whole other ball game when it feels like every time you turn around, they’re doing something so outrageously “naughty” (for lack of better words).

These are the days you feel like you’re going to literally explode.

Well mama, this can be a major cry for help. Kids want attention and they don’t care how they get it. So whether you’re loving on them and praising them, or you’re screaming at them for the 95th time that day because they just HAD to dump a brand-new box of cereal all over your freshly cleaned floor…

Mission Accomplished. They got your attention.

If I notice this happening in my house, I automatically jump to them feeling disconnected. As I type this, I am recovering from a 2-week flu (#yuck) so I know my kids are feeling pretty neglected at this point. Naturally, they’re going to start showing it in the most unloving ways.

you want avoid spending time with them

This can stir a lot of controversy from the sanctimommies shouting, “WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS THEN?!”.

But the fact of the matter is this – sometimes we hit bumps in the road that can cause us to not enjoy spending time with our kids. I struggle with this from time to time.

But what it tells me is that we are incredibly disconnected right now.

My favorite days are the ones where I’m doing a puzzle at the table with them, sitting down to cuddle and watch a movie, or chasing them down the hallway as the lochness monster until they laugh so hard they are just BEGGING you to stop for them to take a breather.

In a perfect world, these happen everyday. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

Sometimes we are going to be yelling at our kids, too stressed to play, and wondering what the heck is wrong with you if you are finding every excuse to leave their side.

RELATED: Self-Care for New Parents That ACTUALLY Works!

You’re not a bad mom. You’re human. A human who just needs to work on reconnecting so you can bond with your toddler again.

If you’re still here, I’m assuming you want some help in this area. You are at a loss for HOW to start bonding with your toddler again.

I’ve got a few that I’ve learned over the past year or so. It takes work, but it is so worth it!

4 ways to start bonding with your toddler again

We can easily identify when we need to start bonding with your toddler again. It’s pretty simple to say “yeah, I definitely need to reconnect”.

But actually doing it?

That’s another story. That’s when you can easily become lost and paralyzed from making the next move.

Hopefully these ideas help you get the gears moving and make the next move!

prioritize your relationship with them

I want you to sit down and really think how high your child is on your priority list right now. I know what you’re thinking, “They’re my kids, I’d die for them. They always come first!”

But there is a difference between prioritizing their wellbeing, and prioritizing the relationship you have with them.

I’m willing to bet that you’re struggling with the latter. I know I have quite a bit!

Life is busy and we can easily get caught up in it. By the end of the day, we realize we didn’t really do much WITH our child, we just kind of existed alongside each other.

That is the first thing to work on here – mindset. Make an intention to do at least one thing everyday that nurtures your relationship.

With that in the forefront of your mind, lots of other things will start to fall into place.

find fun things to do with them

We’ve handled the mindset around reconnecting in that you need to prioritize it, but what do you ACTUALLY do each day?!

Well that depends on the child.

Groaaaaaan, what an answer, right? Just listen here.

If your child HATES baking and you start whipping out the chocolate chips and flour, are you really going to connect and bond? Likely the answer will be no.

But if they are OBSESSED with superheroes and you start zooming around the house with them… that will be far more powerful. They’ll see you engaging with them in something they really enjoy and that means the WORLD to our kids.

Step one here is to brainstorm – figure out what they enjoy and use that to come up with some ideas for what you can do together day to day.

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Cuddle with them watching their all time favorite movie with some popcorn
  • Engage in their favorite pretend play activity
  • Color or do puzzles together if that’s something they enjoy
  • Buy that lego set they’ve been eyeing and do it together

You get the idea. The important part here is to really ENGAGE with them during this time. Put your phone away, check out from the outside world and get lost playing together.

“But AMBER, I’m too busy for all that!”

I get it, I do. Life can be crazy sometimes. But… I promise you can find 15 minutes to build some legos.

Let your child know that in 15 minutes you need to cook dinner (or whatever), but right now your full attention is on them and your special activity.

If you have multiple kids, you can find an activity everyone enjoys and do that together! Or you can find something else to keep other kids occupied while you get special time with a particular child.

leave the house regularly

I don’t know about you… but being cooped up in the house all the time can make me a little crabby. Your kids too.

Leaving the house is a great way to get everyone excited, boost their mood, and be more receptive to bonding.

It can be as simple as a trip to the library where everyone sits down and reads together. A simple change in scenery can have great effects.

Or maybe you take a trip to the beach or the lake. Go to a local museum. See if there’s a trampoline park nearby. Literally anything.

I try to leave the house at least a few times a week, but do however it works for you.

plan special dates with them

This one is my favorite as kids LOVE special dates. It’s time they get undivided 1-on-1 attention from you and go out and do something fun!

The only requirement here is that nobody else can come with you.

Leave dad behind, get a sitter for the other kids, whatever you need to do.

And for older kids, have them help you plan it! Pick a restaurant and an activity. So maybe you go get burgers and then head off to a trampoline park. Or maybe you get some ice cream and see a movie (if they are able).

How often you do this is entirely dependent on your family. If you have lots of kids, once a week might be a bit unreasonable so you’ll need to aim for once a month. But if you only have one child, you might be able to swing once a week!

Just get it on the calendar.

final thoughts

If you’re struggling with your toddler or other kids, you might need to start bonding again. Yelling, extreme behavior challenges, and dreading spending time with them is an obvious sign.

It doesn’t have to be complicated though. Prioritize nurturing the relationship, find activities you enjoy, get out of the house, and plan special dates.

It takes work to see the benefits of reconnecting and bonding with them, but they are so worth it!

What have you done to start bonding with your toddler? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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