Developing young children’s emotional security is a process that starts at birth. Even before we think they can realize their surroundings or have an opinion, babies are already learning about what they can expect from the world from the experiences they have. Babies learn to feel either secure or insecure in the world based on the relationships they have with the people who care for them. Babies who know they have an adult they can rely on for comfort and care are more likely to be secure unlike those who experience inconsistent or unresponsive care.
Why is it important to care about a child’s emotional security? Children’s social emotional state is connected to other important aspects of their lives, such as their ability to explore and learn. It also involves their ability to make friends, play and face difficult situation later in life.
What you can do:
Children who experience a pattern of responsive and consistent care from their parents and caregivers are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, of others and the world around them. They are then more likely to have self-confidence, trust others and explore and learn new situations. On the other hand, children who experience unresponsive treatment from parents and caregivers are likely to have behavior problems, act out and have feelings of mistrust and low self-esteem.
Here are some ways to help your child develop a positive feeling of emotional security.
Contrary to popular belief you can’t spoil a child by being responsive. It’s how you respond that makes a difference. Your baby is sending you signals and cues all the time. Take time to observe your baby and find out what she wants. Let your child know you see her cues for help and attention. Just by giving her attention that you know she needs something is a great first step. Next it’s important to respond appropriately to what she needs. Is she pointing to a toy to play with you? Is she hungry? Does she need to sleep? Does she need a hug?
Remember that no good comes from leaving a baby or young child “cry it out”. All young children have difficulty controlling their emotions your baby needs your help to calm down. Not responding to a cry sends a signal to your baby that she can’t count on the adults and caregivers around her. On the other hand when children feel understood and responded to they learn to develop trusting relationships and good self-esteem.
- Support your child’s development
Almost everything young children experience is new for them. That’s important to keep in mind when your little one is struggling to put on his jacket or spills while pouring his juice. These and many more are skills your little one needs to learn and learning never happens without mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are met with encouragement, positivity and a solution. Not criticism and punishment.
- Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while letting him know you are there to support if things get too tough.
- Try not to be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away from exploring new things.
- Letting your child do things on his own and learn through trial an error can help him feel more independent, self-reliant and confident in approaching new or tough situations.
- Communicate with your child
Communication is extremely important even with young children who can’t form full sentences of their own yet. While your child might not be able to fully express himself verbally, he can understand you very well. Let your child know what to expect to increase his feeling of security by communicating with your child and explaining things. Tell him why you will leave him at daycare? Mommy has to go to work. Where will you go? Mommy will go to work. When will you return? I’ll pick you up after snack time. Make sure to put your words in terms your child can understand and to stick to what you say! With repetition your child will develop a sense of trust and confidence.
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Remember that your child is experiencing things for the first time and has not yet mastered basic skills. How you respond is important to how your child views himself and his abilities. Mastering a skill can only come by practice. Give your child opportunities to do things on his own and be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence, positive self-esteem and encourages him to try again. The same applies when resolving conflict. Give your child a chance to explain, propose a solution and try it out. If it doesn’t work out then discuss why he thinks things went wrong and what he could do instead. It can be quite surprising the smart answers 3 and 4-year-old come up with once given a chance.
These are just a few ideas to help your child feel confident and emotionally secure. I hope they help you out in making your parenting experience as happy as can be.
Image from onemorephoto/flickr
Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhaustive, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes! When you have toddler twins it’s normal that you have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins, should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?
How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences. Start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.
There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.
What you can do:
- Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
- Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
- Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
- Spousal and family support. It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.
Separate or Same Classroom?
The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
This article as features in Arabic on Supermama
Photo from Michaela Spodniakova
As a parent, sex education is a conversation that you’d most likely try to avoid. If you’re a parent of a toddler or preschooler you may think that you can avoid this talk for at least a few years. This is not exactly true. Sex education can start at any age and at the pace your child sets with his curiosity and questions.
Sex education is important for children of all ages. Young children need to learn about their own bodies to help them feel comfortable with themselves, understand their feelings and protect themselves against unwanted touch. How he or she feels about sex and the body can have a lifelong effect into their sexual relationships as grownups. Adults who are confident and knowledgeable about their bodies and their sexual needs tend to lead a healthier sex life and that this infrastructure is placed throughout childhood.
Introduce your child to his body through everyday activities like bath time or diaper changing by teaching your child the proper names for his or her sex organs. Teach your child that no one (or only certain people like mommy or daddy) are allowed to touch the private parts of his or her body and to tell you if someone tries to touch them. Start at a young age and add it to your regular instructions with your child. Don’t emphasize these instructions with an exaggerated sense of urgency or anxiety since that may cause your child to feel guilty or fearful of telling you if he or she does encounter that situation.
