New Feelings of Independence

Your child is beginning to gain more confidence in her ability to manage on her own. But don't be surprised if her newfound independence occasionally wavers and she runs back to you for reassurance.
Girl pouting

Your child's rapidly growing sense of independence and confidence in his ability to manage things for himself will help shape his social development this year. At the same time, he loves you passionately and has a continued need to cling to you, a need that may intensify at different stages. Advances in development -- motor development in particular -- may send your child scurrying back to Mommy and Daddy for reassurance that he is still yours, even as he insists with increasing intensity on being his own person. During this year, your child will also develop more mature ways of expressing his love and affection for you. By the age of 18 months, for instance, he will probably have both the social skills and motor control to give you real kisses and huge bear hugs.

The other side of the coin is that your child can also now effectively express irritation and anger toward you. And she will, especially when you do anything to thwart her newfound independence. This is something you will inevitably have to do many times a day. Despite her growing sense of mastery, you remain in charge. This means you'll make ridiculous-from her perspective-demands, like insisting that she lie still for a minute for a diaper change, or that she not put honey on the cat, or that she stop playing and go to sleep at bedtime. She will, of course, dig in her heels at the first sign that her autonomy is being challenged. Don't be afraid to assert your control. Now, more so than ever, your child needs to know that routines and schedules still apply. Reasonable frustration is not a bad thing because it teaches her to deal with delayed gratification and to cope with feelings of disappointment and anger.

At the same time, it's important to respect your child's sense of independence. Let him do things for himself when possible, even if he doesn't do them exactly as you would yourself.

Self-feeding, for example, is an important activity for your child at this age. Whenever possible, allow him to feed himself with his fingers or a spoon. With the slices of cooked carrot all over the floor, the green peas stuck to his arms, and the applesauce on his last clean shirt, you'll have brought him a step toward independence and avoided a potential battle of wills.

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