How toddlers change: Surprising?

How well do we know changing toddlers?

Growing Kids: Nurturing Relationships from tots to teens is a new book by Ruth Schmidt Neven written for the way we live now. Growing Kids is not a view of parents as managers and children as problematic, but it makes the parent-child relationship the centre point of all interaction.

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Here is an extract from the book about our ever-changing toddlers, how much do you relate to?

Trying to manage everything at once

Toddlerhood and early childhood is a time of great activity for your child, when so many new things are happening at once. Your young child is learning to talk, to walk, to regulate their feeding and sleeping, and to manage toileting. It's quite a list. It's often said that there is no other period in development, apart from adolescence, when the child is so challenged by physical and emotional change. In the process of achieving these tasks, by age three your young child will have created 1,000 trillion synapses or neural connections. As in infancy, it is important for you to trust that your child knows how to manage these milestones, and that again rather than needing to be 'taught', these milestones are best 'elicited' within a supportive parental relationship.

Milestones and mastery

Achieving mastery in these areas can prove a challenge for children, and all development is about taking one step forward and one step backward. It can also be a challenge to parents if they feel that their child has not achieved a particular milestone or is 'behind' compared with other children in the playgroup or mother's group. Comparisons are generally not helpful because your child is a unique individual, and development progresses at different rates for different children at different times.

A young child may shoot ahead in one area and plateau in another. Often it may seem for parents that a number of issues cluster together, particularly around the trio of milestones concerned with sleeping, toileting and eating. We may think of these as 'the holy trinity'. But why do they often seem to cluster together and why do they pose such challenges to parents? The main reason is because the young child is moving out of infancy into a place where they are beginning to recognise that their body belongs to them and not to their parents. They are at the beginning of being able to manage their body, both in relation to what they put into their body and what they put out of their body. Additionally, your young child is beginning to work out literally where they end and others begin.

Leave the orifices alone

It is at this time of your child's development when you might want to erect an invisible banner in your home that reads 'leave the orifices alone' because it is essentially up to the child to begin the complex task of having to manage their orifices themselves. What this means is that parents need to avoid excessive preoccupation with what goes in at one end of their child, the mouth, and what comes out of the other, the anus. Excessive preoccupation on the part of parents is similar to the rigid routines described earlier for infants. Where rigid routines for babies override what you as the parents know about your baby, excessive parental preoccupation and anxiety will override your child's own ability to handle their body. For example, children need to begin to identify the feelings and sounds of their bodies which cue them to go to the toilet and the feelings and sounds that cue them to eat.

GROWING KIDS: Nurturing Relationships from tots to teens by Ruth Schmidt Neven and illustrated by Deborah Fajerman is published by Full Circle Publications and is available on Amazon

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