Children under 4 are naturally curious about their and other people’s bodies. At around 3 years, children start noticing that boys and girls have different genitals and can often be seen playing “doctor” to examine each other’s bodies. This form of exploration is very different from adults’ sexuality and is harmless when only young children are involved but you can choose to set the limits you see fit. When reminding your child that certain parts of his body are for him alone and not for others to touch, try to remain calm but firm when sending your child the message. If your child feels like he or she has done something really bad it may cause feelings of shame. He or she may start feeling guilty about these natural feelings of curiosity and try to explore without getting caught.
Some examples of common sexual behavior from children under 4:
■ Exploring, touching, rubbing or showing private parts, in public and in private
■ Trying to touch mother’s or other women’s breasts
■ Taking off clothes and being naked or trying to see others while they are naked
■ Asking questions and talking about their own—and others’—bodies and bodily functions to adults and other children their own age
When your child asks questions about his or her body or even your own don’t feel embarrassed, laugh or avoid the question. Take these questions seriously, your child looks to you for honest answers that teach him about the world. Give your child simple and age appropriate answers. There’s no need to go into a lot of detail, if your child wants to know more, he or she will ask.
Here are some examples of questions young children ask and how you could answer them
- Why doesn’t everyone have a penis? you can simply reply by saying that boys and girls have different bodies. Boys have a penis but girls don’t.
- Why is there hair down there? you can say that bodies change as we grow older and this is one of the changes.
- How do girls go “pee-pee”? Girls have a different part in their body than the penis that they can use to go to the toilet.
- Where do babies come from? this can be a tough question but try to give a simple and honest answer. You can start by saying that babies grow in a special place in the mommy’s tummy. If your child is still curious, you can elaborate that when a mommy and daddy love each other they come together and make a baby. Answer your child’s questions as long as she/he is asking them.
- Why do mommies have breasts but daddies don’t? “When boys and girls grow up to be big like daddy and mommy, their bodies change and become different”.You can point out other differences like daddy has a beard or moustache but mommy doesn’t. Let her know that you will answer any other questions or thoughts she has about this so she can come to you.
These conversations may feel awkward at time but remember that your child relies on you for information on how the world works.To make things easier you can try to include books in your regular reading which are designed specifically for teaching young children about their body and private parts. This can make approaching the topic much more natural and relaxed. It’s a good source of information for your child as well as showing you what is age appropriate information. Remember you are setting the stage for open conversation that will last till the critical years in adolescence and early adulthood when sexuality becomes a main topic for most young men and women.
Reading with your Child
My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky
“The story is a simple scenario involving a gender neutral child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend. The powerful message really comes through when the youngster tells on the offender and the parents praise the child’s bravery. The last page shows a proud, smiling child doing a “strong arm” pose. The text assures them that it wasn’t their fault and by speaking out the child will continue to grow big and strong. It is a compelling and uplifting message.“
References and Helpful Resourcs
This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama
Every parent knows that kids have a tendency to say the strangest things at the most inappropriate times. But what happens when your child picks up on some bad language? Young children can be exposed to inappropriate language from several sources; an older sibling, TV or even their own parents who may occasionally slip up. Usually young children don’t understand that a given word is “bad” or “good”, they just repeat words they hear because that’s how they get to learn about social interaction and develop their language skills. If a word gets attention (encouragement or punishment) that sends a message that your child is doing something right he’s most likely to repeat it to get your attention.
If your child has picked up a few inappropriate words don’t guilt yourself. Children are exposed to so many sources of language and information it’s quite rare that a child won’t hear any bad language while growing up. There are many things you can do to prevent your child from acquiring bad language and redirecting him to more appropriate words.
What you can do:
- Be a role model. Watch out for your own language in certain situations. Words can slip out when we’re angry or frustrated like when we’re stuck in traffic or someone cuts us off while driving.
- Monitor what your child is watching on TV. Avoid shows that could contain inappropriate content so that your child isn’t exposed to inappropriate language.
- Don’t give extra attention when your child uses a bad word. As we mentioned children often repeat inappropriate words because of the attention they get. Calmly but firmly let your child know that this word is not OK and show him how to better express himself if he’s feeling frustrated or upset.
- Let your child know that words can be hurtful when he/she calls someone a bad name. Try to help your child understand that some words can make people feel bad.
