Your Child's Brain in Week 78
Because your child learns to climb during this second year, you might find him one day standing in the center of the dining room table. Nervous, your response might be, "Get down from there right now!" Will your child quickly and apologetically descend from the table with haste? Probably not.
Children do begin to comply with parents' commands between 12 and 18 months, but it's sporadic at best—older kids have a better track record when it comes to being responsive to Mom and Dad's requests (until adolescence, when compliance is challenged all over again!). What we know about this age group is that regardless of their temperament, toddlers who feel more supported by their parents are the ones who comply more frequently. This means that if you don't want your child to standing on your table, you must be willing to gently guide him to climb down—without excessive scolding.
What the Research Shows
In one study, researchers observed mothers and their toddlers at play, then continued to watch them during clean-up time to see if they noticed any correlating behaviors between the two activities. After analyzing their observations, researchers found that the children whose mothers were more "emotionally available" during playtime were more likely to go along with the clean-up task. What does that mean?
Researchers gave this label to mothers who were responsive to their kids throughout the play session, ones who seemed to have developed a rhythm, of sorts, with their toddlers. These were moms who knew when to step in to assist with a task—if, say, a play situation became frustrating—and when to offer emotional support, especially when their children were sad or distressed. These "emotionally available" mothers communicated genuine affection for their toddlers, and refrained from becoming annoyed with their children's behaviors. Each provided some structure for her child's play but once the child was engaged, Mom would allow the child to lead the activity; then she extended the play theme to keep it interesting for her child.
It appeared to researchers that in exchange for these positive parenting traits, which all express love and trust, the toddlers would grant more "Ok, Mom!" behaviors at clean-up time. Fascinating!
Week 78 Brain Booster
Indeed, being routinely supportive of your toddler—really, in all settings—can increase her compliant behaviors. But let's be real: No matter how responsive a parent you are, there will be moments when your toddler will dig in her heels and shout "No!" to even ice cream or a trip to the playground.