Babies are individuals from the time they are born. The age-old argument as to the relative importance in personality-terms of heredity or environment is interesting and both are unquestionably significant. However, to attribute every facet of a child's life to environmental factors must be regarded as absurd. Any mother will testify to the fact that babies are born with distinct personalities and frequently provide evidence of individual characteristics before they are born by the degree of activity they indulge in in the womb. Some babies have sunny, contented natures, others are fretful and discontented.
Life can be very difficult if yours is one of the latter. However, a young baby's life revolves around physical comfort, and generally a baby will display signs of distress for a reason, e.g. it is hungry or wet, or has a pain somewhere. Most of the so-called behavior problems of young children are simply reactions to situations that children face as they grow up and learn to cope with the world they live in.
In a young baby, sucking is a very strong reflex, and most babies suck their thumbs or fingers at some stage. Most will stop of their own volition after a few months, or perhaps after they begin toddling around and have many more interesting activities to occupy their minds. Some parents feel they should stop a baby sucking, but this is likely to do more harm than good as the baby's sucking reflex remains unsatisfied.
If a toddler of two or three is still sucking its thumb, a parent may wish to remove the thumb gently and distract the child with another activity, but to get cross or force the issue will frustrate and upset the child and usually be unsuccessful.
The use of a dummy continues to arouse different views. If a parent would prefer a child to suck a dummy to a thumb, there is no good reason why not, provided the dummy can be kept clean.
To coat a dummy with honey or some other sweet substance, however, is inviting later dental problems and almost inevitably will lead to the child developing a propensity for sweet foods, which can cause lifelong problems.
Some children develop an attachment for a particular toy or article. This may be a teddy bear or soft toy, or simply a piece of blanket which gives the child a feeling of comfort and security. Some children only require their comforter before settling down to go to sleep, others carry it around all day.
Provided the object can be kept clean, clearly its presence is harmless, and the child should not be deprived of it. On the other hand, some parents seem to feel that their child 'should' have a favorite teddy or some such toy, and insist on the child taking it to bed when the child seems completely disinterested. Even young children are capable of making up their own minds about what they need in the way of comforters, and parents might sometimes ask themselves whether the behavior they are insisting on is for the child's benefit or the parents'.
Most children will scream and cry with rage if they are frustrated. Nearly all children have the occasional tantrum, and some children have them frequently. Tantrums seem to reach their peak around the age of two when the child is beginning to assert its own independence - hence the 'terrible twos'. Toddlers who have a lot of tantrums are usually lively children, and may be very intelligent and have a strong desire to extend their horizons to things that are still beyond them.
It is important to be aware that a child who has a tantrum is a child whose frustration has gone beyond the limits of their tolerance and the child can no longer help their behavior. A tantrum is as frightening for a child as it is unpleasant for you. The best way to deal with tantrums is to prevent them by organizing the child's life so that frustration is at a minimum. If a child is having a tantrum, it is pointless to try to remonstrate or argue - the child is not capable of any rational response. Try to prevent the child from getting hurt or causing damage by holding them gently but firmly on the floor.
As the child calms down, they will usually find comfort in your being there. A child should neither be rewarded nor punished for a tantrum. If the tantrum was because you wouldn't let them go out to play, don't change your mind once the tantrum has taken place. On the other hand, if you were about to go for a drive in the car, continue with your plans once the tantrum has ended. As the child gets bigger, stronger and feels more confident in its ability to cope with life, the tantrums will usually come to an end.
One of the most frightening forms of tantrum (for parents) is the young baby who holds its breath, possibly until it turns blue and even loses consciousness for a brief period. Older children sometimes bang their heads on the ground or the sides of their cot. Despite their obvious unpleasantness for parents, these forms of behavior do not seem to cause any harm, although a parent worried about some serious abnormality shouldn't hesitate to consult a doctor.