- Avoid labeling your child as bad when he uses inappropriate language. It’s important to make it clear that it’s the language that is bad not your child. Always give your child an alternative. It may be obvious to us as adults but remember that your child is still learning all the Dos and Don’ts of social interaction.
- Give an age appropriate response. Young children most often repeat words without knowing their meaning. To them repeating bad language holds the same value as repeating any other word that got attention. Don’t over react by punishing your child or shouting, this will only make your child focus on these words and let him know this is an effective (although negative) way of getting your attention.
- Praise more appropriate words and actions done by your child. You don’t have to go overboard but giving your child a smile or saying “that’s nice of you” lets her know she’s on the right track and that what she’s doing is encouraged.
These are just some suggestions to help make your life easier. You have to decide what works best with your child and family. Remember to follow through and be consistent. Patience is important especially when you change your behavior, it will take time for your child to respond and get used to the new pattern.
Photo by Mindaugas Danys
This article was featured in Arabic on Supermama
You may be very familiar with this situation; your child is doing something you explicitly told him not to yet again! It seems that communication and negotiation just don’t seem to work with your child. The solution? you resort to spanking. Spanking might seem to stop your child’s misbehavior, for now, but it isn’t helping in the long run! Spanking may have short term effects in stopping your child’s misbehavior but it certainly doesn’t have any positive long term effects. In fact, research has shown that the use of physical punishment such as spanking can have negative long term effects on your child.
Studies have found that children who experience physical punishment may experience low self-esteem and lower self-worth. There is a risk they may perform worse academically and socially than children who never experience physical punishment. They tend to be more aggressive with other children and may have more behavioral and conduct problems.
The use of physical punishment with your child sends a message that it’s OK to use physical aggression when interacting with other people instead of giving him tools for effective communication. Research has shown that children who experience physical punishment are more likely to be aggressive themselves. Which may mean the use of aggression with friends at school, later spousal relationships and with their own children.
So far science has shown that no good can come from using physical punishment with young chidren. On the other hand, positive methods that include parental warmth and sensitivity seem to be more effective in reducing conduct problems than harsh parenting. Children who tend to misbehave seem to be less sensitive to punishment but more sensitive to reward in terms of parental warmth.
So, what should you do to deal with your child’s misbehavior instead of spanking?
First, find out why your child is misbehaving:
- Does he get attention from you when he does positive things or is it only when he misbehaves? Is he trying to get attention from a younger sibling? Is there a reoccuring pattern where your child’s misbehavior seems to escalate?
- Understanding the reason behind your child’s misbehavior is a crucial first step. Remember that your child isn’t out to get you, the reasons most likely have to do with getting your attention.
- Children at this age might easily get frustrated if they don’t get to do things for themselves. A need for independence is for young children and is a healthy feeling to encourage.
- Know that impulse control is extremely difficult for young children. That’s because the part in their brain (prefrontal cortex) in charge of controlling their impulses has not yet developed, this makes it hard for young children to think about what they’re doing in advance or making decision.
Second, there are alternatives to physical punishment when dealing with your child’s misbehavior:
- Start with yourself: Always give yourself a few seconds before reacting to your child. If he is not harming himself or others you can afford a few seconds to assess the situation and decide how to react calmly. A calm reaction can have a more effective impact than an angry response.
- Restate rules: Try to have few clear rules that are mostly related to safety. That way your child will have clear boundaries that he knows shouldn’t be crossed.
- Use positive sentences: Avoid using “No” too much so it doesn’t lose its effectiveness. Instead start sentences positively like “Let’s go play in the sandbox instead of in the mud”.
- Persistence: When disciplining your child it’s important to be patient and remember that children learn with repetition. So even if your child doesn’t seem to get it this time, he eventually will.
- Consistence: It’s also important to stick to what you say. If you decide that you have to go home because your child is not using his bicycle in the bicycle area then stick to your decision and follow through. Don’t use threats to get your child to do what you want. If your child decides to test your limits, that can turn into a power struggle and your child will eventually learn that if he pushes hard enough he will get his way.
- Compromise: Remember that your child has a natural need to feel independent at this young age so try to compromise when possible. This can mean giving choices in what to wear, eat or when to have a bath. Make sure you limit the choices to two options so it’s easy for your child to make a decision and that the choices are acceptable to you so you can follow through.
- Patience: The most important tool of all is to be patient. Remember that everything is new for your child. So many new experiences and so much information that he has to remember it can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating, especially that his mental, physical, emotional, language and social abilities are still developing.
I hope this new understanding on spanking will give you a new perspective on discipline and that our positive discipline tools can help you in dealing with your young child’s difficult behavior.
Photo Credit: Ethic Soup