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
One of the points I’ve found parents have trouble dealing with is how to talk to their children while disciplining them. Should they be calm or loud? Should they tell their child or ask? Through my experience with kids and their parents I’ve found that how you talk to your child can make a world of difference. Positive parenting techniques also encourage certain techniques to help you communicate more effectively with your child. Here are a few tips that can help you communicate positively with your child and as a result help you reduce or eliminate power struggles or conflict and have a relaxing home environment.
1. Get down to your child’s eye level. Your body language is just as important as your verbal language when communicating with your child.
- What you can do:
Make sure you are at your child’s eye level when talking by having eye contact or by getting down to your child’s height. He/she is more likely to listen to what you have to say when you have eye contact then when you are shouting overhead or from the end of the room. Speaking over your child can also make him feel intimidated or scared. However speaking at your child’s eye level lets him know that you take him seriously and that it’s a two way conversation.
2. Be firm and calm. Shouting usually comes from a source of anger which can causes irrational thinking and saying things we’ll later regret. Your child deserves the same respect you expect him to show you and the best way to do that is to model the right behavior. Shouting
- What you can do:
If your child is safe and isn’t harming himself or other children you can afford to give yourself a few seconds before reacting. These few seconds can help you calm down and think about how you’re going to react. Keep your tone calm but firm when talking to your child about his misbehavior. You shouldn’t be mean or aggressive but avoid using pet names, this is a serious situation and should be handled accordingly to send your child the right message.
3. Avoid saying “No”. Saying “No” too much will lose it’s effectiveness, after a while your child won’t pay as much attention if you say “No” which will probably lead to you escalating your response and possibly resorting to shouting or more aggressive behavior to emphasize the point
- What you can do:
First, keep “No” for few important rules that have to do with safety or important household rules like touching the oven or standing on the table. Second, when you want to tell your child that he can’t do something phrase your message positively. Check point #2.
4. Avoid negative phrases. When you start with a negative statement that just makes your child feel guilty but doesn’t tell him why you’re upset.
- What you can do:
Start your sentence positively, let your child know why you’re upset and most importantly redirect to an acceptable activity. Instead of “Stop grabbing my paper!!!” try “I can’t read my paper while you grab it, you can get a story and read it next to me or you can wait till I’m done and we can play together”.
5. State don’t ask. It’s important to respect your child’s individual wants and needs but in certain situation asking your child to behave just sets you up to accepting “No” from your child as an answer!
- What you can do:
Children pick up on subtle differences in speech, if you phrase your sentence as a question your child has the right to say No as an answer. I’m not telling you to instruct or force your child but you can try phrasing your sentence as a statement or option. Give your child choices that are fair to her and acceptable for you. Instead of “How about you stop banging on the table now Sweetie” you can try “Sarah, you’re banging too loud and it’s hurting mommy’s ears. You can stop banging or we can go outside where it’s better to have loud noises ” if going outside isn’t an option then redirect your child to other acceptable behavior you can read more on redirection here. Remember not to overuse this technique so it doesn’t turn into instructing your child about everything.
6. Always show love. Even though you might be furious with your child for whatever he’s done don’t let that interfere or get confused with showing him that you love him. Often when parents shout or ignore children on purpose their child starts feeling guilty and may fear you won’t love him anymore. Which probably results in low self confidence or more misbehavior to get your attention.
- What you can do:
Make it a point to let your child know you still care, even when your addressing his misbehavior. Acknowledge his feelings that he was hurt, angry or tired and that’s why he acted out. Separate his misbehavior from him as a person. Using phrases like “stop being naughty” tells him that he’s the bad person not that his behavior is bad. Make sure you are clear that you are talking about his behavior “It’s not OK to hit others”.
Listen to his side of the story. Don’t automatically go into punishment mode, it’s important to understand why your child misbehaved and for him to explain himself. This helps you avoid similar situations in the future and lets your child know his feelings matter.
Instead of enforcing consequences help your child reach a conclusion to why his behavior is not OK. How would he feel if someone hit him? What could he have done instead?
Remember that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that your child has her own opinion and interests and work towards a situation where everyone leaves satisfied. The goal is to have a mutually respected relationship between you and your child that fosters her independence and confidence. I hope these tips help you enhance your positive relationship with your child.
