For the first year of your child's life, he or she is with you constantly, being carried, fed, rocked, cradled, changed and soothed by you. So it can feel a little unsettling when, a year or two later, you have to start allowing your child a bit of freedom and independence. Ultimately, relinquishing some control is beneficial to your child's development. To understand when it's best to give your little one space, keep the following ideas in mind:
1. Allow your child time to deal with emotions before asking him or her to discuss them. Whenever you sense something is wrong with your child, you probably want to talk about it. But just because you're ready for some dialogue, that doesn't mean your kid is. If something's amiss, give your child a little bit of time to process his or her emotions before you swoop in with conversation. Kids often need to work things out in their own minds -- whether thinking it through or writing about it in a journal -- before going to a parent or other adult for help.
2. Provide space for your child to develop decision-making skills and resourcefulness. Let your child know you respect his or her choices by giving him or her autonomy to make smaller, less consequential decisions. For instance, allow your youngster to choose his or her own outfit for the day -- without intervening [source: Thompson]. You can guide your child to smart choices, but don't make every single decision for him or her.
3. Don't give your child carte blanche. While you don't want to micromanage your little one, you also don't want to allow him or her to engage in activities that are physically or emotionally harmful. Remember that you're still the parent, and the basic rules you've set for your child are always in place.
4. How you give your child space now can affect how he or she will deal with stress down the road. An adult who goes for a run when angry or takes a hot bath when upset is probably a person whose parents taught him or her how to deal with negative emotions in a positive, appropriate way [source: Kurcinka]. To pass this skill on to your child, focus on showing him or her how to remain calm during a stressful situation. This method tends to encourage more effective coping skills than forced timeouts.
As your child grows older, he or she will need additional space. Keep reading to find out more.