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Encouraging independence in young children - All about Parenting Toddlers , Issue #010
May 08, 2003
Shaping the life of your precious onesAll about Parenting Toddlers
7th May 2003
In This Issue:
1. The "3 Fs" of Effective Parenting
The "3 Fs" of Effective Parenting
The following are the "3 Fs" in the area of discipline:
Discipline should be:
Teach Me, I'm Yours - by Joan Bramsch
Encouraging independence in young children
From an early age, a childís search for independence is fueled by the desire to make things happen and to feel competent. A young childís opinion about her capabilities is, to a large extent, based on her parentís or caregiverís response to her. As an adult, your role in fostering independence is to provide love and support, encourage exploration and curiosity, teach skills, and allow the child to make appropriate choices. Your enthusiasm for a childís exploration sends a message that these activities are valued by you.
Sometimes the desire to make things happen takes young children down paths that require limit setting, or they may become frustrated while trying to master a certain task. While it is appropriate to allow for small doses of frustration, caregivers should be prepared to step in to prevent overwhelming frustration, and also to expect mistakes. The key is to provide an emotional safety net when trial and error results in more error than immediate success.
Like other developmental milestones for young children, successful accomplishment of self-care tasks are age-specific. An infantís efforts to lift his head, roll over, or sit up are significant steps toward independence. Love, affection, and nurturing will help him reach that goal.
A safe environment is paramount once children are mobile. Curious and daring toddlers have little or no judgement concerning their safety, so itís up to you to ensure that they can explore and experiment in safe surroundings. Independence at this stage can be encouraged by giving the child small choices as a way to exercise a measure of control over his life. These choices might include which story to read, song to sing, or which shirt to wear.
Preschoolers are verbally capable of expressing many thoughts, feelings and needs, and they are ready to take bigger steps toward independence. Encourage preschool children to do for themselves on a daily basis by allowing them to put away clothes and toys, for example. Establishing family chores--setting the table, folding towels, or helping with meal preparation--builds a sense of competence and teaches children how to do for others.
Once children reach school age, there are many opportunities to facilitate independence. Decisions about friends, school projects, and play are all a part of their daily life choices. Financial decision-making skills can be bolstered by giving older children responsibility with money, for example providing an allowance or designating a child as class treasurer.
Although it is necessary to establish limits and maintain firm rules about important issues, it is equally important to honor childrenís choices whenever possible. By showing your genuine enthusiasm and recognizing the many small tasks a young child accomplishes, you are helping her gain control over her world and preparing her for a healthy, independent life.
Understanding your toddler's diet
You'll probably notice a sharp drop in your toddler's appetite after his first birthday. Suddenly he's picky about what he eats, turns his head away after just a few bites, or resists coming to the table at mealtimes. It may seem as if he should be eating more now that he's so active, but there's a good reason for the change. His growth rate has slowed, and he really doesn't require as much food now.
Your toddler needs about 1,000 calories a day to meet his needs for growth, energy, and good nutrition. If you've ever been on a 1,000-calorie diet, you know it's not a lot of food. But your child will do just fine with it, divided among three small meals and two snacks a day. Don't count on his always eating it that way; however, because the eating habits of toddlers are erratic and unpredictable from one day to the next. He may eat everything in sight at breakfast but almost nothing else for the rest of the day. Or he may eat only his favorite food for three days in a row, then reject it entirely.
Your toddler needs foods from the same four basic nutrition groups that you do:
When planning your child's menu, remember that fats are also important for his normal growth and development, so they should not be restricted during this period.
By his first birthday, your child should be able to handle most of the foods you serve the rest of the family but with a few precautions. Be sure the food is cool enough so that it won't burn his mouth. Test the temperature yourself, because he'll dig in without considering the heat. Try to avoid foods that are heavily spiced, salted, buttered, or sweetened. These additions prevent your child from experiencing the natural taste of foods, and they may be harmful to his long-term good health. Young children seem to be more sensitive than adults to these flavorings, and may reject heavily spiced foods.
Your little one can still choke on chunks of food that are hard and large enough to plug his airway, so make sure anything you given him is mashed or cut into small, easily chewable pieces. Never offer him peanuts, grapes, carrots, whole or large sections of hot dogs, meat sticks, or hard candies. Hot dogs and carrots in particular should be quartered lengthwise and then sliced into small pieces. Also, make sure your toddler eats only while seated and supervised by an adult. "Eating on the run" increases his risk of choking. By his first birthday or soon thereafter, your toddler should drink his liquids from a cup. He'll need less milk now, because he'll get most of his calories from solid foods.
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See you in the next issue. :-)
All the best,
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