Photo from Allparentstalk.com and blendedfamilytoday.blogspot.com
This article was featured in Mother&Child in English and Arabic
One of the things I’m most passionate about is helping parents communicate with their child. I realize it can be frustrating sometimes when you say things over and over again and your child ” just doesn’t listen!”. Your child is listening, his brain at this stage just works differently than yours. As adults we usually expect children to fit into our schedules, lives and world. Children are people too and sometimes we have to make changes in ourselves to accommodate our kids!
Some Things you Need to Know
- You need to realize that children are different, even your own! Each child has a different personality and temperament which is apparent from birth. There is no “one rule fits all”. As parents, you need to look at your child(ren) and adapt what works best with his character.
- Your toddler or 3-year-old isn’t out to get you! It may seem that your child “just isn’t listening“, however you should know that at this age impulse control is still a developing skill and is very difficult for your child to control. That’s because the part in the brain (frontal lobes) necessary for controlling impulse is still developing and will not be well developed till age 7.
- Take time to reflect on your parenting strategy; how is your current communication with your child? do you find your self saying “No” and yelling more than you would like?
How to Communicate Positively and Effectively
- Get down to your child’s eye level. This makes it easier to get and maintain your child’s attention. Most likely when you’re shouting out something overhead your child will have completely missed that you’re talking to him.
- Give your child a chance to explain and listen. If your child has misbehaved give him a chance to explain before jumping to conclusions. If your child doesn’t have the words to express himself you can supply him with short yes/no questions to understand what happened. Restate what you understood back to your child in short clear sentences to avoid misunderstanding. By taking his feelings seriously you’re showing him you care about his point of view and that his thoughts matter.
- Avoid feelings of guilt or shame. At this age children are very sensitive of their actions. It may seem easy to shame your child into doing something “you make a mess every time you feed yourself, I’ll do it for you!” but this strategy may cause feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy in your child which may last into adulthood. Instead, try to offer help when in a difficult situation. Asking your child if you can assist instead of immediately taking over shows you respect his independence and less conflict is likely to occur.
- Express yourself and offer alternatives. Use sentences that express how you feel. “I can’t read the paper when you crumble the pages. You can get your story and read next to me”. This way you’re expressing yourself positively and sending a clear message to your child. At the same time you are offering an alternative which will redirect your child to an activity that is appropriate for the moment.
- Be ready to compromise. Your child has his own thoughts and ideas and may not be willing to say “Yes” every time you suggest something. Allow your child to state alternatives. Discuss that with him if you feel they aren’t possible or safe . Ask him what he thinks of his proposal? Does it fit with your household rules? Is it possible? How? If not then propose another solution. It may seem like a lot for a 3 year old but your child may surprise you! It’s a win-win scenario. Your child will use these negotiation skills for a lifetime.
- Involve your child. When new situations occur try involving your child in coming up with a new rule or solution. It’s more likely your child will understand the reason for the rule and stick to it if he is more involved. He will also be more willing to accept consequences for misbehavior. You are also helping create an independent and responsible adult.
- Offer Choices. Your toddler is going through a stage of independence and may become stubborn when you propose something. Giving your child choices fosters that feeling of independence and enables your child to make decisions. “You can have your bath now or after dinner”, “Do you want your blue T-shirt or the red one?”. Try to limit choices to just two items at this stage to avoid confusion.
To Avoid Miscommunication & Misbehavior
- Set few clear rules. The more things are off-limits the more likely your child will end up misbehaving. Saying “No” all the time takes away from it’s effectiveness when you really mean it. Try to select few clear rules that cover safety and will allow your child to explore at the same time. Involve your child and use negotiation and compromise when you encounter a new situation.
- Provide an appropriate environment. Now that you know why your child sometimes has difficulty controlling his impulses make sure your setting is child friendly. Put away tempting objects and bring along a story or box of crayons when going out to give your child age appropriate alternatives.
- Label Feelings. Children often act out or misbehave because they still can’t express themselves or label how they feel. Use daily opportunities of crying, laughing, screaming, etc to label how you and your child feel. Singing and reading about feelings is another great way.
- Try to avoid power struggles. It may be easy now to just give an order instead of taking the time to communicate and negotiate, but remember your child will soon grow into a teenager then an adult and the bond you create now can last a life time. Investing in these early years will help you both in your child’s rebellious teenage years and hopefully create a bond of friendship between you.
I hope this post give you some positive and practical ways to effectively communicate with your children. Please feel free to join the discussion or drop me a line if you have any comments or questions.
Photo By Mariam El Mofty www.mariamelmofty.com