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How a child's "Self" emerges. What parents need to know Part 1

The Toddler

The oldest form of communication for any person is eye contact. The first year of life, before children use words, infants learn to communicate. Some one once said; the eyes are the windows of the soul. They are at least the windows to feeling perceived and accepted or disconnected in relationships. The five core areas of primary emotional exchange take place through eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, body tension and touch. Well before words are exchanged infant to parent, parent interaction in these areas causes an infant to feel significant or insignificant.

During the first year babies are so adorable and seemingly helpless. They are made over and pursued in ways that cause them to feel delighted. This at least is the normal course of development. Sadly, in abusive or neglect situations; chaotic, angry or inattentive ways of relating disrupt or replace this natural time of adoring.

As normal development continues after the first year (12-36 months) the emerging toddler begins to encounter more than adoring approval. The toddler begins to encounter limits. One writer estimates that by late toddlerhood the average parent limits, by words or actions, the child’s behavior an average of once every nine minutes. The transformation from adored infant to challenged toddler can have a profound effect on this child’s perception of “self”. Who am I and even beyond my impulses am I loveable and loved, acceptable and accepted by the parent’s I love as the significant people beyond me?

Key factors for parents to keep in mind during their critical time of a child’s development include:

1. Don’t personalize a toddler’s behavior as if it means something about you or your parenting style. A toddler’s natural tendency is toward exploration of everything, it’s not a reflection of whether you are a good parent or not.
2. Realize that toddler’s learning by doing is their way to experience and discover everything that is known to them, it’s not misbehavior.
3. Use distraction and create a different interest when needing to limit what they are involved with.
4. Limit over use of the word “no” but, use the word “no” if you mean no. Back up your “no” with actions that support that “no” is your actual answer. Be firm and clear but not angry in your expression to toddlers. Remember facial expression and tone of voice can communicate along with your spoken “no”.
5. Avoid use of shame or angry humiliation of a child. These can powerfully damage self and disconnect a child from wanting parent approval.
6. Use time in (holding a child to work through anger) or time out (put them in a separated place until they can cooperate) where they defiantly challenge your expectations.

Always believe in your toddler beyond what they did. Provide secure loving affection. Help their “self” emerge with a sense of belief in them. Start every day as a new adventure

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