Infancy: Building a Strong Foundation

19 01 2016

Experience plays a crucial role in “wiring” a young child’s brain.

-Judith Graham, Leslie A. Forstadt

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

-Ecclesiastes 11:5

Infancy is a marvel. While we may try to understand how a young life is formed, we might as well just throw our hands up in the air and say, “My God, your works are astounding! How can I begin to explain them?” Still, take great joy in the experiences you offer the littlest in your life. You are contributing to their worldview whether you admit it or not. Seize the opportunity!

A psychiatrist I spoke to once said that if an infant brain doesn’t get what it needs, when it gets older, it will not be able to develop it. That means if it lacks essential nutrients or attention or emotional support in extreme measures or traumatic situations, the effect on that child will be lifelong.

So I would infer that the converse is also true. What is gained at that young age will be a fixed part of that child’s brain development. What a great privilege and responsibility we have as parents, caregivers, friends and family in the life of an infant!

I’ve long believed that how we start anything, is foundational to how that thing continues. Whether it be a personal project or a race or a quilting pattern or the course we set for a ship, the path these take is heavily influenced by the first step.

So consider very carefully the influences in your infant’s life. You can’t control them all so don’t panic either. Leave your little one in the hands of God. But make positive efforts to provide a solid, foundational start as much as it is in your power.

Building realistic trust is your one focus at this stage. Meaningful connections are the pathway to building trust.

Consider these trust-building connections:

  • create safe spaces and be a safe person
  • provide different sitting/lying/cuddling positions
  • play and smile during tasks such as changing diapers
  • make a variety of facial expressions to communicate
  • provide basic needs consistently such as feeding, peaceful sleep environment, changing
  • hold your baby and allow other trustworthy people to hold as well (such as at church)
  • provide familiar items as metaphorical and literal building blocks for learning
  • recognize that babies reflect your behaviour, facial expressions and feelings
  • share a children’s Bible to hold, look at and listen to
  • begin hide and seek type games with objects or the classic peek-a-boo
  • show understanding toward emotions and identify with them (ex: “Oh, you’re so sad. I would be sad too.”)
  • sing songs repeatedly with enthusiasm!
  • be aware of your own anxieties which can transfer easily to your baby
  • build trust with others to help ease separation anxiety
  • help them form words using repetition
  • pray with them and for them out loud

Lord, help me give well to this critical life-phase.


The Power of Persistent Parenting

29 11 2012

A big difference between effective and ineffective parenting lies in the word ‘persistence.’ 

My three children were playing with cards contentedly at the dinner table when out of nowhere my oldest starts crying. Now sometimes, when she cries, I dismiss it as an episode of ‘crying wolf.’ This situation was a bit different. Perhaps she could have cried less and maybe she exaggerated a bit, but the tears were genuine. I quickly found out that my two year old full out punched her older sister in the nose. Now she’s a little tike so a full punch for her isn’t too bad.

[Feel free to debate my chosen approach, but remember the main goal here is persistence.]

My littlest cutie, Selah

Sometimes I don’t want to deal with one more fight at home, but then there are times when I remember why an engaged parent is so critical to raising children. When one of my children does something wrong I have them make a statement of what they did wrong and have them ask forgiveness. Now at two years old this needs to be very simplified. So with her I required her to say, “I will not hit.” (In retrospect, this may have been too many words as she’s not quite putting full sentences together quite yet.) However, she refused to say anything and I could see in her little heart a stubbornness that refused to feel remorse. So when my children aren’t being cooperative they go to sit on the stairs to have a little break until they’re ready.

Here is where persistence comes in. She knew she had to go to the stairs, but wouldn’t let me take her. She trotted over there by herself and plopped herself down. After a few seconds she came back and I asked her if she was ready to say, “I will not hit.” She was not so I sent her back to her spot. She willingly trotted back and then a little later came back, but she again was not ready to make her statement. Cute right? However, this happened at least five times, but I’m thinking about eight times. This gets a little frustrating and the temptation is to just give up and move on. Giving up would have significant consequences down the road. Each time you make an expectation of your child, then fail to follow through, it becomes far more difficult in the future. So persist! Persist until the job is done, an expression of remorse is made and relationships are restored.

I did (thankfully!) persist. And it did pay off. She eventually said, “Not hit.” Then our next step is asking forgiveness. For my littlest, this will take some more time to develop, so for now, saying, “Sorry,” and giving a hug is sufficient for me.

So why persist? Because if I didn’t I would have missed out on seeing my children be restored in their relationship, my littlest would have learned that it’s ok to hit and both my girls would have sustained a small little scar in their lifetime relationship. And most, importantly, I would have missed a moment in time to teach my children that when relationships are broken, they can be restored. Doing this leaves a little hint in our home that, apart from Jesus, relationships could never be fully healed.

Persistence leads little ones to Jesus!

6 Ways to Foster Early Language Development

21 01 2012

The following is from Development Through the Lifespan, by Laura E. Berk.

  1. Respond to coos and babbles with speech sounds and words.
  2. Establish joint attention and comment on what child sees.
  3. Play social games, such as pat-a-cake and peekaboo.
  4. Engage toddlers in joint make-believe play.
  5. Engage toddlers in frequent conversations.
  6. Read to toddlers often, engaging them in dialogue about picture books.

Put these into practice and your child will develop their language skills well. They will experiment “with sounds that can later be blended into first words.” They will learn turn-taking for conversation. Their vocabulary will develop faster. They will grow in their conversation ability, develop language earlier and likely enable greater academic success later. Reading “provides exposure to many aspects of language, including vocabulary, grammar, communication skills, and information about written symbols and story structure.”

Children’s Ministry Volunteer Support Videos

2 02 2011

Teacher Support.

Free volunteer training videos for toddlers/twos, preschool/K, grades 1-4 and grades 5/6. Click the Group logo for the link.

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