Tuesday, March 24, 2009

@ baby's independence

1 to 6 months
Until his half birthday, your child will completely identify with his primary caregiver. Working on gaining control over his basic movements and reflexes, he can't even think about the process of forming his own identity during those first few months. His primary concern is filling his immediate needs for food, love, and attention.

You may start to notice the first signs of budding independence at about 4 months, when your baby discovers that he can cry to get your attention. That's one of the first steps in learning that he has an independent will and that how he behaves can have an impact on others — namely you.

A famous British study shows exactly how unaware babies are of their own existence. Researchers placed several infants under the age of 1 in front of a mirror to see whether they understood that the reflections were images of themselves. They didn't. Each baby would pat his mirror image, behaving as if he were seeing another baby. And when researchers dabbed red rouge on a baby's nose and plopped him back in front of the mirror, he always tried to touch his reflection's nose, not his own.

7 to 12 months
At around 7 months your baby will realize that he's independent of you. While this is an exciting cognitive milestone, this new understanding of separateness can make him anxious. He knows that you can leave him, but he doesn't know that you'll always come back, so he's likely to burst into tears when you leave, even for a minute.

Resist the urge to sneak away when his back is turned — when you leave him at daycare, for example. It won't help him cope, and it may just make him more afraid that you aren't coming back. Hard as it can be, say goodbye and go while he's watching.

13 to 24 months
Your baby is now making progress in differentiating himself from you and from the world around him. In the same British study mentioned above, researchers put rouge on the noses of children about 21 months of age. When these babies looked in the mirror, they touched their own noses; they understood that the reflections in the mirrors were images of themselves.

Your 2-year-old may still get upset when you leave him at daycare or with a sitter, but he'll recover more quickly now because he's more secure. Experience and his budding memory skills have taught him that you'll come back after being gone for a while. You've built his trust by continually showing him that you love and care for him.

It's also this trust that gives him the confidence to assert himself. His insistence on wearing those green pajamas for the fifth night in a row, eating only certain foods, and climbing into his car seat by himself are all signs of his increasing independence.

25 to 36 months
Between the ages of 2 and 3, your toddler will continue to struggle for independence. He'll wander farther away from you as he goes exploring, and he'll continue to test his limits (coloring on the walls, for example, even if you tell him not to). In fact, "I can do it myself" is probably one of the most common refrains you'll hear from your older toddler.

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