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The Thinking Stage
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THINKING (Visited the first time round between 18 months – 3 years)

Truly Into toddler-dom, the child at this stage continues to be into everything, on the move and exploring the world. In addition, he begins to separate out from his key carer – to establish his own sense of self. This is a fundamental developmental milestone - and the main way he can communicate and experience a sense of separateness is by using the word ‘No!’ - “Jack, we’re going out now. Leave your toys and put your coat on” – “No!” Thus conflicts can become increasingly common during this stage as the toddler thinks increasingly for himself and also needs to test the boundaries. Through being consistent in limit-setting and helping support transitions between activities, carers affirm the youngster and help satisfy his hunger for structure.

Too many restrictions and admonishments and a lack of the appropriate affirmations can lead to frustration for the toddler – and in some instances result in him internalising the message ‘Don’t think’.

Older children and young people who, for example, are found to be regularly testing boundaries and/or being defiant towards adult authority may well benefit from revisiting the Thinking stage and’ hearing’ some of the affirmations.

"To establish the ability to think for self" is related to the child developing a sense that they have their own needs and wants that will be different to others. Expressing these and acting upon them, rather than simply accepting the thoughts, opinions, needs and wants of the big people around them, is a critical part of emotional development.
Prevouis Fact 2/3 Next Fact
Developmental Task Affirmations for the Being Stage Helpful adult/carer behaviours Indicators of possible need to revisit this stage
  • To establish ability to think for self
  • To learn to think and solve problems with cause-and-effect thinking
  • To start to give up beliefs about being the centre of the universe
  • To separate from parents without losing their security
  • To express anger and other feelings
  • To start to follow simple safety commands e.g. stop, come here, go there
  • To test reality, to push against boundaries and other people
  • To continue learning earlier tasks
  • I’m glad you’re starting to think for yourself
  • You can learn to think for yourself and others too
  • You can think and feel at the same time
  • You can know what you need and ask for help
  • You can be yourself and we will still care for you
  • It’s Ok for you to be angry, and we won’t let you hurt yourself or others
  • Help transition from one activity to another
  • Give simple clear directions, including basic safety commands
  • Be consistent in setting limits and ensuring they are kept
  • Accept all child’s feelings without getting into win-lose battles
  • Give reasons, and provide information to move child on in own thinking
  • Stroke thinking by encouragement and celebration
  • Expect child to think about own and others’ feelings
  • Non-compliant behaviour/boundary-testing
  • Oppositional/defiant behaviour
  • Tantrums
Need help understanding the table above
The developmental tasks are the jobs the child/young person needs to begin to get under their belt in order to optimise their growth. This is facilitated by the adults around him/her providing permissions via the affirmations. These tend to be communicated primarily non-verbally, examples of which are given in the ‘Helpful adult/carer behaviours’ column.

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