She might be little, but she’s got a lot of the big things right
MEET THE EXPERT
Alison Pike is a developmental psychologist at the University of Sussex and expert on Channel 4’s The Secret Life of Four Year Olds.
Your toddler is full of fun, and full-on. To her, the whole world is brand new and shiny bright—and she doesn’t have an ounce of baggage to cloud her view. And, perhaps, there’s a lot we mums could learn from that uncomplicated approach to everyday life. “The toddler years are such a magical moment in your child’s life,” says developmental psychologist Alison Pike. “She is just beginning to explore the world and her place in it. And by looking through her eyes, you can learn to see life in a brand-new way, too.”
Own the room
Earlier this year, Robert E Kelly’s live interview on BBC News went askew when his four-year-old daughter, Marion, sauntered into the room and onto camera. Rather than ruining his career, the world fell in love with Marion’s swagger. “Most toddlers exude high self-esteem,” says Alison. “They carry themselves with an attitude that announces: ‘Here I am! Look at me! Aren’t I lovable?’” That’s because they’re exposed to a lot of loving behaviour, but also because they’re body-confi dent. “Toddlers are more body aware than adults are. Between the ages of 12 and 24 months, so much of their learning is done in physical ways, such as grabbing and licking,” says Alison. “But by the time we reach adulthood, we lose touch with our bodies.” Research suggests that one of the biggest things that affects confidence is our posture. So, adopt your toddler’s swagger, expect everyone to love you, and they most probably will.
Be true to yourself
Do you ever let your toddler dress herself? You have to admire the confi dence with which she flings together mismatching socks and pairs a tutu with a woolly hat. “This is partly because toddlers are only just beginning to develop the ability to conceive of other people’s perspectives,” explains Alison. “Think about playing hide and seek with your youngster: she believes that when she puts her hands over her eyes, you can’t see her. She isn’t able to think outside of her own perspective, and she feels like the centre of the world.”
In 2011, research from the Institute for the Stu y of Self
Development foun that selfconsciousness
emotions, such as embarrassment and guilt, don’t begin to emerge until around the age of three. And while we all need to develop that selfconsciousness— it is part of the glue that keeps societies together —it does make us anticipate the responses of other people. In doing so, it can inhibit our behaviour. It might stop us from wearing the outfit we want to, in case others question it. And it can stop us from being the person we really want to be. So if wearing a tutu makes you happy, go for it!
Say ‘no’ if you want to
The average 18-month-old will snatch toys from another toddler around 18 times an hour. Ask her to share and the answer will probably involve some foot stamping and an extremely insistent ‘no!’. “We’ve all been there,” says Alison, “but isn’t there something that’s refreshing about that honesty? And isn’t it frustrating how much second-guessing we have to do in our adult relationships, because we’re all so reluctant to be rude and just tell the honest truth about how we feel?”
The next time you’re cornered into accepting an invitation that you’d much rather skip, or feel yourself bowing to pressure to host the family gettogether again, stop and consider why you’d rather say no: your reasons might be very valid, and worth expressing.