When my children were born it always amazed me how many people were of the opinion that you could spoil a baby or ‘make a rod for your own back’ by cuddling them too much. I never understood it. Imagine being inside your mother’s womb where you felt warm and safe. You were never hungry and every need you had was met on demand. You could hear her voice and would fall asleep to the sound of her heartbeat. Then all of a sudden you were born. The feeling of her around you vanished and for the first time you were a separate being. There were new sounds and smells that were unfamiliar, you felt hunger and the cold for the first time and you no longer had the safety of your mother’s body around you. It was scary. You yearned for human connection and to be on your mother’s chest because that is where you felt the safest. The familiar sound of her heartbeat kept you calm, and the warmth of her body made you feel safe again, like you did before you entered the world. At first, you needed that physical contact all of the time. However, after a while, the unfamiliarity of the world became a little bit more normal and you felt safer in your environment.
Over time, your confidence grew, and you would feel secure knowing that at any moment the people closest to you would scoop you up if you needed them to. This gave you the confidence to try different things and to step out into the world because you knew there was always a safety net if you fell. You felt accepted and loved, which made you feel empowered and confident, but sometimes you doubted yourself and needed to be back in your mother’s arms. You would return there for a while knowing that it was okay to feel this way and then once your confidence was restored, you would give things another try.
You see, independence comes in time. Children need attachment and security before any of that. A person who feels safe and loved, will show up in the world very differently to someone who doesn’t. Even as an adult we sometimes need an arm around us and some reassurance from the people we love. Children are no different. They need to build up their confidence and feel safe before they step out into the world. They need to know that there is someone in their corner who they can rely on and trust. Once they have this, they will then naturally become more independent. Every child is unique though. Some children are innately more cautious and that’s okay. We are all different and shouldn’t be made to feel like there is anything wrong with that. Once a child feels secure, they can be encouraged to try new things in the knowledge that there is always someone there for them who has their back.
The early years in a child’s life shape who they are and how they respond to the world and themselves. A consistent, loving environment is crucial in a child’s development and has a physical impact on the wiring of their brain. We know as adults that the quality of our relationships has a huge impact on our life. When we feel loved and supported by the people around us, we automatically feel more confident in who we are. As much as we shouldn’t care what other people think, we often do. Think about your own life. There will be people who make you feel energised and inspired and there will be others who make you doubt yourself and feel less than your best. Which of those people are more likely to make you feel confident and like you can take on the world? Those closest to us have a big impact on us. If we want children to fulfil their potential and live a happy life, it is crucial that they have positive and strong attachments with the people around them. If we focus on making a child feel safe and secure, instead of trying to make them independent, we will automatically give them the foundation they need in order to step into their own brilliance. Independence comes in time. However, it is the strong attachments that we have in early childhood and beyond that contribute to our ability to metaphorically spread our wings and fly into a happy and fulfilled future.
About the author
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.
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