Birth through the first year
One way or another, the parent(s) molds the offspring and prepares him to address the challenges of life. Preparation is the foundation that acknowledges life as a two-stage affair: the mental and the physical.
We highlighted the fact that all things begin with thought, but nothing happens until we do something. That’s why this site is a two-stage affair. A parent is like a battery in an automobile, he or she provides the spark to start that engine. A “good parent” does more than that. He provides support, guidance and direction through the stages of parent/child relationship to the point of the child’s independence.
The first year of the interaction between the caregiver and his Little One is undeniably the primary key to success and happiness of our new arrival. That is undoubtedly the most influential year of a person’s life. In that section, our guiding comments are intended to be simple and uncomplicated and I think they are. The same applies to the next section, the only difference is that in that section you and your Little One are taken from the end of the first year to the end of year five – generally, right before she enters formal schooling. I call it “The Final Four.”
Since passion is the mother of invention, and repetition is the mother of skill and foundation of habit, let me repeat a previous statement. This site is about guiding your Little One, and helping develop him to do and be the best he can be. The inclination to do what is right; that is, to be a morally upright human being, is fashioned during the first few years prior to entering formal schooling; in fact, that is true even before the emergence from the mother’s womb.
The development of a human being with a conscience, with a will to do right by himself and others is largely a matter of building a moral foundation and teaching him to appreciate and enjoy being alive. That’s what this site is about – the simple and uncomplicated joy of being a parent/child.
I was motivated to fashion this site because the learning that takes place before children start school sets the stage for everything they learn in school, and in life. That’s why the parent is his child’s first and most important teacher. If we do it right, the result will last a lifetime and friends, neighbors and countrymen will gain immensely because of it.
A child who is happy and who feels secure, is a child who will choose to develop the moral character that will propel him to heights of accomplishment that he was created to achieve.
One more thing worth repeating: the contents of this site relate to the treatment of the child, regardless of whether the parent/child is male or female, the parent single or married, heterosexual or not. Ethnic, religious, or national origin differences do not matter. However, the optimum relationship is for the caregiver to be a male and female partnership, committed in such a way that marriage is a legal bind that says they will be there for the child forever. Many of us truly believe that a committed relationship is an important link for a durable and moral society.
Again, the following effort is not intended to be all-inclusive or in depth; however, it is intended to be very, very helpful and at the same time, simple and uncomplicated. Without further delay let us fully partake of the essence of part two of this effort. We think you’ll see your little “Bundle of Joy” a little differently and with eyes that light up with the joy of parenthood.
Birth to Six Months
The thing that makes it so easy to be a good parent is that from his emergence into our world, your little “Bundle of Joy” is totally dependent on you for his survival and pleasure. When you carry him out-and-about among the world, be proud of the fact that you are responsible for being a caregiver and molder of a new arrival. Don’t be afraid to show him off to friends and strangers alike: in fact, smile and revel in it; it will cause you and your Little One to feel that he is something special and meaningful to you and the rest of the world – and he is.
Meanwhile, you will share and understand that your Little One is adoringly observing your ability to do things that he can only hope one day he can do: simple things such as sitting, standing, and then walking, running, and tumbling. He doesn’t know it yet, but you know one day he will be able to talk, walk, and be as physically adjusted as you; maybe even more so. In the meantime your adoring Little One will do anything you say (that’s why it is easy to be a successful parent) because, at first, you are his Superman and he wants to be just like you.
Just as an aside: an extremely small percentage of infants will not develop, either mentally, physically, or both. They will require greater time/effort and support. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the opening statement of the Declaration of Independence is absolutely true, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all (individuals) are created equal…” What that means is that every one of us were created to be all that we admire in others. About ninety-eight percent of our limitations are simply due to the difference in our gene pool, the experience of our ancestors (including our parents), and the behavioral mindset of those surrounding our incubation in our mothers womb.
The structure of this site is intended to aid you, the parent (caregiver), in molding your Little One. Throughout our sharing of this site, please keep foremost in your mind that two essentials should be strongly accented: Love & Discipline. Love is easy, discipline can be and usually is difficult – use this site as your guide, use your Instincts and LOVE as your barometer to provide a foundation that will foster and support a lively and joyous life.
To continue: One of the principle keys to parenting success is to treat your Little One with respect and kindness, along with love and discipline, as though she really is as important as she is. Never say “Shut up,” and never, ever strike her in anger. If you do it right, you may often have the need to say “No,” however, you should never accept the need to be negative.
Have you ever heard a parent say to his adoring Little One, “Say hello to the man, son!” And what does he do?
He says, “Hello!”
The goal of the parent is to be a guide and a good teacher. Teach your Little One how to be a person that brings joy and satisfaction to the world, to you the parent, and to himself.
