Is your two year old an extrovert? Interested in how things work? Bookish yet tough? Felix, my grandson, was recently with me for a long weekend. He’s 2 years old, learning to speak, is cheerful, cheeky and very much his own person. For 2 days I had the opportunity contrast his behavior and personality to other little kids I’ve observed– not for the sake of comparison but to marvel how each child is an individual, exhibiting their personalities from a very early age.
At a man-made beach near where I live, throngs of people are escaping the heat of a Queensland summer. Felix ventures into the calm water only up to his little calves, making little one-legged hops and kicking water, perhaps remembering the waves from Bondi beach in Sydney which he has often visited. In contrast, a chubby 18 month-old dives right in with his mother and older sister watching, gulping huge mouthfuls of water in the process. He comes up laughing and does it again, giving some cause for alarm. I don’t think that toddler has had swimming lessons – he is a natural stunt man. Is your grandbaby like this?
Another little boy about 2 years old, solidly built, strides up and down a low concrete ledge. He is extremely coordinated, practically runs along the ledge and … falls off without a whimper. His dad picks him up and on the ledge he goes again. In the meantime Felix decides to walk on the ledge, taking slow half-steps. When he stumbles, he counsels himself “be careful” but paradoxically he’s fiercely independent and won’t take my hand. He also falls, but I encourage him to brush off the leaves and try again.
I won’t see the other little boys again, and won’t know how they will develop as teenagers. However I’m hoping that although Felix may not win an Olympic medal for wrestling or balancing on the high beam, he’s likely to think twice about risk-taking behavior. I’m celebrating his individuality!
And should we be shaping their personalities? I’m no child psychologist and won’t be entering the nature versus nurture debate. However a commonsense view would certainly be YES if not their personalities, certainly their behavior. As a tourist in a transport museum in Shanghai, China some years ago, I observed a 4 year old running to and sitting in an exhibit which was clearly cordoned off. His parents and grandparents made no effort to stop the “little emperor” instead coo-ed over him. Studies have shown how the one-child policy unfortunately, has produced some children who are overindulged with no boundaries.
It’s difficult balance – to encourage and praise children to build their self esteem, while not turning into them into little self-entitled brats. I’d love to hear your stories about achieving this balance, and how you’re celebrating the individuality of your grandbaby!
Till then, sweet dreams to your grandbabies and mine,