Solutions For Parents

Let Me Introduce Myself

Let Me Introduce Myself 18 to 24 Months

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eighteen month oldWHO AM I? These last six months (18 to 24 months) are a big surprise to me; I now recognize myself as a person. I'm feeling so important and smart; I sometimes think I'm bigger and more capable than I really am. So what do I do? I say "no" a lot and try to get my way. I run away, grab things and refuse to do things that even a few weeks ago, I liked to do. Now, it's "no." Poor Mom!

My dad doesn't live with us, but he comes to get me and play with me every other day or so, but I'm confused. I have no idea where he lives, even though he takes me to this place, and even lets me stay over night there sometimes. The dad that used to live here is the same dad that takes me to this strange place. What does that mean? I don't know.

I think of myself as a fast moving train, traveling at a rapid rate of speed; "Choo-choo" trains go fast and then slow down. Right now I am going fast. I need a conductor, and that person is my mom. My legs, hands, and eyes help me stay in constant motion, but because of that, I am clumsy; I bump into things. I want to physically run to everything I see. My personal conductor says running and standing upright forces me to have better concentration. My attention span has gone from just a few seconds to a few minutes in just the last month.

I know about getting attention and doing things by myself. I don't even want mom or dad helping me; I am the one who wants to help. They should be smart enough to let me do much real work, like running a real or pretend vacuum, dusting, and turning on the water, and brushing teeth and hair. That's a big change for me.

I remember everything. My memory has improved so much, or at least my ability to follow directions and understand everything that is said to me. My memory helps me remember words, say them loudly, and then smile, when I get attention for talking. I say things like, "oh, kitty" and " all gone," which makes everybody so proud of my speech!

PLAY AND HELPING: I like to play, as well as help. As a matter of fact, playing is helping to me! I like complicated hide and seek games, but both mom and dad make me tell them when I go from one room into another or want to get something. They both say, "use your words." That is good advice, because it's either that, or I scream and throw a fit, if I don't get what I want. This is normal, because "exploration" is my occupation; it is what drives my personal "choo-choo" train. But remember, I'm still too young to drive, or to be in charge. I may try, but I should not dominate the household or be the train conductor.

I need adults to be in charge, even if I complain and throw tantrums. I need guidance, not punishment, so I can learn to control myself. My brain and body may be more mature, but my willfulness makes me a running, grabbing, pushing and pulling maniac some of the time. My day care teachers, my mom and dad and grandparents should never leave me unattended-never. I don't want them to hover or pick me up, but they still need to be standing by!

People who love me also have the responsibility to teach me to be a kind and helpful person, not just the terror of the neighborhood. Toddlers my age bite and hit and scratch and pitch fits, which is fine and normal, but please, mom and dad, grandma and granddaddy, talk to me all the time about what I am doing. These conversations tell me how you like my behavior. Smart adults will be trying to "catch me being good."

GUIDANCE AND DISCIPLINE: If mom and dad give me compliments, when I'm being cooperative, and take away my freedom and shrink my boundaries when I don't do the right thing, I guarantee I'll build up a lot of good habits before I'm even two years old. Just remove me from the situation, when I lose control. Distract me with something new or different, or redirect my body with gentle hands-on-shoulders move that is sure to get me going in a different direction.

I get distracted easily, so mom talks to me while marching me along and changing my activity, fast. That's all the discipline I need. Time out doesn't work with older toddlers like me. Most of all don't do anything for me that I can do for myself! Got it? Get it? Good.

PRETEND PLAY AND BRAIN POWER: To help me develop my brainpower, I want to play "let's pretend" every day, most of the day. It is my way of learning how the world works and how I can have some control over the bigger world than just my house and family life. The way I do that is to imitate and pretend. Wow, I 'm an awesome mimic, and pretender! I pretend I am a mommy and feed my doll, and I pretend I am a fireman and sit in a box and pretend to drive.

I repeat these play activities over and over; I throw toys across the room when I'm done with them. I toss play dough over my shoulder to get rid of it, and then mom makes me go get it. I like that game. When I pretend - play physical and mental games, like hammering with blocks, looking at books or making sounds that go with the pictures in books, I am actually getting smarter. I know some stories by memory; I can say a few of the words printed on the cardboard books.

