Frequently Asked Questions
Click on the links below to read about questions that parents have about their baby’s self-confidence from 12-24 months:
My sister's son is the same age as mine-19 months-and I want them to be good friends. The only problem is my nephew is a bit more aggressive; he'll run over and grab my son or snatch a toy out of his hand. Now my child is scared of his cousin and runs over to me when he sees him coming! How can I help them to get along?
Ah, the politics of family relationships; so challenging, even when it comes to the smallest members! These situations are best handled by open communication and collaboration between the adults - in this case, you and your sister. It's usually a disaster if one parent starts disciplining the other's child, unless there is a clear agreement beforehand that this is okay. Read more about partnering with your sister.
First, tell your sister how eager you are for your children to become good friends. Then, in a nonjudgmental way, share your observations with her. It's important not to sound like you're criticizing her or her son, or she may get defensive and shut down. You might tell her that you notice your children have very different personalities and styles of communicating; your nephew is more assertive, while your son is on the shy side and gets more easily overwhelmed. Ask for your sister's ideas for helping them get along better, given these differences.
When you're spending time together, model how you'd like your sister to respond to your nephew without disciplining him or making it seem like he's the bad one. For example, when your nephew takes something from your son, playfully chase after him, and say, "Hey, silly, Justin was playing with that! Let's get something for you." Then help your nephew find something else to play with. This kind of approach, which addresses the behavior but doesn't make the child feel bad, will elicit more positive results.
When your son runs to you for protection, it's important that you support him. But if you want your son to eventually feel comfortable with his cousin, it's also important to convey a positive attitude toward your nephew. After all, your son will look to you for cues as to how he should feel about his cousin.
It can also help to act as your son's coach. Say something like, "That silly Andrew! Did he take your toy? Let's go see if we can get it back." Then encourage him to use whatever communication tools he has at his age-gestures and sounds-to let his cousin know he wants his toy. Next you can suggest that the three of you search together for a different toy for your nephew. As the kids get older, you can also teach them about taking turns by making a game out of it: Set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes and have the boys trade toys when the buzzer goes off.
With your sister's cooperation, you will be able to turn this situation around and help your son learn some coping skills and assertiveness, to boot.
I took my 15-month old to a new play group last week. All the other children were running around and exploring happily. My child clung to me for dear life. I want to keep attending the group. What do I do?
Children approach, take in, and react to the world around them in many different ways. This is often referred to as their temperament. One aspect of temperament has to do with how a child approaches and reacts to new situations. Read more about temperament.
On one end of the continuum, there are the very flexible children, the “go-with-the-flow” types, who eagerly approach any new situation as if to say, “I’m here. Let’s play!” They tend to enjoy a lot going on around them.
On the other end of the continuum are the children who are cautious and fearful of new situations, and need time and support to adjust. These children also tend to get overwhelmed when faced with situations where there is lots of noise and activity, preferring quiet play with just one or two other familiar people.
Most children fall somewhere in between. One temperament is not better than another-- just different. The job for parents is to take the time to understand who their unique child is, and to encourage his strengths while supporting him in areas where he needs help.
It sounds as though you’ve done a great job of tuning in to your child’s temperament. He has “told” you that he finds the playgroup experience difficult and you have sensitively read his cues. He is trusting you with some of his most vulnerable feelings--how you respond is the crucial next step.
While it is hard to see your child struggle or feel anxious, avoid the temptation to quit the playgroup. This experience provides you with a great opportunity to help him learn to cope with, adapt to, and ultimately find great pleasure in new relationships and experiences.
So, what to do? Look for ways to make playgroup more familiar and less scary for your child.
Once playgroup gets going, follow your child’s lead and read his signals. If he clings to you, comfort and reassure him. Pick him up and walk around the room. Rather than thrusting him into situations, take things at his speed. Explore the toys, and talk about what other children are doing in an upbeat tone which lets him know that this is a good place. If he needs a break, take a walk or go to a quiet room.
This approach of reading and sensitively responding to your child’s cues—and taking incremental steps--can be helpful in any situation. While you are not changing your child’s temperament (and this shouldn’t be the goal), you are helping him adapt and nurturing confidence and coping skills he’ll use from now through adulthood.
My 21-month-old is scared of the vacuum cleaner. Whenever I try to clean he starts to cry. I don't know what to do?
The vacuum cleaner, from a toddler’s perspective, can look and sound pretty darn scary. Figuring out the reason for your toddler’s fear will help you help him cope in the most effective way. The strategies we’ve suggested for dealing with this fear (discussed below) are useful not just for this situation, but for many situations your son will encounter as he grows.
Here are some possible explanations for your son’s fear:
At fifteen months, children are entering the world of pretend which means they are starting to develop their imaginations. But they don’t yet understand the difference between fantasy and reality. For them, the vacuum cleaner really may be a monster.
Temperament—your child’s individual way of approaching the world—may also be a factor. Children who are generally more fearful and cautious by nature are likely to find an object like the vacuum cleaner scary.
If you think that the vacuum is a scary object for him, you can simply not use it when he’s around. However, you can also find ways to help him learn to manage his fears—a very important skill to develop. At a time when you have no expectation of getting any cleaning done, bring the vacuum out. Then:
How children take in and respond to sensory input-- such as light, sound, or touch—is also a factor. For example, when faced with the vacuum cleaner, some children are fascinated by the blaring noise, some totally fall apart, and yet others seem to hardly notice. If you find that your son is sensitive to other noises in his environment (i.e., prefers softer music, gets distressed in noisy places like the mall or grocery store), then he needs two things from you:
1. First, protect him from this upsetting noise. Vacuum when your son is out taking a walk with his dad or have dad do the vacuuming when you’re out playing with your son.
2. Help your son learn to adapt to unpleasant sounds that he will eventually be exposed to in his daily life. So introduce him slowly to new and different sounds but stop when he begins to show distress. Over time you will help his system handle sounds that are now overwhelming him.
With time, rest assured, your son will conquer the vacuum cleaner and move onto bigger “dragons.”