What can we learn from toddlers about living a balanced life? Here are 6 things my kids do that I try to emulate in my own quest toward whole health:
1. Be in the present moment. Toddlers are free from annoying concepts like “time”. They are completely immersed in the present moment, unconcerned about the past or the future. My frequent attempts at propelling my 3-year-old daughter Lilah out of her existing state-of-being are met with resistance. Whether I am trying to mobilize her to go to the park/leave the park, put pajamas on/take pajamas off, get in the tub/get out of the tub… I am a disruption forcing her away from the present moment to dwell in a cold and uninteresting future. And, for her, the past is equally boring:
“How was school today?,” I ask.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she says.
End of subject.
The past is over, and the future has not yet begun. Be here, right now.
2. Ask for what you need. As a mother of two kids, most of my day is spent meeting their needs. Demands are often shouted at high decibel levels:
Change my diaper!
I want juice!
Play with me!
Or, in the case of my 1-year-old, son Boden: Ehh ehh ehh ehh [pointing]!
Babies cry so their needs are met by the caregiver they rely on for continued life. We are born with this survival mechanism and we should not abandon it so quickly. So, scream your needs at the top of your lungs until they are met.
3. Be authentic. Disagreement should happen more often in adult relationships. But oftentimes an adult will pretend to agree with another adult in order to be liked. Approval from other people is considered more important than being honest. Toddlers aren’t like that. They are 100% authentic. If they don’t like something, you know it. And if they like something, you know it. Simple, huh?
4. Find ways to self sooth. Most babies figure out a way to sooth themselves when they’re upset. My daughter has a much-loved blanket she calls “Stinky”. She simultaneously sniffs Stinky while sucking her bottom lip with her top lip. If Stinky is around, all is good in the world. My son sucks his right thumb and places his left pointer finger on the corner of his mouth. Life is tough, so find the things that bring you comfort, hold on, and never let go.
5. Play! This is an important one. When did we stop playing? Why did we stop playing? And what does it mean to play? Being a yogi, kicking up into a handstand and trying to balance is one way I play. Find a way to play more!
6. Eat what your body craves… eventually it will want a vegetable. Toddlers don’t judge food as “good” or “bad” according to how their body will look after eating it. They listen to their cravings and eat accordingly. At each meal we offer up a variety of nutritious foods and let them choose what they want to eat. Most often it’s the bread, pasta, and crackers that are eaten, but occasionally they choose a vegetable and we shout a silent, “Hallelujah!” Once you stop judging your food, and tune in to the messages your body is sending about what it needs, you will have the beautiful and healthy body you were meant to have.
As parents, we teach our kids a lot of valuable lessons. If we take a moment to admire their own innate wisdom, we can learn so much more from them.