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Understand Your Child and Provide Guidance

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

 mother and daughter

Babies and toddlers are very active learners. They need lots of rest, good food, fun playthings, and plenty of safe space to move around and explore. Babies and toddlers grow and change at an amazing rate. Learning how your child develops helps you to be more patient and effective because you understand what behavior is realistic at each stage of development.

As an infant, your child needs loving and responsive caregiving. Do your best to meet baby’s needs in a timely fashion and show your baby affection. This builds trust and makes your baby feel secure which leads to confidence. As children grow and become toddlers their needs change.

During the toddler years, children are trying to achieve autonomy or independence. The newly formed skills that toddlers learn such as feeding themselves, dressing themselves, talking, walking, using the toilet all lead to independence. At this stage they need limits and consistent, but loving supervision. Discipline is about learning, use it as a time to teach your child what is expected.

Help your child solve problems lovingly, without scolding. Redirect their attention to more appropriate activities when necessary. Teach your toddler words to express feelings; this will reduce the occurrence of temper tantrums. Create routines for meals and naps to better meet your child’s needs for food and rest, this will lead to more agreeable behavior. Treat your baby with love and respect; remember that you are modeling for your child. Your love, guidance and respect will help your child learn self-control and encourage them to exhibit positive behavior.

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at kkr5@cornell.edu.

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