Your child’s selfhood starts at birth—but she is now just learning to express her idea of who she thinks she is. She’s starting to understand that people do things certain ways—like sharing instead of fighting—because it’s the right thing to do. She’s also learning to check her impulses, and to use her words instead of her hands (or her pout) when things don’t get her way.
All this self-awareness will help shape her sense of herself as an individual, as well as her self-worth. It will help her tune into her feelings, help her recognize strengths and weaknesses, and even see more clearly the needs and feelings of others.
How does this work? Your self-aware child can do a better job of figuring out which of behaviors (like sharing) are working, and which (like fighting) are not. She can think over what happened, and create better solutions next time. And she can understand how someone else could have their feelings hurt—just like she would if she were in their place.
How can you help? Talk with your child, and help her identify and understand her emotions: happy, sad, excited, afraid, and frustrated. By putting a name to her emotions, you not only give her a way to talk about what she’s feeling, but you give her emotions weight. You also show her that you empathize with how she feels—the height of her happiness and the prickly heat of her frustrations—as well as how challenging it can be to “behave.”
I Know I’m Good at This.
Your child is beginning to see herself as a singular being, different from you and from others, and possessing her own unique strengths. You may notice her showing pride in her abilities—or, on the flip side, hiding when she’s unhappy or ashamed. Your positive, supportive feedback when she expresses herself will help her form connections between her actions and their influence on the world.
I Can Behave.
Just because your child knows what’s expected of him doesn’t mean he has the willpower to see it through. Impulse control is hard. But with your help, your child can learn how to create situations where it’s just a little easier to do the right thing. If, for example, he can’t seem to stop kicking an older sibling under the table, ask him to sit across from someone else from now on. Let him know that you understand that behaving is tough, and that you appreciate his efforts—positive feedback will mean a lot to him.
I Know I Shouldn’t Fight.
When your child was younger, she would cry (or maybe even lash out physically) when faced with rivalry or disagreement. But now, she’s learning better ways to deal with differences. By using her words instead of her hands, she not only stands a better chance of getting what she wants, she can maintain better relationships with her friends and family.
I Know How to Take Turns.
Your child is finding that if he wants to play with others, he must learn the value of compromise. It’s a big step, but also a great skill. He’s realizing that friends take turns—and he’s developing stronger feelings of empathy, which make him even better at being a friend.
All children learn and grow at their own pace and in their own way. For more information about the skills and milestones for your child's age check out our developmental milestones resource page. If you continue to have concerns or questions please give us a call at 1-800-299-1627.