Book Talk: Is This a Phase? Child Development & Parent Strategies Birth to 6 Years

by Kelsey Norwood

in Making Good

is-this-a-phaseThis has been the most helpful book that I’ve found so far about child development and parenting strategies. It provides a very thorough explanation of developmental stages, which really help me understand how to handle the things my child does. It then discusses solutions and ideas for dealing with every day challenges that come with each stage.

Since my son is 2, I have been mostly reading the parts about 2 year olds, and have been reminded that children are working to exert and establish their independence at age 2. This explains much of my son’s behavior and helps me stay calm and know how to deal with the tantrums and defiance. An interesting point was made in the book that people go through this same sort of phase again when they’re teenagers. I would agree that 2 year olds and teenagers do have some behaviors and traits in common…

Chapter 5 is all about the stage from 18 months to 3 years, and here are some of my favorite points from that chapter:

  • 2 year olds want to do everything themselves – explains the repeated shouting of “do it by da-yelf!” that I keep hearing from my 2 year old
  • 2 year olds test limits to learn
  • 2 year olds need simple choices – “do you want to walk upstairs or do you want me to carry you?”
  • 2 year olds don’t understand sharing

I have really found through this book and college classes I took on child development that understanding the phase a child is going through really helps you know how to handle it successfully. This book is a wonderful resource for step-by-step phase explanations and solutions for how to handle common challenges of each.

Is This a Phase is definitely a book every parent should have in their personal library!


1 Annette W May 13, 2009 at 7:34 am

Thank you for sharing this book. It does sound like a good one!

I also have a two year old. Help used to be one of her favorite words. Now she tries to do everything on her own for several minutes before giving in and asking for help.

We have also learned that simple choices are best. We use choices to help our daughter to talk (speech disorder). So we can ask her if she wants a puzzle or a book….blue or red spoon.

I’d love to know what the book says about sharing…and how to encourage it more. :) I have a baby too! It’s funny to watch Meghan “share” certain toys…but never others.

I hope this will be a giveaway soon! :) Not that I ever win, but it really looks great!

2 Baba May 13, 2009 at 8:31 am

Thanks! We have a two year old and I know just what you mean. She is so defiant at wanting to do things for herself and stretches her limits. But you gotta love them. They are so cute at this age.

The teen independence struggle is not so bad with boys, but can be a total terror when it comes to girls. A book would really help Moms cope.

3 Angie May 14, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I wish they had these books when my kids were younger! I swear… I’m a little jealous of all the things you moms of younger kids have now!

