So many talk about the emotional well being of teenagers now a days. With all the worry with drugs, overworked, gangs, suicides, self image... we often start to try to teach our teens the importance of self esteem and confidence. We talk about steering from peer presure and try to get them involved in positive groups and clubs at school and in the community, but seldom do we talk about any of this before they are teens.
We assume our happy babies become happy toddlers, become happy children will just become happy teens.
But the foundation of this, just like laying a good foundation in a home, is to teach self esteem and self confidence from birth. There are many ways to do this and Jane Nelson, a famous child expert with many books on positive discipline discusses how to do this with small children including toddlers.
For example, getting a 4 year old or even a 2 year old to help put dishes in the dish washer, or help around the house with cooking, sweeping, what have you teaches them to depend on themselves. They love to help, so allow them to spill and make mistakes in your care so they can learn how to make mistakes, problem solve, think independently. Do more asking and less telling. "What do we need when we go out into the rain?" "A jacket, that's right!" They love to feel important, smart and encouraged, don't we all? Give them opportunities to learn important life skills and let them lead. This way, we teach our soon to be teen how to be confident and have a strong self image and high self esteem.
Another way to do this is to teach them baby sign language. I am not just tooting my own horn for my business. This is my heart speaking. If you teach your baby how to communicate, you are giving them the power of a voice at a very young age. Signing teaches babies how to ask for what they need, how to share their world, ideas, memories with you from a baby onward, it's proven to raise their self esteem. It lays that important foundation for emotional health.
Babies who sign, can tell you what they feel. They can say, "scared, angry, sad, happy, shy."
They can sign words to get things, "milk, cookie, doll, blanket."
They can ask for your love and tell you when to stop tickling, "all done, more, up, love, book."
Babies can use words for safety, "hot, hurt, stop, up, help."
They can participate in book reading and share their memories.
One of my favourite stories with my own son, who is now 2 years old. When I was teaching bubbles in our BATH week, he was signing BUBBLES and asking for more bubbles. Then we went out about a week later and we were walking through the park. He began to sign BUBBLES. I looked around and I couldn't see any bubbles. I clearly could see he was still signing bubbles and looking at me. Then I notice his eye gaze.... it was springtime and he was watching the blossom trees loose their blossoms. They were floating down to the ground like bubbles float.
I immediately got so excited. I said, "That's right, you see the flowers floating down like BUBBLES." They do look like BUBBLES don't they? Then I signed FLOWER and talked about flowers and springtime. He still signed bubbles, but I was able to have this huge conversation about it and he was sharing his memory and his world with me.
What an amazing feeling as a parent to have this with a 1 year old baby. So cool.
So next time you think your signing just for fun, remind yourself your doing an essential service to your baby and giving them the best start to their emotional well being.
Teaching our babies