A basic trust in others is the foundation on which all other traits rest. Without this characteristic, babies face an uphill developmental battle.
She'll have a hard time building relationships, feeling confident, and moving forward unless she has the ability to trust, says Debbie Phillips, a child-development specialist with Work/Family Directions, a consulting firm in Boston.
Imparting trust starts right from the time your infant is born. You can bond with your baby in a way that instills in her a profound sense of security, a faith in the world -- and ultimately, in herself. In infancy, that means responding to her basic needs. Feed her when she's hungry. Rock her with she wants to be cuddled, change her diaper when it's soiled. But also make the most of your daily interactions by talking to her, singing to her, and making eye contact. To create a really safe feeling, introduce rituals such as reading a story every night before bedtime.
When she's a toddler, your child's needs become more complex. Of course she needs to be fed, bathed, and taken care of, but she also needs you to look at her scribbles and her block towers. Acknowledging her achievements may not seem as vital as, say, giving her dinner, but it is. She'll tell you in her own way "I need you to notice this," says Susan Landry, PhD, a developmental psychologist at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. Try to pay attention to her signals and react accordingly to her needs.
Also pay attention to your baby's temperament. Not all children are alike and your little one will trust you more if you tailor your actions to suit her personality. Some babies, for example, can take lots of stimulation, while others seem to erupt or shut down when there's too much going on. The more you show your baby you understand her particular disposition, the more she'll feel that you're on her side.