Sand­cas­tles per­fect How to cope

Your Baby & Toddler - - Your 1 to 3 Years Toddler -

The stub­bornly ut­tered phrase of, “Daddy do it, not Mommy!” is familiar to many par­ents of lit­tle ones, and it’s hard not to take it per­son­ally. But it’s good to know it’s quite com­mon. While each sit­u­a­tion is unique and de­pen­dent on the role of the par­ents, at some stage chil­dren do begin to pre­fer one par­ent over the other, and of­ten the fa­ther fig­ure takes pref­er­ence. It’s nat­u­ral to feel sen­si­tive about this. Ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist Carol Jami­son re­it­er­ates that parental pref­er­ence is not ma­nip­u­la­tion, but a way of ex­er­cis­ing the be­gin­nings of “own choice” as part of the at­tach­ment process. It’s com­mon to hear them de­mand for dad when it comes to bathing, feed­ing, putting on shoes or play­ing. But a few weeks later mom could be back in favour.

DE­VEL­OP­ING AT­TACH­MENT

“A baby’s so­cial and emo­tional devel­op­ment is af­fected by the qual­ity of their at­tach­ment to their care­giver. A baby is ini­tially at­tached to the mom as she is usu­ally the pri­mary care­giver. How­ever, an at­tach­ment with the fa­ther fig­ure usu­ally com­ple­ments the re­la­tion­ship the child has with their mom,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Tar­ryn Kelly. As a baby moves into the tod­dler phase, she starts to re­alise she is a sep­a­rate in­di­vid­ual from her mother, and other care­givers, like the fa­ther, then be­come more in­ter­est­ing.

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Robyn Ja­cobs ex­plains that this stage is con­nected to tod­dlers de­vel­op­ing a healthy sense of in­de­pen­dence, which sees them as­sert­ing choices wher­ever they can. “This phase of devel­op­ment is linked to ob­ject per­ma­nence and sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety (part of the de­vel­op­men­tal the­ory of Jean Pi­aget). While in some ways it does have to do with the de­vel­op­ing frontal cor­tex of the brain, which al­lows the child to make more con­nec­tions, the the­ory and phase are part of so­cial and emo­tional devel­op­ment. This Daddy Phase is largely a recog­ni­tion of how some chil­dren work through their devel­op­ment,” she says.

Tar­ryn agrees that there are dif­fer­ent phases of at­tach­ment and each is re­lated to cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal devel­op­ment. “For ex­am­ple, a tod­dler who has de­vel­oped con­fi­dence and in­de­pen­dence has the phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive ca­pac­ity to un­der­stand that ‘although mom is not with me right now, I know she will re­turn and be there later.’ The level of cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal devel­op­ment of a tod­dler al­lows them to have what we call an in­ter­nal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the at­tach­ment fig­ure, which al­lows them to feel se­cure enough to ex­plore other re­la­tion­ships,” she says.

THE AGE AND STAGE

The phase can start as early as six to eight months and con­tin­ues un­til around age two – when ob­ject per­ma­nence is fully es­tab­lished. “Sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety is most com­mon from ten to 18 months. But new re­search is say­ing Pi­aget’s the­ory un­der­es­ti­mates the devel­op­ment of the tod­dler mind. Also, phases of favour­ing one par­ent over the other come and go through­out the tod­dler and preschool years. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily last the en­tire time your child is a tod­dler,” says Robyn.

It’s a com­pletely nor­mal part of grow­ing up and while most com­mon in the tod­dler stages, favour­ing one par­ent over an­other can hap­pen at other stages of child­hood too, depend­ing on the emo­tional and de­vel­op­men­tal needs of the child at the time.

WHY THIS HAP­PENS

The psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­son­ing be­hind dad be­com­ing the flavour of the month is a healthy rep­re­sen­ta­tion that your child is in­de­pen­dent, has de­vel­oped a sense of self and is ready to de­velop other re­la­tion­ships. “Dad plays a big role in this as he helps the child ne­go­ti­ate her way around sep­a­rat­ing from mom and gain­ing this sense of in­de­pen­dence. By choos­ing dad as the favourite, your child is testing her de­vel­op­ing au­ton­omy and con­trol. If par­ents can man­age their own emo­tions around this (even though it might be very dif­fi­cult for the ex­cluded par­ent), it can be a very pos­i­tive and nec­es­sary part of their devel­op­ment and well­be­ing,” says Tar­ryn. She ex­plains that tra­di­tion­ally the ma­ter­nal role is

As the ex­cluded par­ent

Don’t re­spond in anger, in­duce guilt or with­draw. Don’t com­mu­ni­cate hurt or Dis­ap­point­ment. re­mind your tod­dler that you love them and try to have some one on one time with your child.

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