When we talk about the upbringing and development of our children, we think about feeding, education, and exercise, but we rarely think about the unspoken details.
Like affection, for example.
No one doubts a mother’s or father’s love for their child, but sometimes a gesture can change a person’s world.
In 2010, researchers at Duke University School of Medicine found that babies with very affectionate and attentive mothers grow up to be happier, more resilient, and less anxious adults.
Similarly, a 2013 UCLA study found that a parent’s unconditional love and affection can make children emotionally happier and less anxious.
So, while we devote our full attention and dedication to our children’s healthy development, we can also reinforce their growth through love and affection.
Gestures and displays of affection
Researchers have also studied the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for babies. This special interaction between mother and baby, in particular, helps calm babies so they cry less and sleep more. This same skin-to-skin contact also appears to boost brain development.
According to a study published in Scientific American, children living in a disadvantaged environment, such as an orphanage, had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those living with their parents. Scientists believe that the lack of physical contact in orphanages was an important factor in these physical changes.
That is why physical contact and displays of affection are key in the growth and development of our children.
Positive Reinforcement is key
Young children who are encouraged to behave appropriately through positive reinforcement tend to show more positive outcomes in terms of character development than children motivated by fear of punishment, the Young Scholar Academy explained.
In fact, enforcing discipline using a positive approach even forces children to exceed expectations. Children motivated by fear of punishment, on the other hand, only comply with minimal effort; they only do the bare minimum to avoid being punished.
With a positive reinforcement system, children understand that their good behavior has positive consequences, such as rewards or even mere recognition. This teaches them the value of personal responsibility and self-discipline.
Boundaries are bilateral
Not all children understand the concept of discipline and do not understand why their parents are trying to get them to behave in a certain way. Therefore, when children are punished or reprimanded, they mistake it as a sign that they are not wanted, and that their parents simply want to hurt them for misbehaving.
In addition to the positive approach discussed above, teaching your child to understand the importance of limits is one of the highest forms of showing affection.
In the Nurturing Parenting Community Based Education Program, author Stephen Bavolek writes that “the purpose of family rules is for parents and children to establish consistent guidelines that will help everyone know what is, and what isn’t expected of them.” Setting boundaries and expectations for children can assist in building life skills that include patience, problem-solving, resourcefulness, responsibility, and self-discipline, according to the Michigan State University.
The subtle art of listening
Parents are a safe haven for children throughout their lives. And nothing demonstrates security and confidence more than listening.
Listening involves more than a gesture — it’s about paying full attention to what your child has to say, beyond the dialogue that automatically occurs in our heads when we think we already know what we’re going to be told.
Active listening allows us to get to know in-depth the little individuals growing up under our roof, and to let them know that we are here for them.
Be sure to make conversation appointments with your children and honor them, let them know they have your undivided attention and remember those little details as their interests change.
You’ll see how that little being will grow into a happy, healthy adult.