Offering Choices

Clash Between Safety and Adventure


Although initially, survival drives the baby’s behavior, she will soon begin to attempt to tell you what she wants. In her efforts to communicate, she may act in ways that appear — some would say — naughty. Our great-granddaughter has reached an age when adventure (and maybe even a little intrigue with danger) motivates her. She understands that her mommy wants her to sit sedately in her small rocking chair. Daisy has little interest in sitting. Instead of sitting down in the chair, she climbs onto the seat with her feet. When she reaches a standing position, she stands up straight and smiles broadly. Her brown eyes twinkle. Her entire body exudes, “See what I can do? Isn’t this wonderful?”


Instead of saying “Daisy, you are a bad baby for standing in your rocking chair,” her parents repeat that they want her to sit in her rocker. Mommy has always taken great care to keep Daisy safe. Now, Margie realizes that she has an adventurous toddler on her hands. What would a “bad girl” accomplish with a child whose eagerness to learn outstrips her understanding of dangers? Do her parents want to discourage her excitement about mastering new skills? I think not. And yet, her parents must keep her safe.


Providing choices helps in situations when minimal risks are involved. Recently, I heard Margie say, “Daisy you can stand in the chair as long as I am close enough to hold your arm. If you want to use the rocking chair all by yourself, you will need to sit down.”


Another strong choice might be, “Daisy, if you continue to stand up in your chair, we will put the rocker away for a short time.


Lacking adequate words (and self-understanding) Daisy clearly communicates “I want adventure. I want to do this myself and feel proud of my achievement.” How else can she let you know she is convinced that she needs this sense of accomplishment? Toddlers get to be toddlers communicating the best they can. Even though parents set limits to safeguard learning, a child’s behavior can never be considered either good or bad.