(CMR) Happy and successful people who do well and form satisfying relationships usually have certain qualities. As parents, we desire to see our children happy and prosperous, so we may want to start nurturing our childing to possess these qualities.
According to Parents magazine's writer Ann field, here are the top five qualities your baby will need, along with some ways you can start your little one on the path to acquiring each of these all-important assets.
1. Trust- A basic trust in others is the foundation on which all other traits rest. Without this characteristic, babies face an uphill developmental battle. She'll have a hard time building relationships, feeling confident, and moving forward unless she has the ability to trust, says Debbie Phillips, a child-development specialist with Work/Family Directions, a consulting firm in Boston.
Imparting trust starts right from the time your infant is born. You can bond with your baby in a way that instills in her a profound sense of security, a faith in the world—and ultimately, in herself. In infancy, that means responding to her basic needs. Feed her when she's hungry. Rock her with she wants to be cuddled, change her diaper when it's soiled. But also make the most of your daily interactions by talking to her, singing to her, and making eye contact. To create a safe feeling, introduce rituals such as reading a story every night before bedtime.
Also, pay attention to your baby's temperament. Not all children are alike, and your little one will trust you more if you tailor your actions to suit her personality. Some babies, for example, can take lots of stimulation, while others seem to erupt or shut down when there's too much going on. The more you show your baby you understand her particular disposition, the more she'll feel that you're on her side.
2. Patience- Kids who learn patience can persevere and are more likely to succeed, says Claire Lerner, a child-development specialist with Zero to Three, an advocacy group that focuses on infants and toddlers. Teaching a child the quality of patience can help instill a feeling of independence and accomplishment.
Want to help your child along? First, remember this: Your baby is watching. If you fly off the handle when you come up against rough traffic or a long line, you'll set a poor example. They're like sponges, taking everything in, says Jody Johnston Pawel, a parent educator and author of The Parent's Toolshop: The Universal Blueprint for Building a Healthy Family. Experts call it modeling—do the right thing, and your kid is more likely to follow. Become quickly exasperated when your toddler spills his milk, and you'll convey one message; calmly help him clean it up, and you'll teach him something else entirely.
Attaching words to your little one's emotions also helps foster patience. Toddlers generally can't say a lot, but they understand most of what you tell them. So if your 18-month-old throws a fit when he can't put his puzzle together, tell him you understand and acknowledge his frustration. Similarly, explain how you feel instead of lashing out if you find yourself about to blow a fuse.
Toddlers don't have the same sense of time as we do, making it even harder for them to be patient. You can help by marking time in ways other than minutes and hours. For instance, if your child asks for some juice when you're in the middle of washing dishes, rather than responding with, “I'll get it in five minutes,” try saying, “I'll get it as soon as I'm finished with these plates.” This way, he can watch your progress and gauge how soon he'll get his juice.
3. Responsibility- To succeed in life, says Doreen Virtue, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Los Angeles and author of Your Emotions, Yourself, you need to know how to make commitments and follow through. It's something that even a baby can begin to tackle. When your 1-year-old gleefully starts dropping her bottle on the floor, waiting for you to pick it up, only to repeat this exercise, again and again, she's ready to start learning about responsibility. That's because she has developed a rudimentary understanding of cause and effect and the realization that there are consequences to her actions.
Specifically, that means you can start thinking about baby-size responsibilities, like handing her a spoon and asking her to give it to Dad. As she grows older, you can make chores more advanced, perhaps asking her to throw her socks in the hamper or stack her books. You'll make it all that much more palatable if you also explain the value of each task. But make sure to keep your explanations brief to avoid confusion; for example, the hamper is “where dirty clothes go to get clean,” and stacking books “makes it easy to find what you want to read next time.”
4. Empathy- Empathy is key to developing a person's social competence, says Phillips. To have successful relationships, you have to know how people feel and respond appropriately. While even infants exhibit a primitive form of empathy, kids don't become capable of putting themselves in another's shoes until somewhere between the ages of 3 and 6. Before then, they have trouble seeing the world from anyone's perspective but their own. When a 2-year-old bops his friend on the head, he doesn't understand that it hurts because he hasn't felt anything himself, says Phillips.
But there's a lot you can do to help a child develop empathy. Asking your toddler, “How would you feel if that happened to you?” doesn't cut it since he's so profoundly egocentric. Instead, explain to him how his actions affect others. If he bites his brother, explain that it hurts and may cause a boo-boo. And be ready to make those comments over and over again. This is one quality that needs a lot of repeating before you can expect it to take, says Pawel.
Be careful of television. If you watch cartoons in which the characters beat up on one another, point out how, in real life, that would feel bad. While the difference between reality and fantasy is still blurry for your child, you'll plant the seed of an important lesson. At the same time, not all programs are harmful, and some are even beneficial.
5. Self-reliance- By learning to act independently, your child will grow up with a strong enough inner compass to know what she wants and to make sound judgments on her own. Perhaps the most effective attribute you can pass on to your child — one that helps him be patient, responsible, and self-sufficient—is the ability to solve problems. If your 14-month-old is getting impatient because she can't play with another child's toy, acknowledge her unhappiness, but encourage her to look for other solutions, suggests Phillips.
Please help your child break tasks into small steps, and then let her master each step on her own. If she can figure out how to pull down her towel, open the cookie jar, or spread jelly on her toast, she'll feel more autonomous and confident about tackling more significant tasks around the house.
You can also help build self-reliance by giving your child age-appropriate things to do. At age 1, that may mean learning to eat with a spoon, and a year later, putting on a loose-fitting shirt. Make things as easy as possible—buy shoes with self-fasteners instead of laces, for example—and be prepared to assist when necessary. If your toddler desperately wants a cookie, pick her up so she can open the cabinet, grab the package, and pick one out by herself.
One of the best ways for your child to learn self-reliance is modeling your behavior. If you're having trouble, say, assembling your new computer, talk to yourself out loud, walking yourself through the steps, so your child can see you going through the process of solving the problem.