“Your child’s feelings of security can be increased by continuing to tell her what is going to happen next. Knowing what will happen next gives her a feeling of control over her universe. In this way she isn’t continually surprised by events that occur. Rather, she has time to prepare for them. As you talk to her, predictability is reinforced verbally.” – Magda Gerber, Your Self-Confident Baby
We might experience the power of prepare by informing our two- week- old infant that we will pick her up, pausing for the moment she needs to take this in, then noticing her stiffening her body, readying herself to be lifted.
We might realize that our baby is more welcoming of grandpa’s firm hugs and grandma’s robust laughter when we’ve prepared her with these details before their visit. Or perhaps we discover that our toddler son willingly leaves the park, or actually enjoys going to the doctor or dentist when he knows the drill (painful pun not intended).
We might wonder if we’re being pranked when, for the first time ever, our toddler bounds into bed and drifts happily off to sleep, because tonight we tried talking him through his nighttime routine step by step in advance: When you are finished with your dinner, you’ll have some time to play. Then we’ll have bath time and then PJs. I’ll get the leg holes ready and you can jump into them! We’ll brush teeth together. Then you’ll choose two books for us to read. We’ll sing a song, say prayers, and then I’ll pick you up so you can turn off the light. Then I’ll give you the softest kiss and hug and we’ll say goodnight. You’ll have a lovely rest and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the morning.
When we take the time to prepare our child, we’re likely to note joyful recognition in her expression when her predictions about even the most mundane (to us) events come true. “I knew this would happen!”
Preparing our children…
Encourages them to actively participate in life and their relationship with us, feel included
Empowers, builds confidence and a sense of security, eases fear
Helps them accept and even look forward to new, challenging, uncomfortable or seemingly unpleasant situations and transitions
Teaches language organically and respectfully, because we’re using words that are authentic, pertinent, and meaningful to our babies
Enriches experiences, heightens learning
Builds connection, trust, the sense that we’re in this together
Paves the way for cooperation and success
Gina shared a story that illustrates…
Thank you so much for everything you have taught me about parenting my child in a respectful manner. I have a question that might have a simple answer: Is it good to prepare a toddler with expectations?
I have a 13-month-old girl who is quite inquisitive, which I’m thrilled about. She, of course, wants to touch everything when we go out. Today we were at a coffee shop which was selling mugs and other breakable things. As we walked in, I got down on her level and said, “There are many things in here that could break if you touch them. You can look at everything, but I will not let you touch them. If you touch things, I will stop you from doing so.” And with that, she went off to walk around as she pleased, touching only two or three things in the 90 minutes we were there. And she did not get upset when I physically stopped her from touching them. I wonder, though — am I disciplining her on the front end and stifling her curiosity, or am I setting expectations in a situation that might set her up for failure?
Again, thank you so much for showing me a different way to parent!
Not only is this good, it’s GREAT! And highly recommended. You are definitely not stifling your daughter’s curiosity (as you might be if you were directing or limiting her play). You are helping her to succeed in these situations, which is what both of you want her to do. Well done!
I share more magical parenting tools in my books:
(Photo by Esparta Palma on Flickr)