The first year of your child’s life they are growing rapidly. Brain development is rapid and the basics of your child’s central nervous system, which begins to develop in utero, is pretty much set by the time your child is 1 years old. The brainstem is the hallmark of the central nervous system and its responsible for blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, etc). Along with the development and maturation of the brainstem is the Diencephalon. This part of the brain sits just above the brainstem and begins its maturation process around 6 months and goes until your child is approximately 2 years old. This part of the brain is responsible for arousal (moving between different states such as calm, alert, fear, and terror), appetite, sleep, etc.The first year of your child’s life is critical, it’s the place were the foundation of the brain is developed, and it’s also where trauma symptoms get stored. Because a child does not have advanced language capabilities during this time, traumatic injuries get stored in this part of the brain and come out in a child’s (and later as adults) behaviors when triggered by internal or external stimuli (something that resembles the initial trauma).During your child’s first year the critical areas of the brain that are being organized and which will be the foundation that all other functions are built upon are: core functions of metabolism, stress response cycle (fight-flight-freeze), heart rate, respiration, sleep/wake cycle, regulation of arousal (again moving from different states such as calm, alert, fear, & terror). The goal during this first year is for your child to move from relying 100 percent on their primary caregiver(s) to regulate all the basics listed above to having the increasing capability to regulate themselves. Feeling securely attached to their caregivers is the main goal and again allows for the child to move with flexibility between different states of arousal (when upset they are relatively easily soothed, they seek out the primary caregiver for comfort and soothing).
Discipline is teaching, not punishment like most people think. Discipline at this age takes the form of limit setting or more precisely teaching them what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate behavior. As babies become more and more mobile their curiosity may get the best of them and they are liable to get hurt. It’s why we buy plugs for the sockets, and locks for the cabinet, gates for our swimming pools, etc. You may find yourself increasingly saying “no” as your baby scoots their way around your home. You may even begin to see your child begin to test these limits, looking back at you before they try something new. At the same time, even if your child is not testing limits but rather if they are exploring their environment, they would continue to look back at you as they moved. What they are looking for are signs of safety. Remember your baby is looking for to help them understand how safe their environment is. When you allow normal curiosity and exploration, remaining by your child’s side as they go, then they stay calm.But if you feel anxious, then your babies become anxious and will associate certain things with negative feelings and others with more sportive ones. This is good when your talking about staying away from a stove but can be bad interactions with other people.
So as your setting limits with your little one at this age I want you to remember a few things:
1. It’s normal for your child to explore and look back at you almost like a security check-it doesn’t mean they are manipulating you or intentionally being defiant
2. Your child has no impulse control. If they see something they want they go after it. You will repeat yourself as you redirect them from something they can’t have to something they can
3. Routines and consistency are important
4. The brain is developing rapidly. Their ability to regulate themselves when they are upset is being formed, so remember your job/role is to love them, stay calm, and set limits.
These are just a few strategies, tips, and recommendations! I hope you found this post helpful! I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!
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Until we connect again,
I absolutely love working with toddlers and their parents. This is such a special time, where your toddler’s brain is developing rapidly and they are experiencing so many new things. Yet this time can also be a challenge as toddlers try to assert their autonomy and get overwhelmed by their big emotions. If you are struggling with your toddler and want some support contact me below to schedule your first appointment.
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