From taking your child to their first day of school, to someday walking them down the aisle, some of life’s biggest milestones are between you and your child. But way before you reach any significant milestones, it’s important to strengthen your bond with your child as early as possible.
As a parent, you are your child’s first connection to other people, and therefore play a significant role when it comes to their overall development. Let’s take a closer at why it’s essential to have a healthy bond with them early on.
The development of emotional competencies and a healthy temperament
Arizona State University’s Psychology Department Chairman Keith Crnic found that parental warmth and the display of positive emotions are the top two attributes in developing a child’s healthy temperament. Moreover, his study also found that children cultivate their emotional competencies by modeling their parents’ behavior. Even when they’re infants, children are able to mimic the emotions and temperament of their parents through regular interactions with them.
These findings shed light on how a child’s temperament is strongly connected to their emotional competency. Psychology Today points out that the brain releases stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters when it recognizes a negative word or image, which is why it’s important to remember that words you speak and the actions you show will be carried by them as they grow up.
Parenting isn’t the easiest job, especially when it comes to disciplining your child, but treating them with kindness and empathy can make all the difference to their emotional well-being. Whether it’s teaching them a vital life lesson or saying ‘no’ to something they want but don’t need, be sure to think about your child’s feelings and their future when you enforce discipline.
For example, an empathic “no” could sound something like this: “You really want a cookie before dinner because they just came out of the oven and smell so good! I know it’s hard to wait; it’s hard for me, too! And, we will have cookies after dinner. Which one shall we set aside just for you?” Read more on “connection before correction” here.
Supporting brain development
Some parents don’t feel the need to bond with their babies, since they think their little ones won’t develop long lasting memories from this period of time. On the contrary, children remember many things from their first few years, as a study published in the London Journal of Primary Care indicates that by the age of three, a child’s brain is already 90% of its adult size. This means that even the smallest moments an infant has with their parents are crucial to the enabling of millions and millions of new synapse connections in the brain.
These parental bonding experiences don’t need to be anything complex, and are actually as simple as hugs, smiles, and lullabies. Even small things like purchasing a stroller that faces you rather than away can make a difference. Baby Centre reported on two studies that showed that babies facing their parents in a pushchair were more likely to communicate with them and develop a bond. Babies who faced away were found to have higher stress levels, especially if the baby was still in its early years. The collection of single pushchairs on iCandy shows how many models now come with front facing and parent facing seating options. This allows parents to have more visual contact with their child as they develop from baby to toddler.
More face time with your child means that brain functions, such as memory, logic, learning, and language are enhanced early. You can create simple yet special bonding opportunities that will help boost your baby’s development by going out for a stroll in the park or spending some time together in your garden.
Providing guidance for socialization
The parent-child relationship is the foundation for how future relationships are built. During the process of socialization – preparing your child to function as a member of a larger social group – parents need to be present to provide guidance and affection. Socialization usually starts as early as their third birthday. A great way to facilitate this process is enrolling your child in various Mommy/Daddy and Me classes, such as Gymboree and MyGym. These allow both parent and child to interact with others. This is a perfect way to bond with your child while guiding them on how to interact with other children and adults.
As the above examples show, early bonding with young children can have a huge positive impact on their development.
Rest assured, you can bond deeply and beautifully with your baby even if you work out of the home. Children can develop secure attachments with many caregivers; it’s not all on your shoulders. The key is to ensure that your child feels seen, safe, soothed and secure as much as possible, from all caregivers including you. Read more about the “4 S’s” from Daniel Siegel here.
How to put these tools (and more) into practice
We’ll practice these tools and learn many more at any of the upcoming Positive Discipline series:
1. In San Francisco specifically for parents of children ages 2 – 6: Peaceful Parents, Cooperative Preschoolers. It starts March 17, 2020 and runs for 6 weeks at Mission Montessori. Participant ratings of this series are consistently high with an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
2. Join me in Oakland for a 6-week Parenting with Positive Discipline series aimed at parents of preschoolers – middle schoolers. This one starts Feb 5, 2020.
3. Not in the SF Bay Area? BeSproutable offers an online class, How To Grow Remarkable Kids that you can watch from anywhere in the world on your own time. Complete with live action videos like the one featured above about routines.
Thank you to Summer Garner for contributing this article as my guest blogger. Summer is a San Diego-based school counselor with a degree in early childhood development. When she’s not working, Summer enjoys documentary films and spending time with her energetic and imaginative nephews.
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