What you think of your child comes out in the way that you talk and respond to the things your child says and does. Children have a sense of how you feel about them right from infancy, and when they feel you are happy or angry with them, it shapes how they feel about themselves. This week’s tips focus on how to make sure you are responding to your kids in ways that make them feel good about themselves. 

Tips for Your Baby/Toddler (Birth to 36 months):
  • Respond to your baby’s cries with calmness: Your baby craves your attention and wants to have you near at all times. This can be challenging or overwhelming and may lead to feelings of frustration especially when your baby is crying and you are not sure what she needs. Feeling frustrated can change how you respond to your child’s cries. Keeping calm and speaking in a soft voice lets your child know that you will be there for her when she needs you.
  • Talk, don’t yell: Toddlers are at an age where they want to explore and discover the world around them.  Sometimes your child may venture into an area that you want him to stay out of.  Or, he may put undesirable things into his mouth.  You may be tempted to get angry when he doesn’t listen to you, but rather than yelling at your child,  talk calmly about why it’s not safe to go there or eat that, and remind him of this periodically to reinforce that keeping him safe is very important to you. 
Tips for Your Preschooler (36 months to 48 months):
  • Focus on changing behaviour, not your child: Older children have a much better sense of how to read your body language, and definitely take the words that you say personally. Anytime you find yourself getting upset, remember that it’s your child’s behaviour, and not your child, that you are feeling frustrated with. When you are redirecting her behaviour or establishing rules, make sure your child knows you are doing this to keep her safe and help her act appropriately. This will help her understand that you still love her but the behaviour needs to change.
  • Focus on your child’s strengths: All children come with different strengths and abilities. Recognize the strengths your child has, and let him know about all the many things he is wonderful at. How you see him will make him feel special and loved by you.  Ultimately it will influence his self-esteem and confidence and positively influence his interactions with others.

Want more tips? Read all of the tips from our partnership with Infant Mental Health Promotion at SickKids.