You’ve probably heard a toddler exclaim something like, “I do!” or “mine!”
This might sound phenomenally simple, but young children actually have to learn that they are their own persons. “You and me are different people” is a concept that we are not born with. In fact, a baby’s sense of self is typically his or her parents – in your baby’s mind, she is you. It is not until about a year of age that a child begins to separate his or her identity from the parent. And with this separation comes a whole lot of self-discovery.
When a young child recognizes that he is his own person, everything really is all about him. And for good reason: he’s learning all that he can do, all that he likes, all that he dislikes, what he wants, and how to communicate these things.
Spitting out a spoonful of creamed green beans might not be sheer defiance; it’s his way of saying “I don’t like how this tastes.”
That petulant “by myself!” is not meant to be rude, but is his exclamation that “I’m able to do this without any help, and I’m proud of that.”
Demanding a certain color toy is not meant to drive you mad (though you may feel that way!), but a strong assertion that “I am me, and I have a unique preference, and that preference is green.”
At this age and stage, it’s important to acknowledge a young child’s work in answering the question, “who am I?” Talk with your child about his or her favorite things, and share some of yours, too. Praise your child for independently wanting to try to do things without your help. Talk about feelings, what makes them happy, what makes them sad. Yes, your baby is growing up. But she’s also growing into her own little personality, which is a wonder to watch unfold.
We witness this self-discovery every day in Kindermusik class as young children have the opportunity to choose favorite ways to move, dance, and play instruments, and engage with others. They each show their own unique level of independence either by immersing themselves in play with their friends, or by sticking close to mom. Most importantly, though, early childhood classes such as Kindermusik provide safe, structured-but-flexible, stimulating environments in which all children are encouraged to stretch their wings and discover just how high they can fly.