Between 18 months and 3 years, a child is constantly striving for independence and control over his surroundings. Although this innate child’s desire for empowerment may be troublesome, it should be validated. Surely, to an affordable extent. Otherwise, if adults completely restrict child’s freedom and preferences, constantly shout at their offspring, such behavior may irreversibly ruin a child’s self-image, which, in turn, may cause a strong sense of inferiority. That is why parents should support children in their desire to gain power and control.
In case with Olivia, a developmentally appropriate environment for her will be that one of elder children (who already know what is “good” and “bad”) or adults. The point is that as toddlers begin to test their independence moving around, they still do not realize any hindrances as no limits exist for them. At this stage of development, adults or elder children should help younger ones to learn what is safe and dangerous, what they can do and what they should avoid. It should be also born in mind that a child still does not fully realize the consequences of its explorations; consequently, a firm but gentle “no” should restrict any dangerous child’s actions. This technique is likely to be very effective since the new skill of talking may help toddlers to understand the rules (Gurian, 2011).
Moreover, adults or elder children may encourage Olivia’s self-help skills, which will greatly reinforce her independence. Adults should remember that when children practice dressing and feeding themselves, their small and large motor skills are being trained, too. As a result of practicing self-help skills, a child gains confidence in his ability to explore new things, builds his self-esteem and may be proud of his independence. This development of motor skills and language (discussed above) corresponds to the development of the brain parts responsible for self-control (Gurian, 2011).
Throughout the day, an adult may offer a child many choices. Firstly, Jacob could have been offered another toy, whereas Olivia’s toy could have been returned back to her. In this case, the girl would not have felt angry and frustrated and would not have bitten Jacob’s arm. It is clear from the scene that Olivia is guilty because she bites. However, there is a motive behind this splash of aggression. With the first bite, Olivia shows her non-verbal disapproval of Jacob’s dishonest behavior; however, with the second bite, the girl becomes the “frustrated biter” as she lacks mother’s attention (thelabouroflove.com). Secondly, Olivia can be asked what she prefers for a meal, which lullaby she would like to listen to, which color she prefers, would she like to dress herself or with an adult’s help, etc. The most important thing about offering choices is that parents should offer choices when they are really possible. Illusionary choices may only disorient and frustrate a child (Hudlemeyer, 2008).
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No matter how many choices children are allowed to have, it is always necessary to remember that without control they may abuse their freedom while exploring the surrounding world or interacting with others. Moreover, some children strongly need control and autonomy. Left uncontrolled, they may become too disobedient, aggressive, and feel too powerful; in the long run, these traits of character may become crucial. For the same reason, it is necessary to set limits for children’s behavior. All-allowance brings to life arrogance, egoism, carelessness, irresponsibility, and disrespect for others. Here are some tips for setting limits: 1) set rules and consequences together with your offspring. It is a key to child’s better understanding of both demands and results; 2) make your children obey rules and accept the consequences of disobedience. Only in this case a child will learn to take responsibility for its actions; 3) be fair, firm, and kind. Show your child that rule-setting means love and care (Gurian, 2011).
To find some strategies for dealing with children like Olivia, parents may consult The National Association for the Education of Young Children(NAEYC). Being founded in 1926, this organization numbers nearly 80,000 members and works on behalf of young children from birth to 8. Every year, the given community resource holds Annual Conference that reflects professional development experiences in the sphere of an early childhood. Parents can also make profound use of two foremost periodicals: “Young Children” and “Teaching Young Children”.
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