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How Toddlers Deal with Falls

Out of the corner of your eye you see your child trip and fall. There's a moment of silence. Your instinct tells you she's probably fine, but you know that if she detects even a glimmer of concert, she'll wail. Why?

Starting around her first birthday, your toddler relies on your reaction to gauge how she should respond in uncertain situations, says Ross Thompson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. Your facial expressions are her cues  -- and they're contagious. Odds are that if you're smiley or stoic, she will be, too  -- unless she's really hurt or scared. If that's the case, just give her the help she needs, but do it as calmly as possible.

As she gets older, though, she discovers that she can manipulate her reactions to get the desired one from you, like by exaggerating her pain to score some sympathy. Call her on it  -- either seriously ("Let me see. No, you're fine now") or humorously ("Oh, really, Drama Queen?")  -- to help hone her coping skills.

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