We have come a looooong way…
So far, we have walked through 5 posts that teaches you the work involved in changing an individual. Here are the main statements we have made so far:
The next entries will focus on applying those 4 steps to your children. Here is the course of the next items we will be discussing:
Creating change for an Infant (Ages 0-2). [See below!]
Addressing the foundation of your child’s task management facilities, called Executive Functioning.
Creating change for a Toddler (Ages 2-4)
Creating change for a School Ager (Ages 4-13)
Creating change for a Teenager. (Ages 13-21)
Infant- Ages 0-2 years
Let start with the obvious, you can’t “change” an infant, you create a world around them. Babies adjust to their environment. For this reason, the objective is not behavioral change, it becomes all about sight and awareness. The following steps will offer insight on the best way to create a world for your baby.
4 Steps to Change Review
Finally, let’s discuss how the 4 Steps towards change apply to an infant ages 0 to 2 years.
The following information will be organized into our 4 steps:
Step 1: Slow down and pay attention
Step 2: Learn the story
Step 3: Learn the triggers
Step 4: Create lasting habits
Mastering the attachment dance
During these first years, the child learns a simple dance that eventually determines how they perceive their world. This dance is referred to as the Attachment Cycle.
The Attachment Cycle happens when the infant cries due to distress, loneliness, hunger or soiled diaper. Their body cues a set of chemical reactions and physical reflexes that alert them to the fact that they are in danger. Depending on how their caregivers respond, that child will learn to self-regulate OR they will learn that the world is a scary place.
For example, when a caregiver responds consistently to their distress it tells the child they are safe and their needs will be met. Then that child learns that they have a voice and that they are valued. As a result, they learn a crucial lesson to give themselves permission to calm down. This interaction produces an individual that has the capacity to slow down.
Another example is a child that cries in distress, but the caregiver is not available or is inconsistent in his/her response to the child’s cries. That child learns to either hide their emotions, cry non-stop or the experience can damage their entire view of how safe the world is. This child eventually grows up to struggle with their emotions and struggles to accept the emotions of others.
I call it a dance because the child is learning the rhythm of their body and the parent is learning the rhythm of the child.
1 and 2 and
1 and 2 and
lose some sleep and
1 and 2 and
Change that diaper and
1 and 2
Again, the child and parent have to go through this phase because it gives a foundation of safety that builds a balanced self-identity later on.
Learn the story
Many people believe a child is born into the world untouched and unaffected therefore there is little to nothing that would disrupt their future development before they are born. That is absolutely wrong. These first two years and the prenatal period are crucial to the child’s future development. Trust Based Relational Intervention, an evidence-based parenting model, offer six risk factors that will affect a child’s body, beliefs, and brain:
- Difficult pregnancy
- Can be for reasons including medical, drugs/alcohol, crisis or other trauma
- Can be due to persistent or high levels of stress throughout pregnancy
- Difficult Birth
- A difficult or traumatic birth is risky for many reasons (e.g, perhaps the newborn was briefly without oxygen, leading to a mild neurological insult)
- Early hospitalization
- Children who experience early hospitalization often experience painful rather than nurturing touch in the first days of life
- The message sent to a child from a neglectful background is ‘you don’t exist.’
- Children from neglectful backgrounds often suffer from the most severe behavioral problems and brain deficits.
- Children from abusive backgrounds know to always be on guard. Their brains have been trained to be hyper vigilant to the environment around them.
- Any number of traumas in the child’s life (witnessing an extreme event, for example) can cause the child’s development trajectory to change in response.
These risk factors may be the reason behind the dysfunction that we may see in our infant’s distress. It is important to note that the impact of the items above may affect a child’s coping strategies throughout their life. As an infant this child may easily be regarded as an unregulated baby as a toddler they are diagnosed with ADD OR ADHD, and as an adolescent and teenager, they can struggle with depression and anxiety. As an adult, this can progress into a diagnosis of a personality disorder. All of this is due to untreated events that occurred when the now adult was a child or during the early periods of life.
Learn the triggers
The main crisis that your infant is trying to overcome is learning what they can trust and what they should not trust.
As parents, you have to get attuned with your infant. What are the signs that they are assessing their world? Examples are opening eyes wide, pulling close and looking at you when a new person comes close, asking to be picked up, making sounds and pointing.
Learn those signs and fill it with responses that teach your child that you (and those that love them) can keep them safe.
Create lasting habits
You don’t change an infant, you create a world around them.
The sleepless nights are painful, the crying is irritating and the diapers are an abomination, but focus less on projecting your infant’s future based on their current behavior. Focus more on generating a world that will produce the child they are meant to be.
Modeling is the name of the game here. You have to allow your face to reflect the emotions you want them to feel. The tone of your voice when correcting your child has to match the internal voice you want them to use when correcting themselves. From this point until they are an adolescent, children learn primarily by watching you.
Don’t start with what might go wrong, start with the clarity of who your child is. Be convinced about how perfect and appropriate they are. Be fascinated by their potential and the fact that this child will impact lives for the best, starting with yours.
Crossing the bridge [your turn]
You should start with being laser focused on your child’s needs. No one minor distress will ruin your child forever. The point here isn’t to coddle your child forever and ever.
The point here is to learn a simple discipline as a parent to see all things concerning your child, even though you cannot attend to every need. The battle for your children is one of sight and awareness. If you can see it, you can overcome it.
On to the Toddler.
TRUTH: Toddlers are both horrible and amazing people.
The majority of parents struggle to get these tiny people on track to being secure and autonomous. On the next post, I’ll describe how we can do this.