During their second year, toddlers begin to feel themselves as separate beings: using their own name, starting to be possessive about toys, and starting to resist simple instructions from their parents. What psychologists call negativism is a normal sign in the second half of the second year of life. “As the concept of NO begins to have meaning for them, children will pit their will against that of their parents,” from the book, You Are Your Childs First Teacher.
Well, on a positive note, it’s good to know that my son is right on target developmentally. I wonder if there is a time when every parent deludes themselves into thinking their child will never not be cooperative. From birth, little Tino has been nothing but easy going, cooperative, happy, and full of wonder. We could take him anywhere from the market to the symphony. A lover of crowds and people, he was always little Mr. Social. He has been easy to travel with and always happy to go on a new adventure. Tino has also been very good at playing on his own and distracting himself with any number of things, including Tupperware and mixing spoons, blocks or trucks, and tractors. Until now.
The sense of “I” has arrived. In some ways, it feels like we went from having a son to having a roommate: “Tino, it’s time to have a bath.” “No, I don’t want to.” He says it very matter of fact and all grown up. It’s not a cry or a whine, just very … “Not right now. I have other things to do. Call me later?” Of course, Daddy knows what’s best, and when daddy tries to force the situation, you can just imagine where this goes; the resistance turns into a battle of the wills. And who has more will power?
I have seldom met anyone with a will power stronger than mine. Call it being Capricorn, call it being a Dragon, or the very combination of both. I attribute most of it to the influence of my own father, also a Capricorn and born the year of the Dragon. A fire breathing born leader raising a fire breathing born leader, but the magnitude of my father’s dragon qualities made me look like “Mooshoo”. He was not to be reckoned with, and never disobeyed. Plus, when and if I did disobey him, I had to listen to the whole speech about brining dishonor to him and the entire Wong ancestry. Tino is not ready for that speech yet, but trust me I am well practiced and ready to give it!
Working in an environment where we bring children to reach their developmental milestones, you come to realize how important each milestone is to the further development of the child. I have been trying to look past the development of Tino’s self-identity and the will power of his deciding NO to everything and just marvel more at his ability to communicate so effectively. When I see it in terms of communication, then it opens a world of conversation with him which is far better than approaching him as a rival who’s intent on getting his way. At the moment, what seems to be working best is giving him options. Tino, do you want to come brush your teeth with me, or do you want to pick up our toys and put them away? He gets to choose (usually after a whole conversation about both), and we both come out ahead.
Last week we had our first full blown temper tantrum at the playground. We had to leave. I took Tino to the middle of a soccer field and let him sit on the grass, then I moved a distance away and sat with our dogs. I told Tino when he was done feeling frustrated he could come and play with me, Lilo, and Stitch. His frustration did not last too long as it looked like I was having way more fun with the dogs, so he joined us in a short while. It also gave me the distance I needed so I did not get emotionally sucked into his frustrations. Every day is a new day, and every day he exhibits a growing, independent, willful, and soulful child full of life, vigor, and self-expression. I have to remind myself that this is exactly what we want. I am just not sure I wanted it before the age of three!