First, be careful of comparisons and labels. One set of abilities is bound to develop faster than another in a child. This goes for temperament too. You might call your book-obsessed toddler "our little scholar" or his energetic sister "our wild child" but be careful of this. If one child feels her sibling owns the "achiever" label, she might not try to excel, for fear of falling short. Reframe your words when describing your kids: try energetic, spirited, and careful.
Also, walk the talk. Kids watch your every move, and especially for babies and very young children, parental behavior is far more powerful than words. Let them learn how to behave by how you behave. A good example: it's not uncommon to see your toddler "nursing" her doll when you are nursing your newborn.
Let your child make mistakes. If your 2-year-old is building a block tower and you see that he's going to put a block on that will topple it, don't stop him. This teaches him cause and effect, plus it's good for your child to sometimes experience disappointment.
And as hard as it may be, be willing to do nothing. In other words, don't feel like you have to schedule every minute. Their identities emerge when they are left to their own devices. They pick up a pencil and draw or go out in the backyard.
You should also reconsider your use of food to comfort or praise. Even the youngest baby will start to equate comfort with consuming if the bottle is always offered to quiet crying. So will the toddler who always gets a cookie after a fall. What your child needs, really, is attention, pure and simple. Plus you want to save the big guns-like a cookie-for when you really need them, like when your toddler has a meltdown at the grocery store.
Don't be afraid to look beyond "bad" behavior. Understand that your child's temper tantrums aren't meant to manipulate you. They are a result of him not being able to control his emotions. Try talking the situation out with your child.
Also, trust your gut. We all read books and magazines and talk to our doctors because we want to do the best for our kids, but sometimes there can be too much advice, and some of it conflicting. No one knows your child better than you do, so go with your instincts.
And lastly, be ready to embrace change. As your child gets older, he may reject an activity that he once loved. Don't assume something is wrong. Your role as your children evolve from infants to toddlers and beyond is to evolve right along with them.
For more information on this and other parenting topics, © 2007 CBS. All rights reserved.
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