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A child who is insecurely attached to her parents often lacks resilience, exhibits low self-confidence and may struggle in her relationships with others as she grows.
According to Brookings Institute, “Infants (aged 9 to 18 months) with responsive parents learn how their own behavior can impact their environment. This ‘call and response’ process builds the infant’s sense of self-efficacy.” But if the caregiver’s response to the child is inadequate, this “virtuous learning cycle breaks down” and the child does not become securely attached to her caregiver.
Psychologists refer to early bonding experiences between caregiver and child as attachment. When children feel securely attached, they are much more likely to grow into competent, secure adults. In fact, early attachment correlates significantly with later success in life.
As parents, most of us are doing the best we can with what we know. When we know better, we do better.
Below are six signs you might be destroying your child with love.
1. Push him to be too independent too early
Early dependence builds later independence. While that may sound like a contradiction, it turns out it’s not. Certainly small infants are very dependent on their parents. But as your baby grows into a young child, he will still toddle back to you for support. Be there for him. Don’t push him to be too independent too soon.
2. Change the ground rules for acceptable behavior
Children need to know they have a reliable and consistent caregiver. While none of us are as consistent as we’d like to be, children become anxious when the ground rules for acceptable behavior change. When this occurs, the child feels insecure and is not sure what to do next.
3. Do too much for her as she grows
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There’s a balance between doing too much for our children and doing too little. It’s important to encourage age-appropriate behavior at every age. If, for example, you’re still tying your child’s shoes for her when she’s 8 years old or if you’re still doing her homework for her when she’s 10 years old, your “helping” is not helping; it’s hurting.
4. Try too hard to be a friend
You’re a parent, not a friend. This is not about you; it’s about your children. Be in tune with how your children feel. Really look at them. Listen to them. Listening simply means you recognize how they feel. It doesn’t mean you agree with everything they want to do. When you are emotionally in tune with your children and show them empathy while still setting appropriate limits, they come to believe that they are lovable.
5. React over-protectively when things go wrong
As much as we’d like to shield our children from everything that might hurt them, they will encounter situations that upset them. The important thing is to help them recover from those upsetting events, not to shield them from problems entirely. First, acknowledge the hurt; then, encourage them to find ways to move on. Learning to overcome challenges teaches resilience.
6. Don’t follow through on what you say
When a child misbehaves, it’s important to set reasonable consequences. Don’t react out of anger or frustration and dole out consequences that are either irrational or that you can’t possibly follow through with. Grounding a child for a month is unreasonable. Additionally, not following up a reasonable consequence teaches your child anything goes.
Being a parent is not easy. Each child is different. Sit down with your spouse and look at your dissimilar parenting patterns. What can the two of you do differently to make sure your child grows up to be a successful adult?
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