Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Urge for Independence

       For your child, beginning to walk is more that the first step toward physical freedom. Moving about independently- opening a closet door, walking though a flower bed, pushing his stroller – he develops an entirely new view of himself as a separate person.

           Yet this new awareness of self is frightening as well as exciting. Your child sits atop an emotional see aw. At one end is his wish to be independent, to make his own choices and to break loose from your controls. At the other is his desire to remain the baby who can depend on your absolutely. One minute he insists that you leave him alone; the next, he wails for you to return. Over the next few years, the two of you will rock back and forth, trying to achieve a balance.

          If you are unprepared for this inevitable experience, you may find it frustrating, even exasperating. The rebellious child of 18 months to three years old, with his stubbornness, unpredictable actions, rapid mood swings and negativism, can try the patience of even the saintliest parent. By the time he is three, much of the storm may have passed, and the transition from babyhood to childhood may seem largely accomplished. Your child’s self esteem and competence will have deepened, his emotional dependency on you lessened, and his view of the world widened to include other children. But the process is not truly complete. For years to come you will find that for short periods he suddenly becomes a baby again, cowed by the world, needing to cling to you for reassurance. A child’s fashioning of his independent self continues through the preschool years and beyond.