|As developmental psychologist Erick Erickson stated half a century ago, a big part of a child’s social and emotional development during the first years of life is the struggle of navigating both dependence and autonomy. As he moves into his toddlerhood and preschooler years, your child is experientially exploring the concept of “personhood” and working hard at establishing himself as an independent individual.
Beyond knowing his name, age, dislikes and likes, developing autonomy requires your son to venture into stating that he is entitled to feelings and opinions that might not only be different from your own, but might also be in conflict with your wishes. It’s here where you might feel like you’re stranded in the “no-land” alongside your kid.
Because cognitive development is still in its early stages, between 2 and 4 years of age kids are just starting to think of the world in categories and concepts, and they begin by seeing things through the binary “yes-no”. Also, even though your kid’s language skills have undoubtedly developed a lot by now, they are still in their early stages and aren’t of much use when your little one tries to communicate with you. For a preschooler, saying “no” is far more reachable than explaining in long sentences and complicated grammar that those socks you insist on putting on him are actually very itchy.
Being able to express disaccord is a fundamental part of human experience, just as it is noticing the differences, see similarities, think abstractly, generalize, arrive at new conclusions, build bridges between us and create new things. When your child says “no”, he is beginning to problematize things, assert independence and individuality through language, thus opening up many more developmental doors.
|Beyond parental curiosity, for decades, the question of when, why and how children develop self-awareness has been a crucial inquiry for developmental psychology. In the book The Interpersonal World of the Infant, published in 1985, psychologist and researcher Daniel Stern drew conclusions from his experiments with infants and toddlers and presented the first evidence of self-awareness in young children.
In one of his behavioral experiments, he placed children between 12 and 30 months of age in front of a mirror, and marked, without the child noticing or being aware of a mark, the kid’s faces with rouge. When in front of the mirror, he observed that kids younger than 18 months old appeared to be unaware that what they had in front of them was their own reflection. In the other hand, most kids beyond the eighteen-month mark, when they saw the paint in their reflected face, they immediately touched the mark on their faces instead of the mirror. Thanks to his findings, we now know to expect important changes in self-awareness between 2 and 3 years old.
There are many ways in which your child might show her increased self-awareness. For example, when she starts to use pronouns to refer to herself, when she states what she likes or dislikes, or when she shows personal preferences towards clothes, food, animals or characters, when she starts using first names to refer to people she knows, including herself, and, further in her socio-emotional development, when she starts showing interest in friendships and adventure into sharing toys and showing empathy.
|When we talk about children’s self-awareness skills, we are referring to their capacity to know themselves and, based on that knowledge, evaluate and respond appropriately to different personal and interpersonal situations. Thanks to self-awareness we know what we like, dislike, how were prone to react in certain situations, and how best to self-regulate our emotions and thoughts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these skills start developing around toddlerhood and continue to do so until adolescence and young adulthood, when a person’s personality settles a bit more after lots of self-exploration.
How having good self-awareness skills will help your child:
Because we constantly need to use our self-awareness skills in a myriad of different situations, and these skills lay the groundwork for many other social, emotional and academic aspects of development, it’s important to help your kid develop her self-awareness skills. Your little one will reap the benefits of this throughout life.
|As your child transitions from toddlerhood to his preschooler years, you’ll notice, among other things, important changes in his self-awareness skills. In other words, he will be able to say and understand the meaning of his first name, age and sex, as well as having a better understanding of his likes and dislikes. Your child’s self-awareness skills are what, in the future, will allow him to understand that he is a whole, unique and independent person with thoughts and feelings. This set of skills is essential for developing and maintaining relationships, and to lead healthy and happy inner lives.
According to 1991’s seminal paper on how children develop the concept of selfhood, published by Harvard’s professor Jerome Kagan in the journal Developmental Review, self-awareness refers to a person’s realization that he or she is a distinct human being, with body, mind and actions that are separate from other people’s. Approaching 4 years of age, children work on developing their autonomy, as stated in the stages of psychosocial development proposed by Erick Erickson during the 1950’s.
Here are some tips on how you can help your kid develop self-awareness skills:
|For preschoolers, learning to share is challenging and marks an important developmental moment in their social and emotional growth. During childhood, sharing is a capacity that kids need to have in order to play and learn, but they need your help in building the relationship and emotional intelligence skills required to do so.
Because sharing can be hard for children around 3 or 4 years old, it’s a skill that’s usually developed until a child starts going to childcare, kindergarten or until they start having playmates. According to the Raising Children Network, kids need to learn to share in order to make and keep friendships, because sharing helps them understand fairness and compromise, as well as learning about tolerating frustration, being patient and trusting others.
Here are some ideas on how you can encourage your preschooler to build his relationship skills by learning to share:
|Your daughter is now stepping out of the terrible twos and into the awesome threes and fours. In this stage of your kid’s development, she is staring to make friends and build relationships, learning to interact with other people outside the family (like playmates, teachers, peers, day-care staff, etc.) and is also beginning to express feelings, needs, likes and dislikes with her newly discovered language skills. This communication is slowly, but surely, building your little girl’s personality and setting the base for future relationships, communication style and sense of self.