Please give me cardboard books, because I can't tear them up the way I do paper ones. I even enjoy putting books and toys back in the shelves in my room. I know where the tools go and the kitchen pots and pans. Did you know that bikes and cars go on the street and in the garage? We don't have a garage, but I know that there are garages from going almost every day to grandma's house after daycare is over.

Grandma has a yard, where I like to dig. Do you know why I like to dig? It's because I feel good about myself when I get messy and I feel good being in the dirt, and seeing bugs. I like to look, see, listen, hear and manipulate objects and pay attention all at the same time. Can you believe it? I'm a multitalented learner!

TODDLERS ARE AGGRESSIVE THINKERS: I can be thoughtful and kind one minute, then aggressive and nasty the next. I give hugs and kisses, saying "Mammmmma-uuu." Translated that means, "I love more people, as well as objects and toys, than I did when I was a baby. Even then, I used my senses to think and feel, but now I recognize myself as a person. I stare at pictures of myself; I catch myself "live" in the mirror. I definitely imitate myself too; I want to be a bigger, better me! So some of the time I am demanding, bold, over-confident, and assertive. Work with it, mom and dad!

AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR: Aggression is important and normal at my stage of life; I am not intentionally (too often) going to hurt anyone on purpose, but I like to see what happens when I bite or kick. I know these behaviors will not be ignored by mom and dad (the family rule is no hitting, no biting, and no yelling), but I like attention more than I like the family rules, so I do these things, just to see what happens. Oops, I found out what happens! Mom stops me fast, puts me on her lap, and talks my ear off. She says, emphatically, "absolutely no! Put your hands down. You are not going to do that and I mean business. Stop now."

Oh, I cry and I carry on, but she means business all right, and I guess I'd rather get hugs, than have to sit there and listen to the family rules for the hundredth time. Someday I'll be grateful that both mom and dad are teaching me how to be civil, safe and respectful of others.

FAMILY VALUES: Dad tells me that I'm his little angel girl, but he sees that sometimes I can be pushy, refusing to cooperate, stubborn and loud. I get positively "oppositional" with caregivers; even relatives and mom and dad's friends think I have a difficult personality to control. Some toddlers are easier than I am to manage. Especially, I have trouble when dad is busy at the computer, and does not want to be disturbed.

Do you know why? It's because I live for attention. All toddlers crave attention, not because we are little mimics, but because we are practicing the skill of getting attention and exploration. I need to know my boundaries and just how far I can push. Dad, don't spank me, talk to me!

Do you think mom and dad know that I want to be just like them? Their family values are the same exact ones I have. I had better warn mom and dad to start watching what they say on the phone or to each other, because I, believe exactly what I see or hear! I also believe exactly what I see.

BODY AND BRAIN WORK TOGETHER: My eyes and hands are finally helping me learn social and mental skills. Did you notice when I reached for that strawberry at lunch, I used whichever hand was closest and available? Very sweet! I use both sides of my body equally, and that is a good thing! That's good, but I still drop cups, tip over my blocks, spill milk and dump magic markers on the floor. I grasp a fork, knife or spoon, put it in the dish, put the food on the spoon and get most of it to my mouth. That one simple process requires more than 70 separate steps!

My eyes seem to be my guiding force more of the time. I'm really smart at focusing my eyes in all directions, looking around 360 degrees, making turns and dips, and performing "up and down dance steps."

I like Mexican and Hispanic food, hats and salsa dances, personally. Mom and dad are careful to always sit or eat with me, so I learn to be a social person and enjoy eating as a way to be social and talkative. I learn a lot from talking and listening, while I eat. My mom says, "eat what I fixed on your plate, then you can have a dessert; but if you don't eat, there will be no snacks, desserts or treats."

I don't bother whining anymore. That's the rule, and she means it. I hear there are moms and dads that actually give their toddlers snacks all day. This is a bad idea, mom says, because toddlers are fussy bite-size eaters anyway, so we need to be hungry to eat. We have to eat, so we will get taller, heavier and think better, so mom and dad just put small amounts of several kinds of foods in front of me. They don't look if I push it away.

I'm really hungry next time it's mealtime! Mom just keeps trying things, and I'm getting to be a better eater. I want to be a big and strong girl, so I have no choice but to drink milk and eat good food. Dad tells me stories while we eat. This is a good trick!

