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Belinda's kids - Your Child Becomes More Independent - 31 Oct

Your Child Becomes More Independent

Presenters Belinda Woodman and Paula Rawiri from the Ministry of Education

  Right from the start, your child is building the foundations for learning. In the beginning you are their most important resource, and as they grow and develop, and start to move out into the world, you become their "secure base". 

 From when they first start to crawl away, and as they grow older and become more mobile, you are their secure base. It is critical for your young child to have a secure base, so they can start to explore and move away on their own and become independent. As they explore the world, they know you are there to give them the reassurance and comfort they need. As they learn to talk and communicate their needs and wants, you will still be their secure base. 

Becoming more independent
Resolving conflict and tension
Making this time positive and manageable
Ways to support your 3 and 4-year old's learning

Becoming more independent

Relationships continue to be really important for learning even when your child is a bit older. Learning is linked to your child's emotional well-being, which is based on them feeling well-connected with others. They need to know that you are there - interested in what they are doing, thinking about and learning. And they will still be checking that you are available to them when they need comfort and support.

 As children grow and develop into 3 and 4-year olds, their lives become more complex and demanding. 

They start to

-learn that they are a separate and independent person who has some control over themselves
-have contact with more people
-learn about new and different ways of doing things and behaving towards others
-test the boundaries set by their parents and caregivers
-learn and practise many ways they can choose to behave and interact with others. 

Resolving Conflict and Tension

As they grow and develop, your child flexes their personality and wants to do things differently than you do, and often in a different time frame. They now have their own ideas about what they can and can't do. You are building the base for your child to move further and further from you as they feel more confident. That means they may be experiencing more conflict and differences of opinion with you. 

Some conflict and even anxiety are part of normal growing, learning and developing. But if your child is frequently or very deeply anxious, the anxiety causes a large release of the hormones of the kind which help in survival by provoking fight or flight. These hormones are not the ones that help the cerebral cortex -  the part of the brain that develops connections when we think and solve problems.   Too much anxiety can get in the way of healthy, positive learning.  When you and your child get into conflict, aim to fix it quickly so that a pattern of stress and anxiety does not set up between you.

To avoid conflict and excess anxiety, try to focus on

- setting and sticking to firm, fair limits and rules
- retaining and developing your own sense of humour - easier said than done
seeing the value of repetition - your child is learning and practising by repeating, and testing the boundaries so much that you have to check whether or not they have changed since yesterday
- staying calm, and showing your child that you love them even when you don't like what they are doing - and monitor yourself to take time out if you feel like you are losing it.

For more ideas and tips, find a full list of topics on Parenting for Early
Learning at Team-Up

Making this time positive and manageable

This is an age when you will really notice that your child reflects back how you behave. You may have times when you wonder where your child learnt a particular word, phrase or expression, then realise they probably learnt it from you or someone else in the family. 

So it's important to:
-decide on the most important ways of behaving and relating to each other within  your family
-provide your child with a living role model of these ways for behaving and relating - a real "do as we say and do" model,
-give your child lots of practice while they are learning these things,
-give them praise and specific feedback about what they are doing well.

Ways to support your 3 and 4-year old's learning

At this age, your child is developing rapidly.  They are learning about making sense of all sorts of information - about people and places, rules and expectations, behaviours and relationships. 

Aim to

-expand on what they are interested in and provide interesting experiences
-let them choose activities if possible
-let them take the lead in play while you join in
-ask questions to find out what they are thinking about, rather than looking for answers they already know
-be flexible - when you have to say "no" and "don't", think of alternatives that you can say "yes" to, and offer them as well - for example,  "we can't make the tent with my duvet, how about using the blanket from the car boot?"
-give your child a few realistic choices - e.g. "you can choose the red or the blue pyjamas"
- recognise that some three and four-year-olds will still need sleep sometimes during the day, and may be cranky because they are hungry, and not able to recognise this themselves.