Once your child learns to walk (or run), it is an especially dangerous time because his little brain hasn’t developed the ability to inhibit action and still works much slower than you think. Your child really can’t stop as quickly as you would like him to.
If he is running to pet a puppy and you yell for him to stop, it may take a full few seconds for him to understand what you want . . . and then he may not have the capacity to inhibit his desire to pet the puppy. He’s not being defiant, he’s just being a toddler. You have to adjust to his current level and abilities and be extra vigilant.
Toward the end of the second year, he will begin to develop effortful control, which means he may be able to direct his attention and to stop his first, instinctual response and replace it with a better option. This breakthrough comes from the brain developing the executive attention network, which will continue to develop over the next few years, but early signs of effortful control predict the ability to maintain focus, develop social norms, and later develop empathy and shame. Although effortful control seems to have a hereditary basis, warm, supportive parenting is associated with its development. If you find your child can’t stop, try the following activity.
One way to practice and therefore develop effortful control is the game Wait: Play this game where you teach your child to refrain from touching a prohibited toy: Don’t touch for a count of ten, then celebrate. Later, don’t touch for a count of twenty or even thirty.
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