The Developing Will

Troy

A child’s transition to a new room can be quite overwhelming. From meeting all of their new friends and teachers, to memorizing the daily routine and expectations of the room, it can be a bit much for a young toddler to take in all at once. For some, it can take several weeks or even months until they are fully comfortable with their new environment. As parents, it’s heartbreaking to hear our child cry out with emotional distress after being dropped off in the morning. You think to yourself, “Why are they so upset?”, “Did I do something wrong?”, “Are they crying because they’re unhappy at school?”. We blame ourselves. And that’s completely normal.

Our little ones transition within the community all throughout the year, when they reach the appropriate age. It’s heartwarming to see a new child enter the community. The older children take it upon themselves to greet the younger ones each morning with a warm hug or hand shake. It’s not uncommon for the new child to take several minutes to adjust to the day’s routine, clinging to their backpack/jacket for several minutes, observing their surroundings and watching their friends work before they choose an activity of their own. We give them the opportunity to enter the room at their own pace, setting the tone for their morning work cycle. We don’t rush them, but rather let them take their time hanging up their backpack and taking off their shoes, giving them emotional support as needed.

As parents, our natural reaction to a crying toddler is to linger nearby until we know for sure that they are OK, almost as if to reassure them that you are there. As innocent as it seems, this can actually hinder their development, as they will only continue to cry, possibly even louder, knowing that you are waiting just around the corner. A confident, positive, brief farewell before walking into class is the best, most beneficial way to start the day. “I hope you have a good day, I’ll be back after work to pick you up, I love you” is a promise that you will return at the end of the day to pick them up, and that it is OK to be apart from one another for a short while. If you show confidence in your actions, your child will pick up on your ques and do just the same. Of course, this system is not full-proof. Every child is different. There will be the occasional days where they will not want to leave your side, and will insist on entering the community kicking and screaming, only making you feel even more guilty. Relax. Everyone goes through this! This is the act of the “developing will” within your child. They are learning to distinguish between what they do and don’t want to do, in comparison to your expectations for them.

There are so many developmental milestones being met when your child transitions to the toddler community. From ages twelve to eighteen months, a dramatic change occurs. Your child will appear to be more willful. Their brain has developed significantly. They can now hold onto the thought of what it is they want. It’s crucial as parents to understand how to positively redirect your child while they’re learning to control their will.  As many of you have already experienced, there “will” will make itself very present during the morning drop off process. There are several things that you can do to support them during this process, to help them gain the confidence they need to get their day started off right.

  • Be confident and positive!…“We are going to school this morning. There are so many exciting things to do at school!”
  • Try to allow your child to walk into school on their own. They will soon learn the route from the front door to the classroom after a few days’ practice.
  • Allow a few extra minutes to walk slowly beside your child. Rushing them can create chaos in their morning routine.
  • PUT THE PHONE AWAY! Your child needs your full attention during this process. Even if they are not verbal yet, saying a few kind, positive phrases can help set the tone…“I’m sure your friends will be excited to see you today. The weather is beautiful, perhaps you’ll get a chance to play outside.”
  • Remember to reassure your child that you will return at the end of the day. Try not to “sneak away” once they’ve been distracted, because often times they will remember that you were last standing in the doorway, and will become upset when they do not see you there.
  • Do not linger in the doorway so that your child can see you. Once you’ve said “good-bye”, follow up with your promise. For our families, we offer a comfortable foyer for them to sit in and watch their child on the cameras to make sure they’ve settled into the classroom.

A few things to remember…

  • The child can only internalize firmness and understand limits in life from your consistency. “Never means never” grows within them.
  • It is essential to understand that you cannot negotiate with a young toddler. Trying to reason with them at this age in the way that we might with another adult is almost pointless. Keep your instructions brief, using simple words to explain what needs to be done…“We are walking into school now”,”Please hold my hand”, “Please go inside and hang up your backpack”, “Please shut the door”, and so forth.
  • Be patient when redirecting, do not expect immediate results. It may take saying it 50 times until the child internalizes the words.
  • Remain calm. If we become emotional, they become emotional.

It takes lots and lots (and lots) of practice. Your toddler will have their good days and bad, just like anyone would. It’s our job as parents to encourage them by getting the day started off right. All of these techniques will help improve their self confidence and self discipline, balancing their development as they become independent young toddlers.

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