The Toddlerhood Stage and Independence

Toddlers – one to three year olds are balls of energy, vitality and curiosity.

They’re busy trying to master so many skills all at once like talking, walking and climbing.  For most toddlers the biggest challenge is becoming their very own person.  When your little one starts trying to assert her independence you’re likely to hear a lot of “NO” and “I DO IT MYSELF".  

REJOICE – although this behavior may be difficult to tolerate, this means that she is developing her own identity.  Of course, with independence comes the gradual separateness from parents but nurturing that independence is one of the most vital gifts you will ever give your child.



The meaning we ascribe to a word fuels our perception of the behavior or intent behind it.  During toddler years it is tempting to describe a toddler as defiant.  However, as parents if we can observe the behavior as a manifestation of self-development and assertion we’re far less likely to view it as negative, or behavior in need of fixing and more likely to adopt a flexible approach.  In the long run this will benefit both parent’s and toddler’ mental health – believe me.

Rather than reacting to toddler behavior as disrespectful, see it for what it is – an attempt to assert herself as an individual.  After all, that’s our job as parents – raising, independent individuals that will contribute in their own way to the world.



When your toddler is resolute and determined to do things her way, it is so easy to fall into the trap of issuing edicts, threats and ultimatums.   There are two problems with this

  • Your Toddler feels cornered – either she does something she absolutely doesn’t want to do or, she suffers the consequences of your threat.  Now you have a very unhappy toddler.
  •  It puts you in a position of having to follow through on a threat made in the haste of irrationality, something you will probably struggle with later when you’ve cooled your jets.



The single most effective way to encourage your toddler to be independent is to love her unconditionally, support her and have a truck load of patience – yes, I know – that leads to self-care – that’s for another day.   Here are some tips:

  • Time; remember, she’s only learning.  If she can do it – let her. Realize though, that it will take her longer to dress herself, brush her hair or feed herself.  Resist the temptation to step in and speed things up – you will not be doing her or yourself any favours in the long run.
  • Believe in her;   there is no greater boost for a child’s confidence and self-esteem than her parent’s belief in her ability.
  • Choice;   Offer choice but not too much – e.g. “would you like your green sweater or your red sweater?”  Too many choices can become overwhelming for toddlers.
  • Encourage curiosity; Make your surroundings as toddler-proof as possible.  Store the breakables and fragile objects so that she can get on with her job of play through exploration and you won’t have to be like a broken record, policing her and saying “No”.
  • Widen the Social Circle;  Get your toddler used to spending time with other children and adults in different settings.  Schedule short periods of time when you are away from her so that she learns to stand on her own two feet.
  • Use Humour; Work with your toddler through humour and clowning around – you will still get where you want to go and you will both be the better for it.  It’s a lot more memorable learning through entertainment.
  • Focus on the behavior that you want; Highlight and praise what you like.  If you’ve ever said to a small child “don’t run”  it is almost a guarantee it’s the first thing they will do.


Keep your own sense of humour and remember these are just growing pains!

Read more: The Toddlerhood Stage and Independence

Taming Tantrums

Parenting a child is most likely the most rewarding, yet challenging job you will ever have in your life.  You're entering unchartered territory.  Likely, you'll have had ideas on how you will raise your child and what values, limits and rules you will have,  but .......... that's before your child arrives.   Most parents can probably relate to the temptation to start throwing their own hissy fit when their child is throwing a wobbler and resembles something out of a horror movie.  And let's face it - it happens some times.  We end up having our very own melt down. 


Wobblers are a natural and normal part of development in a toddler.  How else can a toddler learn how to assert himself?   He knows what he wants but might not necessarily have the language to communicate it.  Throwing a wobbler gives him a chance to vent his frustration and interestingly, gives us an opportunity to develop our parenting skills - ahem ...... gradually.


If you seach through your catalogue of your children's most memorable and sensational wobblers - I mean the ones you an laugh at now, you'll probably come to the conclusion that they were more likely to happen when you had very little control over the situation or your own emotions at the time - when you were vulnerable or stressed out yourself. We've all witnessed toddlers experiencing a melt down at the check-out where all of the nice shiny confectionery sits screaming "pick me"   "pick me" and if we are not secretly thinking - thank God it's not mine today, we're quietly empathizing with the adult trying their best to get to the front door, with groceries and a wailing child.  


