Health & Fitness

How to build confidence in toddlers

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Summary

  • At birth, and for months later, the babies’ muscles and nerves are so weak and underdeveloped that the babies’ head is too heavy to hold up.
  • It takes months for the head to become steady and for the grandparents to become comfortable!
  • In time, and as more nerves and muscles develop, the baby can crawl and later sit up.
  • It requires more muscle growth to take place for the toddler to stand, walk and later run.

"What is the most appropriate way of building confidence in toddlers without making them feel harassed?

***

Becoming a grandfather was one of the most transformative events in my life. I have since then, read a great deal about the privilege of grandfatherhood and have also discussed the matter with many grandparents, young and old. They have several features in common.

The first is an irresistible desire to talk about their grandchildren. The other is to show the latest pictures of their grandchildren to anyone who accidentally or otherwise mentions the word grandchild.

This ritual of showing off pictures is replicated in some unlikely places, such as major scientific gatherings, churches and even in heavily populated places such as matatus and airplanes.

If accosted by a grandparent with such pictures, do not show too much interest otherwise you will be taken through an hour-by-hour account of the child’s development, which, as you will see below, is not as interesting as the grandparents would like you to believe. You have been warned.

One thing many grandfathers are most scared of is being asked to hold a newborn baby whose neck is all wobbly as if the head is about to fall off from the rest of the body.

Some grandfathers are shielded from this indignity by culture and custom, where old people are not “allowed to hold small babies”.

The unlucky ones live this nightmare, often with the additional shame of those around laughing loudly about this old man who lacks the basics of holding a newborn.

The truth of the matter is that the old man is not at fault, and this in a way is the beginning of the answer to your question on child development.

At birth, and for months later, the babies’ muscles and nerves are so weak and underdeveloped that the babies’ head is too heavy to hold up. It takes months for the head to become steady and for the grandparents to become comfortable!

In time, and as more nerves and muscles develop, the baby can crawl and later sit up. It requires more muscle growth to take place for the toddler to stand, walk and later run.

If you attempt to jump any of these stages of development, then you will be disappointed and you will cause the poor toddler to lose confidence. Each must take place in a particular sequence reflective of normal development.

This now brings us to another aspect of child development which again as you will see is logical and progressive and cannot in most instances be accelerated by anything but time. In most cases, nature does its job without the help of overenthusiastic parents and relatives.

Cognitive development for example refers to the power to solve problems and increases slowly as the baby touches and plays with objects with his hands and sometimes putting them in his mouth.

The ability to solve simple math problems does not develop until the age of five and so trying as some parents do to try and teach their children math too soon is but a waste of time and frustrates both the child and the parents.

At the age of two, he can count to two, and by the age of three, up to three.

Anything beyond that is rote memory and not a true understanding of numbers! Social and emotional development is also crucial and must be allowed to take place in the appropriate stages.

A two-year-old does not know what sharing means and telling him to share and or wait his turn is an exercise in futility that leads to frustration.

Speech and language development also occurs in clear stages, and here we note that children exposed to language early develop it earlier than those who are not. When they can read, exposing them to reading material is also good.

The other aspects of child development you may want to check out are those regarding the development of fine and gross motor skills, which increase in tandem with the increasing strength of muscles and bones, as well as the complexity and development of the nervous system.

The next time a grandfather is asked to hold an infant, he must resort to science and say that he will only hold the baby when sufficient muscle development has taken place.

Before that time, only expert hands may touch the baby. From the foregoing, we now also know how to deal with enthusiastic and often misguided grandparents who accost their victims with unsolicited offers to show off badly taken photographs.

Dr Frank Njenga is a psychiatrist and mental health consultant who has authored several scientific papers and books.