Two-year-old Ava feels shy and cautious at birthday parties. Ava’s mother, Joan, tries everything she can to make Ava comfortable, but is getting frustrated when Ava clings to her at parties. Ava is a quiet child, but this behavior is extreme. Joan is an outgoing person who thinks that perhaps Ava is overwhelmed by too many people, a busy environment, or the high level of noise. She finally sits down with Ava and they make a birthday plan together.
Joan now remembers to talk to Ava in advance about the details of the party, putting the experience into a simple sequence of events to help Ava know what to expect. Joan tells Ava where the party will be and who will be there. They make a plan to arrive early and before the other guests. This extra time gives Ava a chance to get comfortable with herself in the space and makes her feel more in control. Joan allows Ava to be in charge and decide if she wants to join the festivities or just sit on the side and watch the action. This plan honors Ava’s shy temperament, as well as reduces her stress so that she can begin to feel calm enough to enjoy parts of the party.
Joan stops pressuring Ava to conform to her wishes, realizing that when Ava is ready or older she may become more comfortable at parties. This realization alleviates Joan’s stress, so she can relax and not feel embarrassed or angered by Ava’s behavior. Joan’s acknowledgement of Ava’s temperament deepens their mother/daughter relationship by allowing both Joan and Ava to get their individual needs met while staying calm and connected.
Remember, as your child grows older she will gradually tolerate more challenges, and you’ll find less and less need to adapt to her needs. A parent who satisfies all of her child’s needs perfectly and immediately robs her of the opportunity to learn age-appropriate behaviors, develop new skills, and delay gratification.