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Baby's First Steps: On Shaky Ground

Learn what your toddler's fears and motivations are when he is learning to walk.

Baby's First Steps: On Shaky Ground


Your baby needs constant supervision throughout the second year. Your child is not only mobile now, but also full of curiosity and wonder. So if you leave your crawler or toddler alone in a room—even just for a minute to answer the phone or get yourself a glass of water—she can quickly get into trouble. She'll empty out your rack of CDs or videos and somehow remove each one from its case. She'll dump wastepaper baskets. She'll pull things down from tables and other surfaces. So keep an eye on the scamp.

One frustrating aspect of early toddlers—especially to parents who don't understand the motivation behind it—is their apparent contrariness about walking. When you want to walk, your toddler doesn't, but as soon as you stop and settle down somewhere, that's when she decides to scoot away.

Contrary to appearances, however, your toddler is not trying to give you a hard time or drive you crazy. (That won't come for another dozen years or so.) She simply needs you to be settled in one place before she feels secure enough to venture off on her own. A toddler is like a homing pigeon—and you're the rooftop that serves as home base. With you securely in place, your toddler will wander away from you and then come back. Even if her back is turned, she knows where you are and how to get back to you. (Actually, if you move, even to a place where your child can still see you, it will throw her off. She may freeze in place and break into tears.)

When you want to go, however, that's when your toddler will suddenly decide to stop walking. She'll raise her arms up toward you and plead with you, "Carry me!" Your child is not being "lazy" or "unwilling" to cooperate. She simply cannot keep up with you when you are walking-a fact that makes her feel extremely insecure.

Your toddler fears separation from you—losing you—more than anything else in the world. She needs to stay close to you, but she can't do it by walking next to you or by following you. That's why your toddler stops dead in her tracks and wants you to carry her whenever you take her hand and try to walk. She can't manage any other way—and won't for another two years. Don't bother wasting energy by getting angry at your child for "not cooperating." Just remember to bring a stroller with you long after your baby has started walking.

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