Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.
- Michael Levine
Parenting is a complex activity that includes many specific behaviours that work individually and together to influence child outcomes. There is nothing ‘perfect’ about parenting - it’s a very imperfect journey.
In order to enhance this journey, the mantra often is ‘back to basics’. Babies have not yet developed the skills required to cope with stress and adapt, hence it is essential to create a stress-free environment with an emphasis on ‘positive parenting’.
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The cornerstone of parenting is patience, which allows the parent to be empathetic to the child’s needs. In this article, I will discuss coping strategies, parenting styles and communication techniques to help parents not just deal with difficult situations, but also allow for a nurturing and supportive environment.
The most important components of positive parenting in the first few months are reinforcing smell, touch, light and sound. These will enable the baby to build the mental connections required for retaining and processing new information.
Meeting the baby’s nutritional needs encourages appropriate development. As they do not have independent mobility, care must be given to ensure head control and placing the baby on its tummy for developing its musculature. As touch is very important to them, they need lots of physical comfort and interaction.
Language development can be encouraged by cooing, speaking, singing and making a lot of eye contact.
Toddlers spend a lot of time walking and talking. Care must be taken to fit them in soft shoes and supervise their walking. Teaching them basic names of things can encourage speech and language development.
Pointing to pictures and things and naming them is the best way to do this. Reading books together will also help with appropriate cognitive development.
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Major goals in the school-going age group are making them more self-reliant and self-sufficient. Gross motor activities such as swinging, skipping, swimming or playing on the jungle gym should be encouraged. Language skills are getting more refined now so listening to and narrating stories becomes important.
Reading skills are important in this age group. To help develop self-esteem, children need both encouragement and independence from their parents.
Developmental delays can occur in children. Symptoms to look for include lack of attention, delay in social interaction (usually starts by 18-24 months) and problems following instructions.
Emotional meltdowns or temper tantrums in kids between 1-4 yrs is a completely natural part of growing up. Observe for early warning signs such as whining, fidgeting, begging, and becoming irritable. Address the issue clearly and then redirect in a positive manner.
If the child is inconsolable, stay calm until the tantrum has run its course. Once your child is calm, take him/her to a private place and try to have a dialogue about the issue. Evoke an apology to those involved through acts/gestures and remind the child that you love him/her.
While the concept of positive parenting may seem like a no-brainer to some, outside distractions can easily interfere with the good intentions of parents to remain consistent in practice.
Challenges during parenthood, particularly during the infancy and toddler stages, are to be expected, but they can be overcome with thoughtful and deliberate action.
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