Autonomy versus shame and doubt is huge in young children; especially infants and toddlers and can often carry over into preschoolers who struggle with social emotional developmental behavior related issues. Actually, I hate using the term issue when it comes to children…it makes them seem like something is wrong with them, when they actually haven’t had the proper guidance and engagement in activities. So let’s say, irregular behavior pattern for now? :)
An autonomous child is geared towards success in their world. Autonomy is that inner drive in helping children become independent and meet their own needs. This is a huge accomplishment for children since they are able to control things in their daily events now. Encourage this by giving children options in play, feeding times (let them feed themselves), pick their nap time/ bed time lovey, allow them to choose who they want to play with in play groups and what activity they want to do. You want to build a healthy sense of independence in young children, but still be readily available at the same time.
Always talk to young children throughout the day, explain everything you are doing step by step. If you’re making lunch talk to them and tell them how you’re preparing the foods for them, or when you’re changing their diaper explain each step to them; help them visualize language!
When supporting healthy emotional and social development we want to use gentle but direct guidance. This allows children to gain new options for self control through the modeled behavior. Recognize and validate a child’s emotions. Often times with preschool aged children they begin to choose play companions; sometimes it can change from day to day or even minute to minute, some may even keep the same playmate for years. This can be very hard for some children who don’t yet have a confident relationship with language, often leading us back to autonomy versus shame and doubt.
For instance, a child may want to play with the same child/ children they were earlier in the day, but they exclude them from the activity. In most situations like this the excluded child becomes victim to a wave of emotions; sadness, fear, frustration etc. Make sure to engage in conversation with the excluded child, let them know that you understand their feelings, explain that sometimes the way others treat you can hurt sometimes and it’s ok to have these emotions. You are helping them build and connect language to their emotions.
Redirection and finding a new alternative activity would be a proper adjustment at this point. You want to encourage healthy behavior outcomes as well as strengthen their social emotional development :)