Babies get a boost in their self-esteem when parents join in enthusiastically while they play with a toy. It's also a help if you give up on the cereal now and then and let your child enjoy the carrots she prefers. It sends her the message that her feelings are important and that you support her choices.
It may seem early to be thinking about your baby's self-esteem, but experts now believe that it's important to lay a foundation for confidence and self-sufficiency during infancy. Since strong self-esteem rests on an ability to feel pride in one's accomplishments, your baby is going to need lots of positive reactions from you-a clap of your hands the first time he picks up an object and manipulates it, or encouraging words when he manages to cruise all the way around the living room. This is not the time for you simply to stand by on the sidelines.
It's equally important to know when not to give in to your baby's demands. As she becomes increasingly mobile and begins to understand the word no, she'll continue testing you to find out just how far she can go. Don't automatically accede to all her requests. She needs to know that there are limits and that you're still the boss (even if she objects vehemently). If you're unsure what to do in a particular situation, ask yourself whether permissiveness or firmness will best help your baby learn. If you determine that giving in to your child's wishes would not be in her (or your!) best interests, say no-and stick to it.
Your baby's burgeoning sense of self means he needs time to play and learn on his own. (And no one needs to tell you that "solo play" time can be good for Mom and Dad, too!) The best way to foster this skill is to get in the habit of communicating with him from across the room. If he's stacking blocks while you're folding laundry, keep an eye on him. If his stacking attempts are successful, tell him how pleased you are.
Your enthusiasm will mirror and magnify his own sense of accomplishment. That way, even when you're not with him to praise his successes, he can imagine your pride and build his own internal sense of self-worth. You are, in effect, encouraging your child to discover his own capabilities while also letting him know you're there for him when he needs you. It's a delicate balance and requires that you find a middle ground between fostering independence and providing security and guidance.
What should you do when your baby runs up against a hurdle-such as when she's struggling to get a toy that's out of reach? In situations like these, parents should support and encourage-without smothering their little one's sparks of independence. Instead of simply handing the toy over to your baby, help her achieve the goal on her own-by moving her a bit closer to the toy, for example. But if the challenge is something that your child is neither physically nor emotionally capable of performing on her own, don't push-she'll only become frustrated by her inability to complete the task.
Little copycatYour baby is beginning to learn by watching others. For example, he'll try to imitate things he sees you do. Pick up a crayon and scribble with it on a piece of paper. Your baby should appear to be interested and may even try to do the same-though he's not likely to manage making an actual crayon mark yet.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.