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Child Developmental Topic Needing help from big people Stages: 3 to 5 years

What’s going on for baby?

By age 3, tamariki are better at recognising and expressing their emotions.

Their behaviour is a window into their world, and shows how they’re coping with the day-to-day realities of their lives.

They don’t yet have all the skills to solve problems and get what they need by reasonable and acceptable means, so they’ll need help when things go wrong for them.

For example, they might be using the toilet independently or they may still need help. How adults help with this learning can impact greatly on the level of progress they make.

Changes in their environment can have an impact on their toileting progress and may even see them regressing to wetting and soiling themselves. A new sibling arriving, a new home or starting at an early childhood education centre can all upset their toileting progress.

Sometimes a child finds themself in a new home with a new family caring for them. This is likely the result of some crisis and may see them suffering from grief, loss or trauma. They may be obviously upset, angry, unhappy or withdrawn, or seemingly OK, but struggling under the surface.

How can parents and whānau help?

  • Build a safe and secure world for tamariki, even if that wasn’t what dad and mum experienced growing up.
  • Be warm and caring towards them, as loving relationships are the foundation for their wellbeing and development. If a child’s trust is shaken, their behaviour may be negatively affected.
  • Understand that sometimes they will need extra support and stability, especially if they’ve experienced trauma or are upset and their behaviour is difficult. Even when it’s hard to give, they need love and kindness, not punishment.
  • Revisit SKIP’s ‘ngā tohu whānau’ (the 6 principles of effective discipline’). These will help give tamariki the structure and discipline they need to grow into happy and capable adults.
  • Help them to learn and use language to say how they’re feeling. This way they’re less likely to ‘act out’ with challenging behaviour, or bottle up their emotions when there are disputes.
  • Whatever a child’s circumstances, those caring for them can provide a healthy, stable and positive environment by using ngā tohu whānau to guide them. It can take a great deal of effort and perseverance by the caregiver, but it is absolutely worth it.

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