The amazing thing about tantrums is that we as adults are likely to reflect back the exact same behaviour to our children when uder pressure.  So, if we want our chidren to behave, we have to behave in a way that is exemplary for them, but realistic for us.  It doesn't mean that we won't get upset or frustrated, but how we deal with our emotions is key.  


To demonstrate why this is so important - think about the times when you open your mouth and your own Mother or Father comes out.  We become reflections of our own parents and some of the ways in which they parented us. Come on,  I know you can relate.  Behaviours in our children that tick us off or make us feel proud are most likely reflective of our own ways of being.


You know that button?  the one that's like your funny bone - some-one hits it and there's an immediate reaction, except it's not funny.  Every toddler, child and adolescent knows that button.  Well,  they don't, but we might be forgiven as as parents for believing that they have some super natural power and do at times.   When your child throws a wobbler and you react instantaneously you deny yourself and him an opportunity to connect with each other in a positive way and to deal with it in an adult state.  A power struggle begins and everyone ends up feeling like rubbish.  


Of course Rome wans't built in a day and learning how to react calmly is a skill that requires practice and plenty of self-care too.  


If you want to avoid falling into the tantrum trap make a few committments to yourself.  Evaluate your self-awareness, check in with yourself and if you feel that it's going to be a stressful day find a few minutes every few hours to de-stress - just breathe.   Get out with your little one - get away from all the household chores and responsibilities for a while.  Nurture your belief in your parenting skills - you can do it.  Focus on his or her positive behaviour - trust me there is plenty of it and if you zero in on the positive behaviour you'll see more of it.  And remember, every time your child has a tantrum he's just trying so very hard to become some-one who is independent - teach him how. 

What depression feels like

Deression is not the same as sadness.  Sadness is a universal feeling.  We experience sadness when we are grieving, dissapointed, feeling rejected or hurt.  So sadness is a feeling that moves in and out of our lives fluidly.  However, sadness is not constant and not pervasive like depression.  Sadness doesn't affect our overall health, energy levels or the purpose and meaning that we give to our lives. Sadness may affect our ability to live life fully for a time, but generally it passes.   Depression is the imposter that invades every aspect of our lives and being. 


Symptoms of depression include:

  • Lasting low mood and anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulties with focus or concentration
  • Sleeplessness or over sleeping
  • Disinterest in once favoured activities
  • Feelings of guilt or despair
  • Restlessness or impaired activity
  • Change in appetite with weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts

A depressive episode is indicated if one experiences five or more of these symptoms over a period of two weeks or more.

These are the symptoms of depression not the experience,  read on...


What depression feels like:

  • Life seems meaningless
  • Nothing feels right in your life
  • You cry at anything - things that seem insignificant and would never have upset you in the past
  • You just want to be left alone
  • Getting up everyday is a struggle
  • You're moving in slow motion - like wading through quicksand
  • Sleep is a respite
  • No amount of sleep alleviates the exhaustion
  • Everybody and everything irritates you
  • You have an overwhelming sense that something terriible is going to happen
  • You experience powerlessness
  • Making decisions seems impossible
  • You feel frustrated because you can't seem to do anything right
  • You have difficulty concentrating - you can't focus on things that need your attention
  • You feel guilty, worried and anxious
  • You feel like you're in a bubble surrounded by fog and you're looking at the world through dirty lenses 
  • Your thinking is fuzzy and skewed towards negativity
  • You're afraid, you're afraid, you're afraid that it will get worse 


Depressive illness is silent and not visiible to the naked eye.   Frustratingly, it does'nt respond to logic or platitudes. Proglonged depression affects our self-esteem and self worth.  If you or some-one you know is experiencing what feels like depression, please visit your G.P.  Delay making important decisions. Avoid alcohol or recreational drug use.  Talk to some-one, get some social support.   There is "no one size fits all" approach to recovery.  Educate yourself on all of the treatments available; counselling, medication, lifestyle changes etc. and decide what is best for you.  



