BABIES AND EMOTIONS
Motor skill development and emotional development occur in babies during their first year. Although we focus primarily on the development of motor milestones, it is important to discuss emotional development from time to time. We have habits of how we respond emotionally just like we have movement habits that exercise teachers try and change. Through a bit of education we can become aware of our habits and then improve them, whether it is our physical movement or expression of emotions. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting, by John Gottman, Ph.D., is a book for parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and anyone else interested in nurturing the capacity of young children to feel and express their true feelings. He introduces the concept of “emotion coaching” as he guides parents to the understanding that it is important to help a baby or child feel their true feeling in the moment rather than bury it.
MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT AND EMOTION COACHING
Emotions go hand in hand with learning movement. From the joy of learning to execute a new movement to the pain of falling down, babies and children move through a range of experiences on a daily basis in both emotions and motor skills. Parents can learn to react to these moments with baby through the simple steps outlined in Gottman’s easy-to-read book. By learning to see the disappointment on a child’s face when her favorite toy just fell apart in front of her, a parent can first identify the emotion first and then provide a solution. He also recommends a unique game for babies that allows parents to share the emotions of their day and invites baby to share her emotions in return.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN
One of the most valuable sections of this book is the list of books for babies and children that focus on emotions. Selected books from this list makes a wonderful baby shower gift. Adding books to baby’s first library that teach emotions makes a nice addition to a collection of books on colors, counting, and ABC’s. After all, aren’t emotions also the colors of our life?
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting: by John Gottman, Ph. D. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).
Offer baby encouragement and support through your words. Recently we learned the word, “Stupendous!” Below is a list of 15 additional dynamic and positive word choices for you to use to praise baby as she develops her motor skills. Choose one of these words and use it along with the work that describes the skill she is learning. For example: good crawling, beautiful rolling, fantastic reaching, etc.
15 ADJECTIVES FOR BABY PRAISE
- Stellar (our favorite!)
Praise can be defined as the expression of warm approval. The action of praising baby occurs when baby does something new such as reaching a motor milestone or speaking a new sound. It also occurs when baby does something familiar in a new and improved way, which may also include motor skill development. For example, when baby crawls with improved coordination and strength her mother may say, “Good Girl!” Although baby may not exactly understand the words, she knows by the tone of your voice and the bright smile on your face that she has done something good. This communication from a parent serves as feedback for her so she will know what actions to repeat (and which to avoid).
PRAISE AND THE 5 SENSES
Baby hears your message of encouragement most clearly when it is echoed through more than one of the 5 senses. If you speak carefully chosen words of affirmation in a warm tone of voice which she can hear, smile at her and nod your head which she can see, and maybe pat her on the back which she can feel, she understands your affirmation through 3 sensory systems: visual, auditory, and touch. This is very clear communication for baby. The other two senses, smell and taste, are used with animals when we give our dog a treat to eat when he sits upon command.
WORD CHOICES FOR BABY PRAISE
One of the most commonly used expressions today for praising baby is, “Good job!” The baby rolls for the first time and mother says, “Good job!” The baby crawls for the first time and the father says, “Good job!” This phrase of “Good job” should be crossed off of our list of words for encouragement of baby development. Why? First off, regarding motor skill development, what baby is doing is not a job at all. It is a movement they have learned for getting around in life. Later on, when they learn a chore such as washing dishes you can say “Good job!”
Secondly, the use of the same phrase for each new skill learned does not guide them toward identifying the word that is associated with the skill. Instead, choose words that describe the skill they are learning. It is much more beneficial for the development of a baby if you say, “Beautiful rolling, Mary! Good girl,” when she learns to roll and follow with “Good crawling,” later on when she learns to crawl. Adjectives to combine with the name of skills for affirmation include beautiful, outstanding, excellent, good, great, and more. And don’t forget Elmo’s lesson above from Maestro Gustavo Dudamel on Sesame Street’s youtube channel, when you see something “very great and amazing,” such as your baby crawling for the first time, you can say, ‘STUPENDOUS!”
INGREDIENTS FOR BABY PRAISE
- Tone of Voice: A positive and encouraging tone in the voice is like a gentle massage to her–it feels good.
- Facial Expression: Smile and nod your head.
- Choice of Words: Identify the skill baby is learning.
- Touch: Include an occasional pat on the back with your words.