Monday, March 29, 2010

Should I Be Worried?

The Questions:

Hi Jane,
I just found your blog and am so glad I did. I have an AA in Child Development and have found your answers so satisfying on what I believe is the right way in child rearing. So despite all this I still worry constantly about my child (it's always so much different when it's your own). My 2 1/2 year old I've noticed is such a follower. When we go to the park he just watches the other kids and then does what they do. Once when camping my friends little guy wandered into some bushes and my son followed. The problem with that was that my son isn't as advanced as other kids his age. He didn't walk till he was 18 months and doesn't get around as well as his peers. So when he follows others he often gets himself into precarious situations. So I know that some kids learn by watching others but my main concern is how do I help him become more independent. I'm worried that if he stays a follower that it could lead him to trouble when he's a teenager and bad choices are around.

My second concern is that he idolizes another mom (my best friend to be exact) and although I love her a lot, I feel jealous when my two year old goes to her for more juice or for whatever help he needs. And she's very helping so maybe he just sees her as a helper I don't know. Even in his prayers he'll sometimes forget to say thank you for momma but he rarely needs prompting to say thank you for the other mom. Perhaps it's because she is his best friends mom. I have 2 classes that I'm taking this semester and I really just want to be home with my son and my baby (he's 9 mo). Is this behavior happening b/c he doesn't feel that I'm there to help him? I'm just really confused and could use some encouragement and ideas.
Thanks so much and keep up the great blog!!

The Answers:

Dear Anonymous,

In the situations you've described, I want to put your mind at ease. Your son is very normal and will outgrow both tendencies. Just keep a close eye on him while he's two and three so he doesn't wander off. But he will gradually assert more and more of his own independence as he grows. Maybe he's just very social!

In the case of his seeming preference for your friend, that's ok too. I've come to value every person who plays a positive role in my children's lives and to enjoy their special relationships. Your son has probably figured out that your friend caters to his needs more than you do (like a grandma). But over the long haul, you are his anchor. Especially, during this hectic time in your own life, be grateful for the extra ring of support.

Hopefully you'll be home full-time soon as you'd like.
With Love,


  1. I'd like to offer a thought on your son's "follower" tendencies. I was the same way when I was little, almost to an extreme. I believe it stemmed a lot from having a sensitive/creative personality. I took a long time making decisions, pondered rather than acted, and found security in decisive friends who brought out my talkative, playful side.

    There was nothing wrong with this, and it was just (and still is) my personality. I still analyze thoroughly before taking action, I still hesitate in social situations, and generally, I still make friends gently and carefully.

    As a child, I needed a thorough set of instructions before I felt confident enough to take action. I am the same way today. This meant that I was nervous in social situations, but thrived in a classroom environment. Your son may be waiting for the "how-to," and when he sees children "doing their thing" at the park, it translates as a set of instructions, so he mimics them, seeking confidence and approval in what he is doing.

    There were a few things my parents did for me, though, that helped to balance these predisposed tendencies, and that have aided me in numerous ways as I've grown into an adult.

    1. My parents helped me balance my time with certain friends in the neighborhood. Children who were forceful, overbearing, or manipulative were not a good match for me, and affected me negatively because of my "follower" tendencies. So my folks stepped in when they noticed I was being pushed around. They also helped me nurture friendships with children who were compassionate, yet decisive.

    2. They taught me how to say "no" to friends who were too pushy. I didn't know how to stick up for myself on my own, and my parents noticed this. So my mom and I had "practice sessions" where she would help me dialogue how to say, "I think it's time for me to go home, now" or "I have an idea for a game, today. Would you like to try my idea?" I was only five or six. Oftentimes, children DO want to take the lead, they just don't know how to express it.

    3. My mother taught me how to use other personality traits as tools, even though they weren't in my natural repetoire. She is naturally decisive and a leader. She loved me and accepted me just the way I was, as her child, and didn't try to make me into her. But at the same time, she discussed with me how I could try taking the lead, how to thrive in a group setting, and how to make my own decisions. This helped me a lot, and I am very grateful to her for this.

    As I grew up, I used the tools my parents taught me. When I got into junior high school, I started growing into a confident, compassionate leader who made my own decisions and thrived in various social settings. I was never a problem teenager, and it was mostly because my parents maintained a loving, open relationship with me, and had helped me develop a strong conscience. It didn't matter that I had follower tendencies; I wanted to do what was right on my own when I got to that age.

    As an adult, I retain these learned qualities. I have learned how to take the lead when necessary, I am in management now, and I think my slower, more methodical learning style has actually benefitted me when making thorough decisions.

    Your son might be the same way, and what may seem like a weakness may actually benefit him as a strength when he gets older!

    I think he will gain confidence as he grows. Right now maybe he's just catching up in his development, as you mentioned. He will naturally begin asserting his own desires and ideas, especially as he makes friends who are kind, with whom he feels secure.

  2. I really appreciate this post. We have the same issues with my 5-year-old, and this is something that my husband and I are constantly concerned about. It's reassuring to know there are other kids just like him. :) You have to admit, though, they are a very special breed.

    BJAHLSTROM, thank you so much for your ideas. I'm going to start working on that with our son.


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