Monday, January 31, 2011
Your child also needs to learn what she may not so, and your reasons for any particular rules. When you forbid her to touch the stove, explain why. Remember that some rules will change as your child matures, and you will need to reevaluate them continually. Setting limits for your child is critical to fostering her autonomy. She can maintain her sense of security- the foundation stone of independence only when she feels sure of her boundaries
How you set limits affects your child’s personal growth. If you boss her around, telling her to “Do it because I say so,” you stifle her efforts to use her own initiative and leave her dependent, unhappy and angry. If instead you exercise little or no authority, letting her do practically anything she pleases, even things that hurt or disturb other people, you again deprive her of real independence. Without any clear boundaries, she is groping in the dark, feeling unsure of herself. You promote competence and autonomy in your child by being rational, firm, and consistent, yet warm and loving.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
You can remove sources of frustration and help your child act independently by creating a physical environment that meets his needs. A small step stool makes it possible for him to get to the sink to wash his hands. Dressing is made easier if you choose simple clothing, such as trousers with elastic waists. Each time that he successfully does something new, his self confidence increases.
Let him make harmless mistakes. If he puts his T-shirt on backward, resist the temptation to correct it. By allowing the shirt to remain reversed, you avert a possible fight and, more importantly, provide him with a sense of accomplishment.
With all this insistence on independence, you may be surprised when your stubborn child suddenly changes his tune and insists, “You do it”. Whether young children have managed a new challenge or met with failure, they often then want to retreat for a while until they feel more comfortable. Because the wish for dependency remains strong, even the four year old who has mastered dressing himself may occasionally ask you for help.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The struggle for independence begins with your toddler’s insisting,” Me do it myself.” She will demand to feed herself and put on her own coat. You should welcome these requests, since they show that she feels secure enough to attempt to manage things by herself.
Children learn by doing, so it is important that they try to do what their parents have been doing for them. Yet the projects they are determined to take on are often beyond their physical dexterity. A toddler will labor with mighty concentration to pour a glass of juice, and then dissolve into tears after spilling the whole carton on the floor. When you insist on pushing her in the stroller instead of letting her walk, she feels bullied. So many of her efforts at independence are frustrated- by you, by objects she cannot manage, by her own body.
Your child’s emotional growth requires him to assert his independence from you, but he can accomplish this only with your help. The trick comes in encouraging his efforts while being attuned to what he can handle. When your two year old insists on zipping up his coat, you give him a head start by connecting the bottom of the zipper. He is successful because you have adapted the situation to his capabilities.
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.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Even the youngest children may accept social rules more readily if they are shown the reasons. Rather than a flat “No!” try suing “No: you line up on this end” to explain to a toddler why she must not butt into the front of a line. Older children can absorb a more detailed explanation: “Everyone wants to be first in line, but only one child can have that place, and she got there first.” Pointing out what is gained by cooperative behavior the fact that she will have more friends and fewer battles lets the youngster know that your instructions are not merely parental whims.
As in every other area of child rearing, you will get much more mileage from a pinch of positive reinforcement that from a bucketful of nagging criticism. Watch for opportunities to praise your youngster’s positive behavior, and discourage antisocial actions not with scolding and punishment, but by demonstrating praiseworthy alternatives. If your toddler is overly possessive of his toys when other children visit, for example, you might ask him before a guest arrives to think about which toys he might like to share and which ones he wants to put away ahead of time. In this way, you reaffirm the importance of sharing while acknowledging the toddler’s deep seated need to own his toys. When sharing goes well, be sure to praise him- not just for being good, but specifically for sharing, which reinforces the concept once more in his mind and gives him a rush of pride that will prompt him to do it again.
It will probably take dozens of small lessons such as this one before your child is ready to practice the social graces on his own, but the ultimate goal- the abiding pleasures of having friends and being a friend to others- is well worth your efforts.