In some ways, the youngest members of our families are the wisest and most mature. We miss so much of who they are, how they communicate and what they are capable of, by assuming otherwise.
The core belief I have that informs all of my parenting choices, and the way I have interacted with G and R from the days of their births, is that ‘they understand’ – everything.
On the day they are born, they may not know how to settle themselves back to sleep, good foods from bad, or how to handle the complex emotions that every day for the next decade (and more) will throw their way, but they do understand that they need to learn these things and that we believe they are capable of beginning the process immediately.
A newborn can sense how their parent is feeling, including doubt and, if they feel that you think they can’t do something, how are they supposed to believe it themselves? I don’t think this belief in a child’s capacity is excess pressure – setting up for failure – in fact, quite the opposite. Little people spend every day learning and growing, it simply gives them a destination. I knew that both G and R were capable of ‘doing their nights’ (a French phrase, swiftly adopted as I love the sense of ownership it gives a baby over their sleep) at an early age, and I told them this. There are of course practical applications that are involved in achieving it (for another post) but everything is rooted in having no doubt of their ability to do so. G slept 9 hours from 8 weeks and R has been sleeping 8-10 hours since 10 weeks.
A baby/a child is blissfully unaware of limitations and in many ways, perceive of themselves as just like mummy and daddy. Why instil them with adult conceptions about what they cannot do? Especially as a lot of these ideas (sleepless nights, picky eaters, temper tantrums etc) are misinformed cliches that have come to be expected through propagation by struggling parents. Children can be taught how to sleep in their first few months, there is no reason why they shouldn’t enjoy eating olives, and hearing the word ‘no’ needn’t initiate a spiral of flailing arms and legs.
It all starts with not sowing the seed of doubt in their minds in the first place. They can do ‘it’ and so can you. A child’s perception is your greatest ally and their greatest strength, we should use it and never underestimate it.