Babies absorb information around them from birth. In fact, says Dr Lise Eliot, author of What’s Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, babies absorb information with their senses to both bond and explore. They are like little sponges and your baby’s brain literally doubles in size during the first year of life.
There are certain things you should avoid doing in front of your baby and toddler.
Babies recognise language from the womb. They easily pick up words and store it safely away in their memory files, and swearing is not the first language you want your child to speak.
Tell little white lies
These often trip off our tongue, sometimes without us even realising it. But try to not lie in front of your child. They are more astute than you think, and will catch you out. At this age, they also can’t tell the difference between a “harmless” fib and something more serious.
Scream and yell
It’s easy to get frustrated. Particularly when you are suffering from a lack of sleep, and are ratty and irritated. Try not to fight or scream in front of your baby. You may think they are too small to understand the actual words, but they do pick up on tone and your anxiety. Children tend to think that it’s about them, and assume that you are upset because of something they have done.
Undermine your partner
Again, we all have those days, when our partners frustrate us. But if you have anything negative to say, rather wait until your child is out of earshot. Also avoid asking your child to keep secrets from your partner as this demonstrates that it is OK to lie and undermine. Plus, your child will learn to play one parent off the other. Not cool.
Comment negatively about others
An offhand comment or a little sarcasm about a family member or friend in front of your child may seem like nothing. But remember, they are little sponges. They do not have the emotional maturity to understand that you are just having an off day and are not serious. And they may repeat verbatim what you have said in front of that person – talk about embarrassing.
Have too much screen time
If you want to spend time out on other activities, or spend time outdoors, you need to also put down your digital devices when your child is around. Be active yourself, and your child will follow.
Ignore your child
Newborns are born ready to communicate – and they do this through their grunts, cries, kicks and emotions. The more you communicate with them from birth and respond to their cues, the better it is. Plus, your baby learns from the time she is little that she is valued and important. In turn, this builds her self-esteem. And when your child expresses a negative emotion, mocking or ignoring her minimises her feelings. Open conversations lead to more bonding.
Show low self-esteem
It is normal to go through stages when you just don’t feel good enough. Hormones, fatigue and the general stress of life are all to blame. Your baby picks up your emotions and if you don’t feel great about yourself, your baby might mirror the same emotions about themselves. It is important to realise that we all have off days. There is no such thing as a perfect mom – but you are the perfect mom for your child.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.