Archive for September, 2011

27 Sep 2011

Sharing is Caring?

4 Comments ELECT, Parenting, Social, Toddlers, Toddlers
Toddlers (14 months -3 years)
Social 

1.1 Social Interest

  • observing and imitating peers
  • beginning to play “follow the peer” games
  • observing and playing briefly with peers (may turn into struggle for possession)
  • offering toys
  • engaging in short group activities
Incorporating singing games into play and routines. Engage one child at a time where other toddlers can observe. 

Toddler’s natural social interest in adults and children helps to focus their attention.

Observing the shared joy of the singing game will motivate involvement when a new game is being introduced.

There’s this phrase I hear time and again from parents and child care workers- “sharing is caring”. It bothers me every time I hear it, especially since it’s often used with toddlers and “twos”. I’m not sure where the phrase originated but I’m pretty sure it’s a big purple dinosaur that’s responsible for its popularity.

Now it’s not that I’m adverse to sharing (or caring for that matter), my issue is how this phrase is used and who it’s being directed towards.
I most often hear this phrase as a admonishment to a child. This child may be playing with a toy another child shows interest in or wanting to hold on to all of the cars or blocks. The phrase “sharing is caring” is used to tell the child to give up their current play so that another child can play. Now let’s imagine this same scenario in a more “adult” context. I’m working on a note in a client file and Joe wants to work on the same file. Joe and I cannot work on the file at the same time. Now it may frustrate or inconvenience Joe that I am working on this client file, he might even ask me to stop my work to give him the file. However, I am fully within my rights to refuse because I’m still using it. Now imagine that Joe’s recourse is to go to our boss; what do you think his response would be? Do you think my boss would ask me to give up the file to Joe stating “sharing is caring”? Doubtful. Would he set up a schedule for me to have the file for 1 minute and then Joe would have a turn for 1 minute and then it would be my turn again? Or would he just trust us to sort things out for ourselves?

Why don’t we allow children the opportunity to negotiate these property disputes on their own? Who are we to decide what is fair or unfair? It is difficult to watch children fight over toys and even more so when one child seems to always have toys taken from them. However, in those instances, does our intervention really help that child? In the short term perhaps, but in the long term, wouldn’t they benefit from learning how to hold onto their toys tighter or to tell other children “mine”? When we intervene, we take away those opportunities for children to negotiate these types of social situations on their own.

The other thing I’d like to touch on briefly is the expectations for very young children to share. Often I hear caregivers tell children as young as twelve or thirteen months to share. We need to remember that infants and toddlers are still very ego centric and they are supposed to be that way. At that age it is “all about me”. They might sometimes offer up toys or “share” with others, but only on their own terms. Our expectations should reflect this. I’m reminded of a poem I’ve read time and again:

Toddler Property Laws

What’s Mine is… Mine

If I like it, it’s mine

If I saw it first, it’s mine

If it’s in my hand, it’s mine

If I can take it from you, it’s mine

If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine

If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way

If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine

If you are playing with it and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine

If it’s broken, it’s yours

I”m not against supporting children in turn taking and learning how to share, I just think that we need to use the right words and have the right expectations based on their age.

What do you think?

Photo by Andrew_mc_d (Flickr)

01 Sep 2011

Can you “spoil” a baby by picking them up?

No Comments ELECT, Emotional, Infants, Parenting, Socio-Emotional Development
Infants (0-24 months)
Emotional 

2.2 Self-Regulation

Emotion Regulation

  • becoming calm when comforted by familiar adults
  • comforting self with thumb
  • recovering from distress and over-stimulation in a secure relationship
Respond to infant’s distress by supporting his self-soothing behaviours. 

When recovery from distress is supported by an adult, the infant’s attachment to the adult is reinforced. The infant learns that strong emotions can be tolerated and recovery is hastened.

The one thing that I wish that I could tell every new parent and caregiver is that you can’t “spoil” a baby by picking them up too often. I know that seems like common sense to many people but unfortunately that old way of thinking is still present in our culture today. I think that almost every person I have encountered with a young baby has had an older relative or neighbour tell them not to pick up their crying child.

What we know now, however, is that you can’t “spoil” a baby by picking them up. We also have a much better understanding of how important it really is that we respond to an infant’s distress. It is through our consistent responses to an infant’s distress that we reinforce our attachment with that infant. This  helps them to feel secure and is the foundation upon which a child learns to regulate their own emotions and behaviours. By consistently demonstrating to infant’s and young children that we will be there if they need us, they are able to learn to calm their own distress, knowing that their caregiver will meet their needs.

Understanding this, I also want to caution caregivers to “look before you leap”. What I mean by this is rather than rushing in to swoop up a crying infant, take a moment to determine why the infant is crying first. Do they have a physical need; are they hungry or tired? There are times when intervention is required by the caregiver, but there are other times when the infant simply needs comfort or support. This might mean engaging the infant in a different way. Rather than picking up the infant, you might choose to get down to their level, talk to them or place a reassuring hand on their arm or back, as you would with an older child or adult. We can offer this type of support, especially as the infant  becomes older and is learning to self-regulate.

It is through the consistency of our responses to children’s distress that we form secure attachment relationships and within those relationships, children are able to learn to regulate their own emotions. The way that we respond to children’s needs is so important and although there are no expectations that we will be perfect, our consistency and responsiveness is key to helping children’s socio-emotional development.

Photo by: Dan Harrelson (Flickr)