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"Walking It" Into The End Zone: Your Toddler's First Steps Toward Independence

"What walks on 4 legs in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and 3 in the evening?" The answer: "Man" (The Sphinx’s Riddle, Oedipus Rex). It's the natural progression of our species. We learn to roll, then we learn to hold ourselves up off the ground, then we learn to crawl, and finally, we learn to walk our own path. And for any toddler the key to independence is the ability to take those first few precious steps without any help from Mom or Dad. 

But, it's not so easy. And if it's not a physical barrier that keeps your child from taking that first step on their own, it's a psychological one. But if you want to help your child to reach this all-important milestone, it's really just a question of balance- between the body and mind. And if you, as a parent, can control your actions, nature (and a bit of time) will help your child to learn to control their own.

"To succeed, you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you."- 
Tony Dorsett

So forget the quarterback mentality that hasn't worked for you till this point, and instead think more like a cheerleader. Don't call the plays, asking you uncooperative toddler to stand up and walk every chance you get. You'll never score a touchdown that way. Instead, it's better to coax your child to continue when you see that they are ready to make a play, even if it's only for a yard or two. It's a game of inches after all, and every gain contributes to the ultimate win. Lead your child by encouraging his need to succeed, but don't pressure him to run the play down field only to risk him fumbling the ball- that's a recipe for psychological injury (fear of failure) that could sideline your kid for weeks, or even months. In other words, help your kid walk when they want to walk, but don't demand they perform on command. That doesn't work on most athletes, and it certainly doesn't work on most kids.

It's all about conditioning. You have to fine-tune the body to perform. You have to control the mind to overcome your fears. And you have to be ready to get in the game, plain and simple. You can't force your kid to walk, or run, any more than you can force him to eat his Wheaties. Every parent wants their kid to be first-string- the kid that walks, runs, and makes it into the end zone before any of their contemporaries- but slow and steady wins the overall foot race to this often elusive milestone. Heck, you're kid could go from sitting on the sidelines (unable to roll over) to being given the ball and talking it all the way down field (running) to victory. Stranger things have happened. You just have to believe. 

Sure, it's only natural for a parent to want to help their child to succeed, but sometimes you have to allow your kids to fall flat on their face if only to show them its not the end of the world. And, if they're not ready yet, all they want to know is that you'll be behind them every step of the way. That's your job- a most important one.

Just know this, not every kid is a phenom, but sooner or later, in terms of getting to step on to the field, every able kid makes the team. And that's all any dad can ask for. 

Here's some links to help you when you're unsure how to help your child reach this all important milestone:

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