Experts try to provide parents with helpful glimpses into the workings of a child’s mind. A child’s brain doesn’t work the same as an adult’s because it has yet to fully develop. And, moms and dads need to understand this in order to best parent.
“We know brain development continues from infancy to adulthood, but many parents underestimate how much a child’s brain changes from year to year, and how those changes can influence behavior,” wrote Jenna Gallegos for The Independent.
Did you know, for example, that your toddler isn’t developmentally capable of waiting yet? (Learn why here.) He won’t be able to do as you say when you tell him, “One minute, anak.” So, getting frustrated at him for being impatient is unfair to your little one. Here are other things you may be misunderstanding about your child, from baby to toddler:
Baby 1. Your baby understands way more than you think he does. Babies may not be able to talk yet but that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate with their caregivers or have a sense of the things going on around them. Your baby is always looking to you for clues on how he’s supposed to feel and act. When meeting a family relative for the first time, for example, your baby may turn to you to see how he should respond to tito or tita’s hello.
“Parents underestimate how sensitive a child is to their emotions,” said Ross Thompson, the president of the child development organization Zero to Three and a cognitive psychologist at the University of California. He knows when you’re happy or sad, or when there’s tension between mom and dad. 2. Don’t underestimate the power of talking to your baby. Even if she hasn’t said her first word yet, how you converse with your baby already has an impact on her speech and language development. The more you talk to your baby, the faster he’ll be able to talk to you back and obtain a diversified vocabulary, said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative and professor at Harvard University.
Babies like high-pitched, sing-songy voices, added Ferguson. However, he discouraged moms and dads from speaking to babies in gibberish. You can still make talking to your baby fun and entertaining for him using complete and grammatically correct sentences.
Toddler 1. Your toddler isn’t ready to share. Up until preschool age or even later, your child will have difficulty sharing and this is definitely typical behavior. “They are not selfish, but rather egocentric. At this stage, kids’ only reality is themselves. Everything is directed at themselves. This manifests most during play,” said Brian Vincent Calibo, school coordinator of Playgym, Britesparks International School and Fastrack Kids.
Your child can’t “put himself in someone else’s shoes,” as they say. But, you can start slowly introducing your child to the concept of sharing. Find tips on how to do just that here.
2. Your toddler can’t control his emotions yet. It’s normal for a toddler to have little self-control as the part of the brain that controls it--the prefrontal cortex--isn’t fully developed yet. Hence, they can get easily frustrated, annoyed and irritated when things don’t go their way right away. And, there's little use blaming them for it.
“Young kids -- namely those between the ages of 1 and 4 -- haven't developed good coping skills yet. They tend just to lose it instead,” said Ray Levy, a clinical psychologist and author of Try and Make Me! Simple Strategies That Turn Off the Tantrums and Create Cooperation.
What you can do, however, is teach your child how to manage his emotions and control his impulse to throw a tantrum from a young age. By doing so, you raise a self-disciplined preschooler. See how you can teach self-control to your little one here.
3. Your toddler can’t be reasoned with. Kids start to assert themselves by toddler-age, said Dr. John Sargent, a child psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. And one way they do that is by arguing with you and saying “no” a lot. It’s why your toddler won’t budge no matter how much reason or logic you throw at her (“You can’t go out without pants on!”).
It can be surprising if you find that your little one suddenly seems very “matigas ang ulo.” But this defiance is part of a child’s normal development. Saying no is his way of testing out his independence. Your job is to take control of the situation in a calm manner, said Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids with Character. Find practical tips on how to handle “matigas ang ulo” moments here.
Ready to apply what you’ve learned in your household? “A little understanding goes a long way,” said Gallegos. “Throughout a child’s life, parents who understand some basics of brain development can adjust their expectations, and better come up with strategies to prevent frustration for everyone.”