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Young Children Are Curious

Do you ever wonder why your toddler repeatedly crawls over to the light switch?

Do you ever wonder why your seven month old repeatedly crawls over to the light switch even though you pick her up and say no each time? Like other parents, you may get very frustrated. When children do not listen, parents worry that there is something wrong with their child, or that they have failed as a parent. They begin to label their child as overactive, bad or willful. This sets up unfortunate battle lines and leads to frequent strife in the relationship. Unfortunately, the parents are unaware that their child is just being a child acting out some developmental issues.

Parents must learn the fundamental developmental issues underlying their children's behavior. Once they have this knowledge, they can respond more effectively. In this case, the issue is that young children have natural curiosity. They are in love with life and thrilled by everything they see. We notice this early on when our tiny infant stares endlessly at dust particles lit up by the sun. When children become ambulatory, they set out with the same excitement to explore the world. Their innate curiousity brings them to feel enthralled with a twisty lamp cord or excited by a dirt-filled planter. If we regard curiosity as driving the child, and do not attach other negative meanings to this behavior, we can relax and manage the behavior more effectively. The goal in dealing with your child at this stage is to keep him safe, while supporting his enthusiasm about the world. It's also crucial to avoid shaming him for acting like an energizer bunny, too. He is simply driven by his impulses and cannot stop. Here are some steps to take with young children to achieve these goals.

Child-proof your home. Any objects within your child's reach will be game for exploration and constant battles. Instead, remove your planter and replace your glass table. Take these possessions out later on when your child is older and can understand limits.

Set limits positively. When your child is crawling towards the stove for the tenth time, say, “No” in a strong voice and pick him up. Ultimately, he will learn that you disapprove of this behavior and over time, he will be able to stop himself.

Give her a reason. You can tell her, “It's hot. You can get hurt.” Ultimately, children respond best if they know there is a reason for a limit.

Use physical boundaries. A safety gate can keep your child from falling down stairs or keep him out of the kitchen when you are cooking.

Provide opportunities for safe exploration. If your child wants to climb up on a chair but she is too small, you can say, “I know you're curious and love climbing, but this is not safe.” You can distract her by putting some pillows on the floor for her to climb on.

It is very important to be patient with your child. Over time as you set limits with him, he will internalize your voice, develop better judgment, and gain self-control.

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