Sat Oct 22 03:57:42 CAT 2016

Raising toddlers isn't plain sailing

By unknown | Apr 05, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

My four-year-old has been impressively independent and even seemed ahead of her time until quite recently. She won't even feed herself and cries at the slightest sign of discipline.

But what really worried me was when she started wetting her bed, two years after she had been potty trained.

A friend with a four-year-old boy is going through the same experience.

"First, he told me he wanted to change his daycare centre and then he became so clingy. He falls apart when his dad and I even suggest an evening out without him, though we've been using the same babysitter since he was born and they are still inseparable," she says.

Frustrating as it is, this behaviour is said to be perfectly normal. The way children progress through developmental milestones isn't linear, says child psychologist Nina Liebenberg.

"Development in kids is like a boat. It goes through different tides at different times," she says.

"Just like adults sometimes reflect on their mistakes and lessons learnt through the different stages, kids regress too."

But that is not to say these behavioural changes are not triggered by lifestyle changes.

One of the things to look out for is stress.

Children under stress might return to behaviour that soothes or makes them feel more in control, which is often something they did when they were younger.

"Disruptive factors that throw routine out if the child's daily life include a new maid, a new boyfriend, a new bully at school, sudden irregular bonding hours spent with them, a divorce, a new sibling and so on," suggests Liebenberg.

She warns to be careful when making judgments about children between the ages of two and three.

"A two-year-old might become very impressed because she has learnt that she is the star attraction.

"But once she gets over the stage of proving herself, she might just throw off all the 'big' things she has achieved and become a baby again."

The worrying factor is that getting to the bottom of what ails your child might not be easy because young children have trouble with articulating what they're feeling.

Liebenberg says it's important to realise that regressive behaviour is usually a cry for some extra reassurance.

"If you have a new man in your life and you are calling him 'baby' while you still call her 'baby' it might make her angry," she says.

Rather than fight and let the child see your anxiety, explain to her the nature and the magnitude of your bond.

But parents can avoid this stage and be pro-active.

"If you anticipate a major change, such as a new preschool, you and your child can create a picture book of the transition, with him or her as the main character.

"Paste in pictures of the old teachers and the new ones. And read it together often."

This gives the child the opportunity to ponder the changes in advance.

Tolerating some childish behaviour doesn't mean you're creating a bigger baby.

"It allows your child to become less childish.

"She's free to use her coping mechanisms to deal with her anxiety rather than spend all her energy trying to get someone to pay attention to her," says Liebenberg.


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT