Your child needs you to guide him—to help him learn what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. When you set clear, consistent and reasonable limits in a loving and supportive way, you are teaching your child about how to control his own behavior. What you say and do helps him, over time, to set his own limits.
Your teaching begins at birth as you and your baby begin to create routines for eating, sleeping, playing and cuddling together. Daily routines give him a sense of order. When you (or someone you have carefully chosen to help care for your baby) are there to meet his needs, time after time, trust develops. He learns, for example: “If I cry, someone will come and make sure I’m ok.”
As a toddler, it is normal and necessary for his development that he begins to test the rules. He is not being bad, but curious as he tries to make sense of the world. Toddlerhood can also be a time of “melt downs” that can be frustrating and challenging for you as a parent. Adding some new ideas in this Guide to your toolkit will help you keep your cool and remind you that there are many positive ways to handle difficult situations.
As you guide your child in his first years, you are helping him develop the ability to eventually control his own behavior as a preschooler (self-regulation). For example, chances are good that your four year old will be able to get dressed, brush his teeth, and wash his hands and face with fewer reminders than he did when he was three.
Research shows that a child’s self-regulation behaviors in the early years predict school achievement in reading and mathematics better than their IQ scores. (BLAIR 2002; BLAIR & RAZZA 2007)