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Healthybaby because baby is soaking it all in
Asking lots of questions is a product of baby’s developing confidence, curiosity, and spirit of inquiry. Answering them develops new and important connections between you and baby.
As your toddler approaches year three of life, many new possibilities open up. You can optimize your child’s development by helping them experience the Middle Way: Between hot and cold is warm. Between black and white is gray. Between you and me is sharing. And, most important of all, between the beginning of a story and the end of a story is the middle. This middle ground is where growth mindset lives, and it brings resilience, courage, and empathy to your child’s development.
In the year ahead, baby is moving to the next levels of development, connection, purpose, and of course—flow. Welcome to Three!
Praise is great for letting baby know you notice their efforts. Excessive praise, however, say, over something that comes naturally to them, should be avoided. Focus on aspects they can control and avoid comparisons to others. Most importantly, encourage them to feel pride in themselves by saying, “You did it! How do you feel? Do you feel proud?” This will keep them from trying to achieve things just to please you, motivating them instead to achieve for their own satisfaction.
You can communicate interest and attention without offering praise, too. For example, you may look at a drawing and say, “I love the colors you used, tell me more about how you made this.” If they express disappointment or frustration, try encouragement with the word “yet.” It is like a secret word of growth mindset. Saying, “you didn’t do that yet” can reframe process and progress in a way that promotes practice towards reaching goals.
As pro-social creatures, most humans like to be praised. It can be a powerful tool for activating the brain in significant ways. But too much praise, or praise that feels false, can set baby up with a fragile sense of confidence and self. Some children can feel overpressured by praise given out for accomplishment, which can lead to a fixed mindset: “What if I can’t do it this well next time?” By praising effort, we promote a growth mindset—one of the true secrets to success.
Developing a gratitude practice can help baby appreciate the middle way. Like most things, gratitude is best taught by example. Two simple ways to do this:
Writing ‘thank you’ notes or simply saying thank you to acknowledge actions that make you grateful can go a long way. This can be anything from, “Thank you for helping me with the dishes” to your partner, or, “I’m so grateful you were able to see us today” to the pediatrician.
Every night at the dinner table or before going to sleep, name something you are grateful for. Baby is taking all of this in and learning how to be an active member of the community while understanding the connection between gratitude and empathy.
Being in a grateful state of mind causes our brains to release dopamine and serotonin. These “happiness hormones” are both associated with a lower risk of depression and anxiety. People who regularly practice gratitude report feeling happier, more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined than their peers. Gratitude can also help you see the big picture and increase resilience.
Learning to persevere through something hard isn't easy. One thing that can help? A weighted toy. There are lots of weighted toys available for purchase, but it is just as easy to make your own. Take an adult sock and fill it with rice. Tie off the end with a rubber band or string, and have baby decorate the puppet. Try this with an old container too (like from your Healthybaby Cream or Balm) and fill it with rocks, sand or dirt. Remember to seal the jar well.
A weighted (heavy) toy helps to calm baby’s nervous system and can bring them into a quiet alert state, where they are ready to learn and focus. Weighted toys provide deep pressure through the tactile sense, causing a release of dopamine in baby’s brain that contributes to them feeling calm. Carrying and using the toy also activates the proprioceptive sense, releasing serotonin in baby’s brain which brings about the quiet alert state that is ideal for learning. Weighted items can also assist baby in strengthening muscles throughout the day and in getting to sleep at night.
Even the most well-intentioned parents can find themselves constantly praising baby. We can’t help it—we are raising magical, beautiful, mysterious creatures! But the love you feel for them is unique to you, the rest of the world will hand baby the same challenges, rejections, and roadblocks as everyone else. You want them to be prepared. By offering excessive praise we are undermining baby’s true sense of self, confidence, and courage. We make them accustomed to being the sun, moon and stars, then watch helplessly as they become young adults who can’t handle criticism, simple rejection, or failure. So, next time you want to scream, “You’re just the most perfect baby in the world,” resist. Say, “I love everything about you because I am your mom/grandma/auntie” instead. Show baby that you love them for who they are, not what they accomplish, and that you’ll continue to love them if they fail while trying.
Yes on all three? Great! One or more No’s? Let’s talk about it.
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