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Your Independent Toddler – Fun, Joy, Frustration and Conflict!

(Adapted from: Pediatric Care On-Line, Bright Futures, 12 Month Visit – see link to full article at bottom)

A child’s first birthday is an exciting and important period for many families. As babies learn how to walk and strive for increased independence, they transition from babies to toddlers.

Along with the development of walking, toddlers develop increased language, cognitive and social skills. Toddlers have wants and desires and become increasingly able to act upon the world. Most of the joys and frustrations of parenting a toddler come from this normal developmental conflict!

Once toddlers can walk, new hazards are reachable (hot coffee on a kitchen counter, etc. . ) and constant supervision is required. Toddlers they may not be able go as fast as they would like or to reach objects they want. This may lead to grunting and whining (which can be hard for parents to listen to all day) or sometimes tantrums (see below).

Temper tantrums typically develop in the early toddler months and are thought to arise out of frustration. For while toddlers may know what they want, their ability to obtain it or communicate their desires may still be limited (and, even when they communicate just fine, the answer is sometimes “no”). This inability to control their world can set off a tantrum during which toddlers are unable to control their emotions.

As toddlers struggle for autonomy, their parents’ ability to let go and permit independence will greatly influence their ability to enjoy their children. Responding sensitively to the 12-month-old’s behavior can be hard, and some parents who did well with the more dependent, younger infant are less sure of their role now. Toddlers thrive when parents accommodate their demands yet maintain a strong parenting presence, including a lot of patience, enough self-confidence to set limits, the judgment to know which needs are most important, and the ability to realize that their child’s negative behavior is not directed against them.

Parents need to be positive role models for their toddler, both physically (eg, by eating nutritiously and wearing safety belts in the car) and emotionally (eg, by being calm and consistent in setting limits and handling tantrums). Parents who enjoy their toddler’s growing independence can best provide a stable home base as the toddler’s curiosity and mobility carry him into an expanding world.

Link to full article here.


For More Useful Information:
Zero To Three: terrific parents’ section with handouts on developmental milestones and parenting strategies for all sorts of temperaments
American Academy of Pediatrics Bright Futures: thorough parent handout for 12 month old visit.  Other ages available at Bright Futures Visit Forms