Because of this, communicating with your child is very important for her social and emotional development. As the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes, knowing how to receive the message your child is trying to convey to you is an essential part of the communication. This article will focus on listening actively to your preschooler.
All communication can be thought of as a channel that goes both ways: not only the receiver end of the message is getting something! In every communication, the person speaking also gets an implicit message about what he or she is saying. This message is conveyed by the listeners body language, attunement and feedback or lack thereof. When you use active listening, your child gets the message back that what she is saying is important, and that you are receptive to what she is expressing.
Active listening can help your daughter better understand her feelings, and it fosters a warm and nurturing relationship between the two of you, while also boosting your girl’s sense of worth and self-confidence. Here are some recommendations on how to become an active listener with your child:
|As the American Academy of Pediatrics assesses, we know that at around 2 and 4 years old, preschoolers are right in the center of an important improvement in their communication skills. In this article, we’re going to look at communication beyond its benefits for your child’s vocabulary, and focus instead on the important role that it plays in your kid’s social and emotional development.
How you communicate with your son will set the base for how he communicates with himself. Because your child is still very young, communicating can be tricky, especially around situations where he is frustrated and you’re getting angry, like when discussing about a conflictive behavior. It’s precisely in those situations where it is crucial for you to model how problems can be solved by talking. If you practice positive communication in your family, your child will take in the problem solving, emotion expression and relationship building skills you show him. After all, the family is the first place where we all get to practice socio-emotional skills!
The Early Childhood Development Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gives some tips on how to communicate with your child in a way that fosters understanding and emotional development:
If you want to read more about positive communication and how to try it with your family, you can read the 2-pages article by Myrna DuBois “Open the door to good communication” by following this link:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children go through many important communication milestones between their 36 and 48 months of age. This means that what your child can understand and the complexity with which she can express and communicate with you increases greatly around this age. Communication is very important not only for language development, but for your kid’s social and emotional skills. Positive and effective communication sets the base with which to build and mend relationships.
According to the recommendations of the Early Childhood Development Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, parents need to practice positive communication with their young children. They emphasize that developing children benefit greatly from a communication that is open, respectful, honest, straight-forward and kind, no matter the topic at hand.
Here are a couple of practical tips from The Big Book of Parenting, by Doctor in Education Michele Borba:
• Understand the “no” as a way of asserting newly discovered independence. Toddlers live in a world full of big people, feel things they don’t know how to manage, and want to express feelings and ideas without having the language skills to do so, so it’s natural that they crave for some control at times and act defiantly. Try not to take it personally and model the appropriate way of interacting. Explain that it’s not nice to speak rudely and try integrating some choices into their daily routines.
• Don’t expect your daughter to internalize social graces just yet, model behavior instead. Three and four-year-olds are still very young to master their impulses. So, if you find yourself mortified because your little girl is talking very loudly at the movies, know that this is completely normal and take advantage of your child’s inner copycat by whispering “use your quiet voice, like this”. You can even practice this and other alternative behaviors at home, which will make it easier to do so in the library the next time you go there.
• Make talking fun instead of overwhelming. Some kids can get frustrated or inhibited when they’re given many instructions or corrections. So, try not to draw attention to the mistakes she might be making, and simply repeat the words in a clear way when you next have the chance.
If you are interested on more tips about communicating with your young children, you can check out this one-pager by the University of Nebraska:
|Because young kid’s senses, personality and cognition are still developing, it’s normal for them to have somewhat rigid food-preferences regarding texture and flavor, especially when a new food is just being introduced. Therefore, it is necessary to take their developmental stage into account when exposing them to new foods, so that the experience can be positive and build their emotional, verbal and physical skills as well.
With this challenge in mind, here are some ideas on how to successfully introduce new foods into your daughter’s diet:
|Getting a preschooler dressed can be a cause for morning stress for many parents. You might be in a hurry and your child won’t put on his coat without making a tantrum, or he has decided to wear tree pairs of socks today or has buttoned his clothes wrongly and feels betrayed by you when correcting the situation. You might think that the only way around this is dressing your child yourself, because if it’s still such a struggle, it might be too early to be working on self-care skills like dressing.
In fact, learning to dress independently is an important skill that your child can start to tackle between 36 and 48 months old. Meeting challenges like pulling clothes off, opening large zippers, putting on shoes or buttoning and unbuttoning large buttons actually helps your child build many new skills. For example, he develops multiple different areas, like fine and gross motor skills when mastering necessary hand movements, or his memory when recalling steps and their order when putting clothes on and off. He also works on his attention span and learns through experience about shapes and colors, not to mention the self-awareness, the sense of achievement and the confidence that is built by learning to get dressed.
Here are some tips for you to help your kid learn how to get dressed: