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Since his birth I've done my best to make my son trust me completely as I see it the only way for him to let me make decisions on his behalf and tell him what's right and wrong. However he supervises me in everything!

If he gives me his bottle to get him milk he follows me to the kitchen to make sure I am doing it. He tells me "I go" and wants me to take him downstairs he walks backwards to make sure I am coming.

I can't recall betraying his trust in any way, the only thing about my boy is that he is very independent. Any idea if such behavior reflects lack of trust or if I am worrying about something natural?

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    Are you sure the child doesn't just want to be near you, regardless of if it's for a request or not? – user2813274 Oct 26 '14 at 17:54
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    He's going to be a manager. – Mark Adler Oct 26 '14 at 18:15
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    @MarkAdler my wife calls him "the sheriff" – Ulkoma Oct 26 '14 at 18:19
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    You're worrying about something well within the range of "normal". At this age the rule is, "If once is good, one hundred times is better". Be thou of good enchilledness. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Oct 26 '14 at 22:56
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    At this age, you should not be worried about indicators of trust. Just ensure your child has reason to trust you. You child will trust you implicitly unless you are inconsistent and break their trust. – Rory Alsop Oct 27 '14 at 9:02

11 Answers 11

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Children learn how to do things by imitating, so much of this is simple curiosity. ("How does the milk go in the bottle? Does it happen the same way every time? WOW.") But toddlers also start to realize they are independent and have some control over their world.

I wouldn't perceive this as a lack of trust, necessarily. Rather, he is checking that you fulfill his request. I imagine that there are times you refuse unreasonable requests (such as too many sweets or staying up late), and so he's trying to learn what you will and won't do for him.

Edited to add: I'm also realizing (from other comments and from considering my toddler's behavior) that part of it is imitating parenting. For example, if you tell him, "Let's go into this room," do you look to see that he's following? He's decided that's an expected part of the process, and therefore watches you! Earlier this afternoon I was filling a sippy cup for my son, and he said "Oh, good job, mommy," (the same inflection I use towards him!) and patted me on the shoulder when I handed him the cup.

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    Your last par is completely on the money I think. – jwg Oct 27 '14 at 10:50
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    I think it's exactly that. The number of times I'm now told by my 2-year old daughter "just a sec daddy, just need to finish!" is hilarious and slightly troubling. – deworde Oct 27 '14 at 11:07
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    Final para rings true. Our 3-year-old tells us she's going out of the room for a moment, but she'll be right back, so we shouldn't worry. We also do the dialogue from "Well Done, Little Bear!" pretty often. – A E Oct 27 '14 at 11:42
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    +1 This was exactly what I immediately thought when reading the question. If you (OP) watch him after telling him to do something, why wouldn't he do the same back? – Bobo Oct 27 '14 at 22:48
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Both normal and sometimes rather annoying.

Falls into the wide, wide category of things the Sears book calls "normal but bothersome toddler behaviour".

When he's a bit older he'll be refusing to believe your explanations of things, that's a fun one too.

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    Oh gosh, I remember this. My eldest spent a whole year absolutely adamant that it was impossible to have a swimming pool on a boat. Literally laughing at us for being so silly to suggest such a thing might be possible. Even when we showed him youtube videos of ships with pools he thought they were CGI. He is rather embarrassed about this now. – superluminary Mar 23 '15 at 11:57
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    @superluminary, that's a good one. Never let him forget it. :) – A E Mar 23 '15 at 12:56
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    Yes, his argument was that the boat is already IN water, so why would you put water in the boat. His reasoning is almost profound :) – superluminary Mar 23 '15 at 13:06
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I would attribute his actions to "structural tension". Structural tension is the reason we still watch a movie even when we know what's going to happen next.

Our mind is a constant prediction-machine. We're continually predicting what's going to happen next. This happens even when we're sleeping. When there is a constant sound in the background while we're sleeping, sudden silence is what is going to wake us up.

I saw the reaction video of a guy playing a first-person-shooter game once, as part of a game design discussion. He came into a virtual room and shot everything dead. Then he saw a large virtual aquarium. He shot one bullet hole at the aquarium around its mid-level. Then water starting pouring out of the aquarium at that bullet hole. The guy playing waited, waited, waited, patiently looking at the aquarium. Then when the water stopped flowing when the water finally reached the level of the bullet hole, the guy playing had the biggest smile on his face. His prediction had become true!

And while virtual reality doesn't always mimic our actual reality, and our predictions don't always come true in a virtual world, so that could explain the player's curiosity and positive reaction. But I think a similar thing could be said for young kids. It's a new world to them. Their verbal skills are getting better every day. And perhaps, when making a verbal request they can see their parent's actions as an extension of their own, and derive personal pleasure when the action is finally completed, the prediction was correct, and the structural tension is gone.

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    This is a very interesting answer. It would suggest we actually stay kids all our lives, but the sameness of situations we encounter hides it from us. – Kheldar Oct 29 '14 at 12:51
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From the moment a child begins to see beyond an arm's length, "stay curious" is their watchword. Parents are the first-born people to learn from, so they follow your example at all times. My toddler 16months old follows me to the toilet, sees me on the seat and smiles all the time. This happens at every toilet trip. Once, when I was to bath and I closed the bathroom door and tried to bath without him, he cried so much and did all he could to get in, even went as far as trying to stick his head under the door. That was the last time I locked my bathroom door. Scary stuff! Toddler = curiosity, imitation and truck loads of pure love in one tiny body. So, not to worry, just be a great parent, because it is what they see you do that they do and those things they learn from you form their basic habits and belief system for the rest of their lives.

