You and your Child : Being your Own Person (part 1)

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Your child’s experience of the world will be shaped by you and drawn from a range of influences that will all have their roots in your past. She will naturally look to you for guidance on what is “right and wrong”—and will push the boundaries of acceptable behavior during the learning process.

“Your child has rights—but so do you. It is not an ‘either/or’ situation, but a balance of needs and actions.”

“When you are a parent it’s important to remember that you are the adult and your toddler is only a child. She needs you to stay calm.”

To be a parent is to tread a fine line between wanting to “do what’s best” based on the knowledge and understanding of others; and wanting to do “what feels right” based on personal instinct and the bond with your child. A first-time parent is going to feel more uncertain than one who has several children, but when trouble hits it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the conflicting and well-meaning advice that abounds.

Avoiding comparisons and choosing advice

"“Lisa and I have been best friends since school, and our kids are about the same age, but she has the support of both sets of parents and her husband, whereas I am pretty much on my own when my husband is stationed overseas. I get so tired of hearing about their latest vacation and how brilliant her children are. It just makes me worry about mine even more.”" Families are infinitely varied in shape, size, and gender mix, but one thing seems to be universal—when there is a toddler on the loose, and when there is a problem, everyone has an opinion and a story that they would like to share. The trouble is that other people’s toddlers are not yours—and no two children are exactly the same. It can be very tempting if you are feeling unconfident to compare your child’s progress with that of another child of the same age. As this guide will stress again and again, there are guidelines and milestones but no fixed rules when it comes to child development. Unless there are special needs most children will have reached a similar stage of development by the time they start school.

Swapping stories and tactics with other parents is often invaluable, but unwanted advice can be hard to take. If by nature you tend to be unsure of yourself then other people’s views can make you feel put upon, and may lead you to feel stressed or guilty, too. This would be a good time to learn to listen objectively rather than take things personally. You may like to have a chat with those who have overstepped the mark to explain that you appreciate their advice and can see their method works for their child, but that you choose to do things a different way.

Keep in mind that:
  • Others who have been through it may have something useful to say.

  • Some books, articles, and TV programs offer sound advice, but not all.

  • Your pediatrician is better qualified than you to diagnose a health problem. Do, however, always follow your instincts if you think your child is ill.

  • Unless your child is in physical, emotional, or psychological danger, you are more entitled than anyone else to decide what is right for her.

A learning curve

While advice is useful, especially if you’re a first-time parent, try to assess your child’s needs yourself and be confident in the decisions you make.

Separating your needs from those of your child

Sometimes we can become confused between which actions are being taken for the good of our child and which are for our own good. A classic example occurs at bedtime. There are few experiences more likely to make your heart melt than your cuddlesome toddler snuggling in for a bedtime story and telling you she loves you, or the sight of your otherwise “terrible” two-year-old lying asleep with the look of an angel. Is it any wonder that parents give in when their little one gets up for more cuddling or wants the comfort of snoozing in their bed rather than the child’s own? It is not only toddlers who suffer from separation anxiety: parents do, too. Parents want to know they are needed and don’t want to risk being rejected or disliked by their child, by causing them distress.

Provided you act with calmness and clarity, rather than anger or impulse, your child will not feel rejected and will eventually learn to feel safe without your physical presence: a vital survival skill. If, on the other hand, you give in to her immediate impulse to satisfy your own needs, you are in danger of delaying her development over time. Be aware of when you are acting for your own need rather than the good of your child.

Your child’s needs

Consistency and routine are essential in the early years. If you are less than consistent, your child will find your weak spot and may use it to his advantage!

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