Monday, January 16, 2017

Supporting Toddlers in Independence

Cohort 10 is approaching toddlerhood. That magical time when children begin to become aware of their ability and prefer to act independently, regardless of ability. During this time there is also a language explosion, it’s a time where they are mimicking noises we make and words we say but not knowing when to use what words and how to use the words they do know to express any big feelings they are having. This can also be a time of great frustration. We observe behaviors such as hitting and pushing as a way for the children to communicate their needs. It is important at this time to pause, evaluate, and give options.

The power of the pause. Children need time to process things; by offering a pause in between words and action it gives them that time. You narrate what you see or stop an action (such as hitting or pushing) then pause; allow them time to process what just happened or what was said before trying to correct or give solutions. Children can often resolve conflict between peers, when given time.

When we notice strong feelings arise we turn to our observational skills in deducing what is true for each child. Are they tired? Hungry? Do they need space of their own right now? Do they want to see why everyone is standing up on the steps? Is there a favorite toy that another child is playing with? Maybe they don’t need anything at all right now, and are exploring the limits.  For example, they might be thinking: “If I pull the back of your shirt, you fall down and cry; and my person (adult) comes closer.”  Or maybe “If I hit your face you cry and my person comes closer to check out what I did.” It’s a pretty powerful thing to be able to take an action and cause this big scene to play out. When you know the child, as we get to know them at Tumbleweed, it makes it easier to evaluate the situation and determine what they need from us.

We can best support this behavior of exploring limits by giving choices that always work.  Here are a few ideas:
* Avoid labeling children as a victim or aggressor, as these can only cause the children to seek more attention through fulfilling these roles.
*Simple language that creates a limit: “It doesn’t work for you to hit."  Then offers choices: "You can ask for space or stomp the ground if you feel frustrated.” 
*Narrating conflict encourages communication, “You were playing with that train. Then they took it out of your hand!  That feels frustrating.  I won’t let you hit. You can say….” 

Cohort 8 and 10 is a group of confident kids and they are exploring the limits and boundaries of their power  We know that when we give them the tools to negotiate their power in positive ways. As carers and parents we wear many different hats, and have multiple roles in the children’s lives. Sometimes that means bring a presences, narrating what we see then pausing to see what the children do. Other times observation is key to better understand and evaluate a situation before taking action. Mostly though we are support for their development, because they are capable and still learning.

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