4 susan May 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I ihave taken care of children for forty years and have raised five children of my own who are wonderful, happy, warm-hearted, repsonsible, talented, educated and independent human beings. I have mothered another child for the past 15 years. I have been a professional live-in nanny for several years.
Yes, a sense of autonomy is very important to all human beings. If a child does not feel some control, he will act out as will almost every other person of any age. Allowing the child to make choices is very important. I feel that the current lifestyle many people live is not condusive to the needs of two-year-olds. Thus the “terible two” terrible label. In a different cultures the terrible two does not exist…but the curious need for control and for independence and for establishing the boundaries of their environment does exist. Toddlers are full of wonder and they are learning so quickly. I like to think of them as “teachable two’s”. The adults in their lives may need to grow up a little in order to give them what they need. It is so difficult for parents to learn that it is not primarily all about their own egos, their own insecurities from the past, their own impluses etc. Now they are the adults, and growing up is what happens when they realize it is primarily what is best for the child that counts. Of course parents have needs and must indulge themselves, but they need to understand that a great deal of what they do for the family happiness and the good of the group is not necessarily the very best for the child at this age. For instance, the big birthday party stress and finesse for the chld is mostly about the parents and the future family photos. I am not saying it is bad. I am just saying it is not necessarily what the child is needing and wanting the MOST at that time so they need to adjust and understand some of his acting out from not having his needs met. The child needs to slow down and enjoy life. He needs to be connected to nature. He needs time with his family. Not necessarily a lot of expensive, noisy toys he can destroy while the parents enjoy telling other people what they bought for him. He can have a blast lying on a blanket blowing dandelion seeds if the parents are there focusing on him and talking to him and enjoying his discoveries with him. Remember that “your” big party is a lot about you. Take some time to involve the child, share the chores with the child, let the child make decisions. Time out can be a good parenting tool and a better option than physical abuse. However, naming and over-using it all the time becomes another social construct through which the child can maneuver his way with confidence. It may be better than nothing, but it is often not very effective. When the child loses composure, and cannot express reason, it makes sense to have him removed for a little bit to calm down. ..then the problem can be resolved. Often a child will get over something very quickly if you shut up (a lot of psychological babble and reasoning can be as intrusive and condenscending as corporal punishment.) Sometimes the child needs to see that what is bothering him can be fixed or that he can learn to accept it. There are times when he needs to learn the power of coming to his own conclusions.There are other times when “time out” is not the best solution. When the child’s day has NOT been mismanaged, when he is healthy and in his right mind and makes a very bad choice such as throwing a brick at someone’s head…time-out is not what he needs. He needs adults to make a decision that this behaviour will not fly. If he experiences a united resolute mind-set, it is amazing what he will accept. Some things should be stopped at about eight months old and they usually won’t be a constant problem. If you are still fighting over every issue, I think you are abusing your child. It isn’t good for anyone to live like that even if it makes you feel like the competent savior ready to control your child’s every move. He actually needs to learn to control himself. Your goal should not be to make something work, to get the present situation under control. This causes parents to lie, threaten, shame, or bribe. Rather each situation is an opportunity to help him LEARN above all else. When you encourage him to learn, you are helping him gradually become independent. You are allowing him to learn to listen to his own spirit, his own conscience. It is a long road to travel but so important. Think carefully about what you really want to say to your child and teach him. Think before you start trying to manipulate his behavior or the situation. If you do, you will end up saying from your heart what you really want to communicate. Keep it simple. Sometimes say nothing…just take quiet decisive action (I didn’t say never be open to listening, changing your mind or apologizing) and the child will put it all together. Amazing. Don’t always tell him how he is feeling, what he is liking, and how he can be just like you. Let him learn his own mind and heart to some gradual extent. He will pick up more from you than you could ever dream. Be big enough to want the best for him…not keep him trapped in your bad habits. Habits. Well, this is an important part. If you train the child and manage his time well, you won’t have so much concern about disciplining him because his behavior will be a lot better. This includes regular rest and sleep; regular meals of natural healthy food; regular habits of cleanliness and grooming; regular activity; regular fresh air and sunshine; regular mental stimulation and creativity; regular visits with people of all ages; and lots of loving attention. Love does cover a multitude of sins BUT loving your child is not really enough. You do need good parenting skills. After reading that list, you can see why the two-year old does not always get what he needs and why he acts out a lot. Parents are busy. So try to think about these needs. Sometimes you will need to let him have a nap even if you are thinking about getting to the store and buying a bunch of junk. Sometimes you just need to put your whims on hold and think first about the child. You will be amazed how much good this will do for the child..and for you. This is how we all grow up….by trying to do a very difficult job and by making mistakes. You will be better for it in the end. Sharing? It is true that children do not always know how to share. They learn a lot of this stuff by watching your consistent attitude and behavior. I lived near Amish families for many years. They encouraged sharing by handing things to others all the time at an early age. They are expected to find peaceful resolutions