Babies and toddlers tune into messages from their caregivers. They are aware of their caregivers’ emotions and listen to their words. Because very young children are deeply connected with and tuned into their caregivers, it is vital that parents and caregivers be mindful about sharing messages that are a source of encouragement and positive energy.
Turning “don’t climb on the coffee table!” into “let’s go find a safe place in the back yard for you to climb” or turning “stop screaming!” into “I hear you’re angry when I tell you there’s no more cereal” can help caregivers feel calmer. Young children also follow positive directions more readily than negative discouragements.
Positive talk is not only beneficial for babies and toddlers. Positive talk and positive thinking also are important for parents and caregivers of children receiving early intervention services. Negativity can rear its ugly head when we are feeling discouraged or feeling impatient. Families in early intervention may be coping with their child’s complex medical or educational needs. Their development may not follow the typical progression of peers their age. This can lead to a negative cycle of thinking that gets in the way of noticing the important progress an infant or toddler is making in early intervention.
We can mindfully acknowledge these negative thoughts and reframe them with positive thinking, which can help us keep a positive attitude as we work toward EI outcomes. Reframing doesn’t make our sadness or frustration go away, but it can help us be more resilient and optimistic about the challenges we face with our child.
Here are a few examples of reframing negative thoughts into more positive ones.
When you think “my child can’t hear my voice due to hearing loss,” reframe it by thinking, “I know I am connecting with my child when we look into each other’s eyes.”
“My toddler cries and falls apart because he can’t use words to tell me what he wants” can become “we’re working on learning important words in sign language to help him communicate.”
“My friends are celebrating their babies’ first steps, but my child can’t walk” can become “Let’s enjoy my child’s new crawling skills by trying to climb on a pile of pillows to help build her muscles.”
The post was adapted from an article that first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of the Early Intervention Clearinghouse newsletter.