How to Raise a Happy, Healthy, Secure Child
by Jennifer Slingerland Ryan
How you parent your child will create a blueprint for all other relationships in your child’s future. Yes, it’s a big statement to make, but it’s true.
Your child’s friend, dating partner, employer, sibling, and spousal relationships depend largely upon your interaction to the temperment of your child. Your parenting style helps develop a secure child.
In an earlier story, I told you that the parent-child connection was paramount, and only happens through quality time spent with your children. After a long day at the office, it’s hard to do, but most moms what to know: What exactly is quality time? What has to happen in the early days and years of your child’s life to create the healthiest adult?
You want to be the best parent you can be, and raise the healthiest child you can. Below are ten things you can do to create a secure attachment with your child:
1. Tune into your child’s needs. Your parenting style must change to match the needs and temperament of your child. As parents, it’s our job to read their cues instead of expecting the child to read ours. A parent’s job is to develop a “collaborative” relationship with the child rather than a “controlling” one.
2. Respect your child. Tuning in helps you know what your child enjoys, what her babbling jumbled words mean, and what makes her giggle with delight. It’s the parent’s job to “come down to the child’s level” to understand what the child needs, and tend to the child accordingly. This behavior makes your baby feel calm, respected, and important.
3. Coddle your child. You absolutely cannot spoil your baby child if you pick her up while crying. In fact, the more you nurture, pamper, and tend to your child’s needs now, the more your child will feel socially secure, independent, loved, trusting, and cherished later. Hugs, kisses, holding, rocking, patting, singing, and talking to your baby are ways to improve the parent-child bond.
4. Have a “time in.” Babies and children aren’t mean or vindictive. Therefore, even when babies and young children are fussy, crying, and difficult, consider giving them a “time in.” Instead of isolating them from you (as in a “time out,”) try loving on them, respecting their emotions, and even helping them understand how they feel. You’ll be amazed at how their behavior will change once they come to trust that you won’t banish them to another room when what they really need is some TLC.
5. Establish a “secure base.” Notice how your baby will crawl away from you and turn back to check that you’re still there? They feel secure knowing they can always come back to you. Into toddlerhood and even the pre-school years, your child depends on you to be their “go to” person. They feel safe and secure just knowing they have you to come back to.
6. Create routines. Your baby and young child enjoy knowing what’s going to happen next. Not only is it important to establish routines, but it’s equally important to fill your child in on the plan. This means being respectful and building a more collaborative relationship with your little one.
7. Encourage through play. Allow your child to “just be.” Let him explore his surroundings. While at the playground recently, I spoke with a nice mom whose active son was crawling up the slide instead of sliding down, landing bottom-first in the wood chips of feet-first, and getting soaked in the water sprinklers. I couldn’t count the number of times the mom yelled, “Don’t… Stop… No… .” He was being stifled from natural exploration at every turn! Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if I allow my child to do this?” Most of the time, it’s an innocent activity that develops problem-solving, socialization, and thinking skills. And, it’s just plain fun!
8. Be an observer. When children play, they act out their emotions and your reflection helps them understand how they feel. Babies won’t communicate directly to you most of the time and children may communicate “sideways” so you have to interpret their needs. My three-year-old said recently, “Mommy, I need a ring so I can go to work with you.” What she really meant was, “I can dress up just like you and go to work because I feel sad you leave me alone!” I did buy her a ring so we could play “going to work,” but I also explored how much she missed me when I left. Now I say, “Sorry you can’t go to work with Mommy. I know you might miss me and I will miss you, too. I’ll be home in just a little bit, and we will put a puzzle together, ok?” She feels reassured and comforted knowing I’ll return.
9. Understand milestones. When your fifteen-month-old bangs her spoon on the table fifty times or your two-year-old refuses to sit still while at the dinner table, it’s not because she is disrespecting you, getting back at you, or trying to push your buttons. It’s because, well, those things are fun! And, she’s learning about her world. Young children don’t have the cognitive reasoning or skills we do, and it’s important for them to explore. Learning what’s appropriate at each age can help you laugh off what their doing instead of getting frustrated and annoyed.
10. Explain your reasons. Did you enjoy hearing your mom say, “Because I said so?” No, you didn’t. And just because your mom did it doesn’t mean you should do it, too! Talking to your child about why you did what you did, in words they can understand, helps build respect and trust. It also helps build language skills. In a loving way, your child learns problem-solving, cause and effect, and helps build a foundation for making smart decisions as they get older.
Developing a “secure base” for your child is key to successful relationships later in life. If you find yourself struggling with the ten things above, it might be a good idea to explore why. Parenting is difficult, and I’d love to hear your view in the comments section below.
And remember, “When you have a baby you have five years of hard labor ahead of you. If you don’t get it over in the beginning, you’ve got it coming to you later on.”