Learning To Be Good – 18 Months to Three Years

The youngster in the early phases of this growth period begins to make distinctions between “yours” and “mine” and claim “mine” and to resist sharing. At the same time, negativism blossoms into a full-scale declaration of independence. “No” becomes a very common word in a two years old vocabulary. Sometimes defiance is blatant.

All these resistance and testing is part of the child’s pulling away from his parents and becoming his own person. Parents must respect their youngsters developing independence, while at the same time placing limits on behavior and encouraging cooperation.

Impulse control is weak during this period. A two year old understands the reasons for behaving properly but it does not mean that he will always do this. The child still lacks adequate inner controls and as a result tantrums and physical aggression appears from time to time.

At this age temptations should not be put his way; objects that are not to be touched should be kept out of his reach. At this stage of development, distraction usually works better than discipline- calling attention to a plane in the sky or a flower blooming on the window sill will divert his attention to lose interest in the activity he was pursuing.

Often unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality, truth and falsehood, the youngster at this age firmly believes in magic as an explanation for many events and may think that inanimate objects have the power to punish as much as people do.

Such beliefs may also lead the child to deny accountability for his actions. Even this reaction is a form of moral progress. It shows that the child is much aware of his parent’s standards of behavior. Blaming others is the first step towards self-criticism and eventually self- control will come later.

Even though children in this period are usually more independent and rebellious than ever before, they are growing capacity for cooperation and concern for the feelings of others. It may not happen too frequently, but on occasion they will express sympathy, offer helpful suggestions and try to comfort or cheer other child or an adult in distress.

Parents should take care not to so catch up in the struggle of discipline that they fail to elicit, notice and reinforce these first stirrings of empathy in their child.

geeta krishnan