  • +1, and loved that definiton: "Toddler = curiosity, imitation and truck loads of pure love in one tiny body" – woliveirajr Oct 29 '14 at 15:43
  • ... and a smoking pot of boiling tantrum ready to be tipped over, topped up with hunger, tiredness, and the frustrations of the world as seen by a 2 year old. – Phil H Oct 30 '14 at 9:25
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Its not that he doesn't trust you. He may just be curious. My 12 month twins always crawl and try to see what I am doing. Young children and toddlers are wonderful creatures full of curiosity.

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Our almost two year old does this, and I've never thought of it as a matter of trust (maybe I should!). I just think that when he's learnt how to do something, he's just saying and checking the procedure out of verification and the joy of knowing it. If we deviate from the procedure, he gets upset because he doesn't understand.

While I'm happy with him doing it for good reasons and think it's healthy, it takes a lot of getting used to and tongue-biting not criticising him, as it's kind of irritating, but doing so, I guess that's why we're called the adults, :-) . It's one of those situations where you have to remember that he's only a kid.

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    I don't find it irritating, this is way easier than him peeing on me, you are a father and you know what I mean. I am just worried that my son does not trust me, thanks for letting me that it's not only y son who does this – Ulkoma Oct 26 '14 at 20:11
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I think you're reading way too much into it.

He's 2.

He might be doing it because he likes to be with his father.

He might be doing it because he's eager to continue with whatever he was waiting for you to do something for.

He might just be habitually following people who are doing something for him because he's received positive reinforcement when doing that before, i.e. such as praise or adoration, or just a simple level of comradery.

I wouldn't be concerned. I would be more happy that my son likes to take such initiative in the first place.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that time and cause and effect are very fluid concepts (as NoAnswer said, abstract) in the minds of children. They don't, in general, understand the idea of "just a minute" or "in a moment." They have a need/want, and either it's satisfied or it isn't. They don't have a "progress bar."

One thing I see a lot of first-time parents do is try to immediately satisfy every request that comes from their child's lips. This sets bad precedents for the future. It's important that they don't feel they can't trust you, but they also need to learn about patience, especially if you're in the middle of doing something important (watching a favorite TV show is not one of those important things, generally speaking; tending to a hot stove while cooking probably is). Sometimes it's just as important that you communicate to them that you recognize they are waiting for you, because often times kids also just want to know that they are still important enough that you notice them.

Either way, don't sweat it too much, especially if you have more than one and the others don't act like him. Each child has a different personality!

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This is perfectly normal, healthy behaviour for your child. He watches you in order to learn from you. Please don't do anything to make him feel this behaviour is in any way wrong. Simply go about your tasks with your little shadow in tow.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but perhaps it would be worthwhile for you to try to understand your own apparent need for validation from your toddler.

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    I'm not quite sure that worrying about a new behavior is the same as needing validation from a toddler. I think all new parents have some questions about what is normal. It's good to have a place to come and ask. – anongoodnurse Oct 28 '14 at 7:31
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    I'm sorry if my comment may have caused offence. Yes all parents have questions about the behavior of their children. I just found your interpretation of his behavior quite unusual. I'm sure you're doing just fine. Maintaining your child's trust is so important. They need to know that you'll always tell them the truth, and will always do as you say. Always be realistic with your rewards and reasonable with your punishments, because you have to follow through with both. – user3326185 Nov 6 '14 at 5:23
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    I should just add that when I say reasonable punishment, I mean something like removing television privileges for an afternoon. Removing television privileges for a week (or even a couple of days) is probably unreasonable, and ineffective for a young child. – user3326185 Nov 6 '14 at 6:35
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I agree with the other answers but want to add something: Up to a certain point in development children can't think abstract. If you leave the room, you're gone. Not like in "gone from the room" but like in "gone out of existence". The abstract thinking "I asked dad for something to drink, so he will go and fetch it and be right back with what I asked for" might simply be too much. Even if kids start to show abstract thinking it's not an on-or-off learned thing.

At some point you can hide a ball under a cup while a kid is watching. Then ask the kid where is the ball. Small kids may answer "away" even though they just saw it vanish under the cup. Kids with more experience may still answer "don't know", if you wait some time before you ask. If you ask in turn: "Where did you see the ball last?" The kid is likely to remember. But it's still a long way to "Either it's under the cup or you moved it." Actually some never learn the last part and still wonder how the woman can wiggle "her" feet although the magician just parted her with that saw.

  • Even so, there are some exceptions. A teacher I knew tried playing that game with my one year old, and you could watch his eyes track where her hands went with the keys she was trying to hide the entire time. To this day (18 years later), I still have a heck of a time surprising that kid! :) – Jason M. Batchelor Oct 29 '14 at 15:12
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    Your answer involves the capacity to appreciate the permanence of objects. Object permanence can sometimes be seen in infants. A two year old certainly has mastered this. Also, despite the fact that memories formed at this age are not 'permanent', they are retained as memories for progressively longer periods, even at this age. – anongoodnurse Nov 6 '14 at 6:02
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I would say that he simply loves you and wants to participate in your activities at least by presence only. Later he will try to help.

It seems, you do not trust much in him and are trying bad explanation instead of a good one. Of course, you are expecting the same distrust from his side. But now he trusts you much more than you trust him.

If you want people to trust you, start from trusting them.

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