A Baby’s Behavior Is Neither Good nor Bad
Instead of telling an infant, “Bad baby for falling asleep before your tummy got full. Now I’ll have to feed you again in two hours,” say, “Thank you for doing your best to stay awake long enough to fill your tummy with milk.” You can also help her stay awake by jiggling her foot, touching her face, and continuing to talk to her. As she begins toddling, you will continue to support healthy growth each time you replace words such as “good” or “bad” with descriptions of actions.
When thanking a toddler for picking up toys, change, “You are a good girl” to “Thank you for helping me pick up toys. You are a helper.” Instead of “You are being a good girl when you share your cracker,” say, “It feels good to share. Thank you for offering a bite to me.”
An “-er” form of the action is more powerful than an “-ing” word. Other phrases to encourage a baby’s positive self-image include:
· You are a happy eater.
· You are a thinker.
· Wow! What a worker you are!
· You are a learner.
· You are a talker.
Set a Limit to Food Throwing Without Upsetting Dinner
Imagine for a moment how rewarding it must feel to emerge from being a totally helpless infant into a baby with enough control to pick up an object, move it to the edge of a high-chair tray, and release it over the side. Pure power in action! No wonder a baby usually does this with a look of satisfaction.
However, food on the floor does not make a baby’s mom or dad happy. Throwing food is not a habit any parent hopes to perpetuate. The question becomes how to encourage the new skills of grasping and releasing while also establishing behaviors that will not increase the workload of new parents.
Begin by replacing “You are being a bad girl when you throw food on the floor” with “If you are finished eating, please leave the food on your tray. Food does not belong on the floor.” If a baby continues to throw food over the edge of the tray, remove the tray or dish as you say, “I can tell you are finished.”
Since no parent wants a baby to feel hungry, return the food if she clearly wants to continue eating. Food on the floor again? Repeat: “It looks like you are finished eating.” You are not losing if you need to repeat this process. Each statement and action will help connect meaning with your words. The more succinct and consistent you can be with what you say, the more you help her connect the sounds with understanding.