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: I run forwards and walk backwards. I prefer pushing my stroller to riding in it. I can start and stop pretty well, but I still don't turn corners when I'm pushing. I can open and close doors. This means that I have to twist the knob, I am continually going in and out of every door.

There is one hand and finger skill I am starting to do pretty well. I can voluntarily let go of objects in my fingers, when I want to. Dad says the ability to release at the right time is the difference between being a major league baseball star or a little league ball player who isn't very good.

My scribbling and drawing is getting better, too, because I can lean in, look down, and use both hands to create my masterpieces. I love to pretend to write, in scribble language, only! I like to feel all parts of my body, even my muscles and my skin. I feel clever and creative when I control my body by drawing pictures or eating all by myself.

My movements and actions makes me feel smooth, organized and calm, so mom says I'm ready to learn about bowel and bladder control. Mom thinks it is a good idea to get me used to the potty, so I sit on it and read my books while she takes a shower, but "no pressure" she tells me, and laughs. Moms and dads have a perfect right to get sick of diapers by the time I get to be a big two year-old person! My daycare center takes a low-key approach.

Those smart teachers arrange the toddler and young threes rooms so the changing tables and the bathrooms are together. Then, whenever my friends get a diaper change, they hear all about visiting the potty with a toy or a book. They say, " All the kids do it; you're invited, too!" It's just another fun activity.

I like to watch other kids going potty. I don't wear many clothes in the summer, so dad says he wants to try me this summer without diapers. He's cool about it, so he thanks me for trying to go, even if I mess my pants afterwards. I watch mom go potty every time she has to. She says this way I'll know what to do when I'm ready.

USING WORDS AND LANGUAGE: I am happy to say my mom and dad and grandparents use "child-approved" words and actions, like singing or, taking my hand and asking me if I need help, or gently encouraging me with praise or compliments. Mom and dad are discovering that I alternate between shy and bold periods. When I am uncomfortable, I cling more and talk less.

When I am comfortable, I talk too much. I love playing side-by-side with friends, but I still can't talk to a group of my friends or sit in a circle very well. I absolutely can't share. It's a communication problem. Whatever I have, I want. Whatever my friends have, I want. I just want what I want.

I talk very well, to myself. I love to hear myself babble and I say over 100 words and sounds that I think are words. I know the names of parts of my body. Though my vocabulary is still small, it is very intelligent of me to pay attention to what I hear and notice what I see all at the same time and not waste time saying words out loud, unless I have to! I love to grunt and point. Mom and Dad tell me to use "my words" now, but they also like to hear me babble. They know that babbling is my way of imitating sounds, and they know that babbling is a toddler's first and best language.

I like to pretend I am reading, so I can learn stories that have a beginning, middle and an end. I will soon say, "the end" when Mom or Dad finishes a book. I try to improve my recognition and recall skills by looking at picture books and pointing. I like hearing the same words over and over. Dad and Mom know the more I listen, the more I will understand and will use words to replace actions. Even now, I think about every one of my words and sounds even when I say them just silently to myself, I am silently storing up my words, like a memory bank.

MY PERSONALITY-MINE, ALL MINE: I hope Mom understands that I probably will be harder to handle in the next few months, because I suddenly feel very powerful and important one minute, and horribly fearful and irritable, the next. I fall apart and come back together all day long! My emotions are part of my thoughts, and that means that I may even act up when dad leaves or after he takes me home. How ungrateful can I get, after all they have done for me?

I will become more negative and stubborn, because I have a high energy level, a long attention span, and I'm moody. I react strongly to new things, and yet I like new or novel activities and experiences. I am the original "emotional girl." I'm going to try to get some self-control, as well as good language skills, because my temperament is only moderately adaptable. I don't have many traumas in my day to day activities, so that may help me through the "tumultuous two's."

I need help to control my loud reactions to how I feel. I love to show affection to everyone who cares for me. I try to cooperate and help, even if I make a mess. I am good at saying "please and thank you." I depend on mom to know best what my emotional limits are. I'm happy to share myself with our readers. What do you think of me? I think I'll turn out to be a good citizen, friend and discoverer. I want to be greenie the frog when I grow up. Bye.

Ask Dr. Susan