to conflicts. Children learn a lot by watching adults and seeing if your hand is open or closed in situations. They learn a lot about how to treat other people by how you talk about and think about other people. There are times to be competative…especially with oneself. Competition can be fun in a game etc. Competition and assertiveness are encouraged and learned out in the big world. Cooperation, generosity, empathy etc are human qualities that can be learned so effectively in the home when a child is young; he may never have a better time or opportunity to learn these things. Don’t shy away from these things that make us human, that make us able to have satisfying relationships, that make us able to respect ourselves and other people. When you expect your child to treat others with respect, he will respect himself more. It is so good for him. Don’t let him down. He NEEDS you to show that you care enough to expect the best from him. You would be surprised what he is capable of understanding and learning. I see 4-yr-olds acting like brats in public as a matter of course (not the rare melt-down). If your child is healthy, and he has more than one of these bratty fits more than once-in-a-blue-moon you probably have no clue. You need some parenting skills. A lot of bad behavior can be stopped around 8 months to one -year-old and then you don’t have constant degrading struggles and the negative atmosphere every time you are with your child for the next ten years. It can be better than you realize. It opens up so many more opportunities. Children observe and learn all the time. They often test their surroundings to find the limits and to understand the choices you make…to which they are subject. Don’t let them down by letting them trample all the barriers and break down all the boundaries of respect. Even if it keeps them tied more closely to you, even if it makes you feel you have a baby for a few more years, even if it makes you feel like you are always fixing every screaming fit with bribes and threats….forget it and put your child’s needs first. Often you just need to calm yourself, and take quiet action, and stand for what you believe. Usually, children respond very quickly and positively to this type of training if their needs are being met (see list above). Another aspect of sharing is the rivalry between children. It is important to try and give time to each child so that they are not misbehaving in order to get their parents’ attention. There are other keys to encouraging cooperation between the child and other children. Again, a lot of rivalry might make the child closer to YOU but the child can benefit by you letting him be close to other people. Here are some clues: Don’t interfere all the time. This is difficult but effective. Sometimes they need to work it out, or if you need to intervene for safety’s sake be slow to resolve it or take sides. NEVER compare the child to his siblings or shame him into good behavior. You can praise things in others, and that is enough for the child to get the message. (Remember to praise all your children!)Always keep your promises. Apologize if you mess up. Your word should mean something. He should be able to trust you. And last of all: allow him to contribute, to gradually learn practical skills, to curb his impulses long enough in order to perform regular habits of neatness etc. He will feel so much better about himself. If he learns to care for things, to work for things, to nurture, he will have POSITIVE ways to feel important. When a child has no other way, he will sometimes push people around and harm others every few minutes whenever he needs to feel important. Allow him to make decisions based upon consequemces. If he pushes the chair over or dumps his milk on the table, don’t talk about it and whine and do all the work. Just calmly teach him to clean it up, or put it back. In time he will have a tool to use in forming a judgement about whether he wants to do a thing or not. He will understand that there are consequences and he will be able to decide if he wants to shoulder the price of the action if he decides to carry out the behavior. This works for older children too. Once I was with a child who liked to bicker about servers at restaurants, rudely order the help around, and didn’t want to leave tips.(His father had modeled these attitudes). I encouraged him to work as a server in a local restaurant as soon as he was looking for employment. End of problem. Since that brief stint as a waiter, he has consistently been the most considerate, polite, and generous tipper I know for the past ten years. He puts many other adults to shame. Back to the subject: Allow your child to learn by allowing him to bear consequences…it is so much better than over-using time-outs. I am not saying to let him show disrespect over and over even if he is paying the price. Some things require that absolute block, the resolute “no”. But don’t overuse that position. Pick your battles carefully and make sure it is for the very important things only. Of course serious matters of respect fall into this category….like public behavior in a place of business or on a train. OK, some of you are proud that no one can tell you a thing, that you can decide how to raise your children. Well, the whole world is weary of putting up with your children.Keep them away from everyone else or consider some of the things I am saying. Yes, you have absolute authority but get off your ego trip and look with positive expectation toward what both you and your child can learn. Learning to be a better human being on a daily basis is what it is all about! Learning about yourself, learning to make better choices will be good for your child. Be gentle and patient. Don’t let your child down; expect a lot. Model forgiveness and empathy when he falters, but don’t lower the standard for yourself or for him. Teach him that a good apology has three parts or don’t apologize at all. I learned this from the book called “The Last Lecture”: 1)what I did was wrong 2)I am sorry that I hurt you 3)what can I do to make it better? Children are encouraged to be sincere, to be honest, to be truthful, to be respectful, and to be kind when they see it modeled and when it is expected of them.

5 Sue D May 18, 2009 at 11:00 am

This would be a great gift idea for new parents too– also a refresher course for us grandparents.

6 Stephanie May 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Holy Moly! I have GOT to get this book. My 2 year old is starting to drive me crazy and even just knowing that it’s a phase would be SOOOOOOO helpful, just like you said. I have to go get this book pronto.

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