7) Touch/physical attention – You can’t spoil a baby or child when it comes to physical affection (pending the child hasn’t expressed not “wanting” a hug, which goes along with the idea of #2 – give your child respect). Research has shown that babies who aren’t held enough during infancy become depressed and given that touch releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone, it's no wonder that physical touch is vital for a healthy attachment.
For a child, a parent is a "safe base" which can be expressed with a holding a child’s hand, a hug, or just taking a moment to carefully examine a scrape on a knee. A child who experiences that “safe base” with their parent, has a much greater chance of developing a healthy attachment.
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8) Be the PARENT - Parents have to be the container for their child's negative, frustrated or scared feelings. Being calm and containing in the face of a tantrum shows the child that the parent is in control and this serves as a model for the child as they get older. Having a temper tantrum with your child exacerbates any feelings of insecurity for them. Furthermore, if the parent is unable to recognize and take responsibility for their parental "hiccup," those experiences can result in a child feeling terrified and in certain cases even emotionally traumatized.
9) Be compassionate and curious – Showing enthusiasm and interest in your child as a different, separate human being who may think or feel differently than the parent is crucial for your child’s self esteem and for their bond with you. Showing compassion for their intense emotions or pain and not personalizing their periodic anger toward you (yes parents, your child is ALLOWED to FEEL anger toward you – it’s about teaching them HOW to appropriately express it) will create a strong trust between you and your child that is simply invaluable to his or her future.
10) Set healthy boundaries and limits for your child – Boundaries and limits are fundamental for children in order for their world to feel safe and secure. As much as your child may (literally) kick and scream about a consequence, a time out or not wanting to keep a consistent bedtime, it is vital to your child’s well being that you, the parent, be consistent within the boundary frame which you set for them. Acting in control when your child is out of control, helps your child learn how to regulate their own emotional experience as they develop and grow.
So parents, if there's at least one thing you to take away from this article, I hope you see how incredibly influential your role is as a parent. As much as your child comes into the world with his or her own "blueprint"/temperament, so much of his or her success in the world and in their future interpersonal relationships is largely dependent on their intimate relationship with you.
Go to www.earlymomentsmatter.org to learn about attachment and to get an award-winning toolkit that introduces ways in which parents and caregivers can help their children build secure attachments.
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D.J. Siegel and M. Hartzell. Parenting From the Inside Out. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. Chapter 1.
D.J. Siegel and M. Hartzell. Parenting From the Inside Out. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. Chapter 5.
D.J. Siegel and M. Hartzell. Parenting From the Inside Out. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. Chapter 6.