Disclaimer:  This article is informational only and not to be taken as a diagnosis, treament or advice which can only be given by your G.P. 






Depression - the causes


The Causes of Depression


Depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw.  There are many reasons why depression occurs.  For one person, it may be a particular life event triggering depression, e.g. trauma, abuse or bereavement.  For another, it may arrive after a series of events or life stressors that cumulatively overhwhelm the person and yet another might experience depression for no apparent reason. 

Depression is an issue that has and continues to be researched and there have been findings.


Genetic pre-disposition

Evidence suggests genes have a significant role in the development of depression.  Studies indicate that in 50% of major depression cases genes are the primary factor, while physical or psychological causes can account for the other 50%.



Bio-Chemical Factors 

The Human brain is a highly complex organ and our knowledge of it is still limited.   However, it is thought that stress may cause chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters tp become disrupted - causing chemical imbalances.


Ill Health

Chronic, life threatening or unrelenting health conditions can be a major factor in the development of depression.  Illness can change the way a body functions and have a serious impact on a person's lifestyle, self-esteem, self-worth and self-image.



Compared to men, women are twice as likely to experience depression, due to among other vulnerabilities - biological and hormonal factors that are unique to the female experience and physiology - Pre-menstrual problems, pregnancy and infertility, post-natal issues, peri-menopause and menopause. 



As we grow older we may experience significant life changes and challenges.  For example, health related issues - disease, being prescribed medication, loss of mobility, chronic pain and possible cognitive decline.  Exiting the work market can have a serious impact on our sense of self and our purpose in life and we may feel lonely or bereft.  All of these factors may contribute to the development of depression.


Drugs and Alcohol

Recreational substance use and depression is common and may occur together at times.  Sometimes, people use drugs and alcohol (Which is a depressant) to pep themselves up or to escape the pain of their situation  Depressive symptoms can develop as a result of taking drugs or as part of withdrawal symptoms when drug taking stops. 



Bottom Line

  • There is no one single cause for depression.  Depression is a complex combination of many factors in relation to a person, their situation and unique vulnerabilites to developing depression.
  • Depression can be genetically inherited.
  • Stress, ill health, ageing and the use of drugs and alcohol may all be contributory factors in the development of depression. 



Some Myths on Depression

"Depression only affects certain people"

Depression can strke any-one at any time.  Depression does not recognise; age, gender, culture, class, your socio-economic standing or your race.  Depression is a non-discriminatory equal opportunist. 


"Depression is a character weakness"

Depression is generally a symptom of living with un-relenting stress or ongoing issues, e.g. trauma, bereavement or social and financial difficulties that are negatively affecting our ability to live a full and balanced life.  If these issues or stressors are not addressed the ongoing distress may lead to depression. 


"There's no such thing as depression, it's all in the mind"

Severe depression can be debilitating with physical manifestations such as; headhache, back ache, joint and muscle pain.  It may also disrupt mental processes leading to forgetfullness and lack of concentration not to mention a host of other symptoms.   Depression is a biopsychosocial syndrome - this means that ir arises or develops in relation to who we are in our biological, psychological and social context. 


"If I start taking pills, I'll have to do it forever"

A reasonable concern for most people is how long one might have to take medication for, or what the long term effects of taking medication might be.  If you are aready taking medication and your mood and general disposition has improved, you may wonder - Do I really need to take this?   Anti-depressants do not have addictive qualities.  Some people may need to take anti-depressant treatments for extended periods, but this depends on a personal history and severity of the depression.  While there are medical professionals that believe that anti-depressants might be a long term solution for people with depression, generally, most people take medication for a specific time-frame and then end the treatment with their physicians guidance and monitoring.


"All I need is the medicne and I'll be fine"

Certainly - taking a prescribed anti-depressant will help you to recover or overcome depression.  However, because depression is thought to have not only biological roots, but social and psychological components - combining a form a therapy along with medication is thought to be the most effective treatment.  Counselling can help you to explore your emotional life, address your unique stressors  and learn new coping skills for the future.



County Kerry

Deanah McCormack

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