December 4, 2020 3:07 pm
By: Henry Dodd, MD, Pediatrician at Magnolia Pediatric Clinic
Do you ever wonder why your children want to read the same book over and over and over again? What about why they seem to behave so well in front of rarely seen relatives or strangers in public but save their worst behavior for home? In both cases, the answer is the same: children crave consistency. They know exactly how that book is going to end, thus they are comfortable and in control. Conversely, they will be reserved and cautious around strangers until they know the “rules of engagement”. When home and with trusted caregivers, they are more comfortable to explore and test boundaries.
From infancy to late adolescence, this same need for predictability and consistency is important. As caregivers, we share the awesome responsibility and challenge of creating the right boundaries in the correct proportions and at the appropriate times. Even amongst siblings close in age, their needs are unlikely identical.
During infancy, children are completely dependent on us. This is both exhausting but rewarding. To promote good health and development, we not only have to meet physical needs but also emotional needs. Babies need to be held, talked to, and taught how to play games like “Peek-a-boo” or “Pat-a-cake”. The repetition in these interactions teach them to look for patterns and know how to respond when faced with similar experiences.
Toddlers take many of the rituals learned as an infant, and they expound upon it to perform parallel play and eventually associative play with others. If a child doesn’t have that consistent interaction from caregivers, they will struggle to understand how to play alongside others or in a group. Each step along the way is important.
From school age to early adolescence, there is a tug-of-war between the need for independence and the need for hand-holding. There are many factors at play, but the most obvious is your child is now spending a large portion of time in a setting you have little control over with easily hundreds of different and new influences. This makes the structure and predictability we provide at home even more paramount. To best help our school age children, they need to know what is expected of them and when it is expected, but just as importantly, they need to know caregivers will be consistent with both discipline and privileges. Providing a predictable and positive environment will give our children the best opportunity to grow and thrive.
At Magnolia Pediatric Clinic, we want to help your children achieve their best health. When you come for wellness checks, we are not only looking after their physical health, but we are looking to make sure we are providing you and your children with the insight and tools to create that consistent and positive environment at home. Call (662) 293-7390 to schedule your appointment with one of our providers.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center