Watching a child move from infancy to toddlerhood is actually rather fascinating. There is growth from dependence to independence. Language and mobility develop and physical growth is obvious. As parents we may get stuck longer than our child does in the infancy stage. We may do more for our child and impose fewer limits than is appropriate on a newly physically independent yet intellectually dependent individual. These limits are actually a factor that allows a child to feel more safe in their newly expanding world. Doing less for a child means you trust that they can do more. Allowing those successes gives a stronger sense of self and a confidence to try new things.
Limits? Thoughtful limits are what we strive for. An example of this is what we ask of the children on the playground. “Is what you’re doing hurting you, another person or a piece of equipment? “If so, it’s not what should be done. Preschoolers can handle this logic. What about toddlers?
Toddlers need your guidance. “Walk with me, please.” A simple request. Hopefully requested only when necessary. When necessary, it could be a safety issue. Therefore, follow up to be sure a child walks as requested and returns to practice walking if not. This teaches self -discipline, listening skills and possibly some thought before movement cutting down on impulsive and possibly unsafe activity.
“Sit down while eating.” Another simple request. Mealtime may be the only time this is necessary. Don’t allow walking around with food if you don’t want choking and food everywhere. Beginning early is an investment in future behavior. Eating issues? Sitting down and focusing on what is front of them allows a child to minimize distractions and possibly notice what peers are eating for some positive peer pressure.
The balance in these things is knowing what is important to you. Too many restrictions fall on deaf ears. Think about why you choose the limits you choose and there will be a consistency reflecting what is important to you, possibly reinforcing some family values (ex. kindness, respect for others and yourself, etc.) and yes, this begins at toddlerhood!