The fact is, from the moment your child enters our real world of pleasure and happiness, and pain and sorrow, until the time he takes his final breath, you are the first and most influential teacher he will ever have. Even when he brings home that first report card from school, he will be seeking your approval and admiration. Actually, just between you and me, the precious little secret is that he is seeking two things. First he wants to prove to you that everything you attempted to teach him was not wasted, and second, he wants to prove that he’s a hot-shot and he is smart enough to pick up on input from other teachers as well as you.
During the first six months of your Little One’s life, at first, he may seem to require only milk, sleep, and diapers; however, to grow, he needs more than that.
To learn to talk, he needs to be talked to. Talk to him, no baby talk (we talk about an exception later): talk as though you are talking to a close friend. It doesn’t matter what you talk about; in fact, it doesn’t have to be meaningful at first, but try to make it meaningful to some degree; for example, “Do you want to take a nap?” “Want to go for a walk” “Want to get a bite to eat” “Let’s go see a movie” – the key here is, whatever you say, always make it positive.
To learn about love and security, he needs to be cuddled and gently cared for. Remember what we said earlier: give him lots of hugs and kisses. Your Little One is a sponge, he is observing everything you do and say. With that in mind, it is important that you be consistent; for example, that you and your significant-other treat each other with caring and affection. It’s not “Big Brother” watching, it’s your little “Bundle of Joy” watching, and he is watching very carefully.
To learn about the world around him, he needs to see, hear, smell, and touch things and people. Allow others (people with whom you are familiar) to hold him, hug him, and talk to him.
Keep in mind, discipline is the primary factor of success; however, the one thing your Little One never needs is punishment. If he cries, it’s for a reason. He is either uncomfortable (in pain, is hungry, or afraid), or he wants attention. So, when he cries, here is a simple approach to identifying and solving the problem:
1) Check to be sure he is comfortable — No wet or mushy diapers
because of urine or bowels.
a) No pins, needles or other objects jabbing the skin.
b) No illness (check temperature). If high temperature is detected, check your medical manual, and/or call the doctor.
2) Regardless of the situation, gently grab the little “Bundle of Joy” and
3) hug and kiss him, then look him in the eyes and tell him sincerely that you love him. Hug him again and sway him gently.
Check to see if he is hungry. Give the Little One a bottle (when possible, the caregiver should hold him and speak to him in subdued tones while holding the bottle). When appropriate, place him on the breast and let him nibble (breast milk is best, it does two things: it feeds the child essential physical nourishment, some of which cannot be obtained any other way, and it helps cement a special bond between the child and mother).
Continue to Talk to your child and then (yep, and then…) sing him a song. You don’t have to be a good singer, and it doesn’t matter what song you sing but you’ll be surprised how you and he respond to your singing.
One of my favorites is the Mother Goose Nursery rhyme:
“Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top when the wind blows the cradle will rock… “
As you sing, smile and think about the words you use. Your child will seldom continue to cry after the above steps; If after completing them, about fifteen minutes pass and your child continues to cry, place him in a relaxed and safe sleeping position and let him continue to cry. The chances are great he will simply cry himself to sleep, and he will have pleasant feelings as he drifts off into la la land
The above is a cut-and-dried formula that works almost every time. Keep in mind now, nearly all babies cry from time to time. Of course, some infants cry more than others, but don’t blame your baby or yourself; you both deserve kind and loving treatment. However, caring for your child takes patience and energy. That means you should take good care of yourself, take vitamin supplements (usually necessary), and try to get plenty of rest: you’ll need it. Also, any time someone you trust volunteers to help, by all means graciously accept the offer.
A word of caution: the one thing you seldom want to do (if ever) is over-indulge your Little One, but that’s a tough one because you are your child’s super-protector as well as his teacher. The reason is, over-indulgence usually renders either abuse or spoilage, and you don’t want either; on the other hand, children are naturally extremely curious, so keep an eye on him at all times, especially around water.If you don’t already know how to swim, take swimming lessons and learn how — swimming is probably the most practical sport of any. Whether you do or not, by all means, insure that your Little One is taught to swim even before he can walk (it is much easier that way). A YMCA near you can provide classes or information for swimming lessons.Now, here are some recommended ideas that you might consider: all children need to feel secure, and love helps them feel that way, so give your Little One lots of hugs and kisses and smiles, we suggest that you restrict use of the phrase, “I love you.” On the other hand, it is important to show your love: the little hugs and kisses reinforce that fact.
It doesn’t matter how cranky or ornery you or others think you sound, your little one loves to hear your voice. It’s soothing and reassuring to him, so talk to him often. Use his name and look into his eyes as you talk to him, and watch his face light up. Also — Talk to him as though he is a normal adult. Ask him questions even though you know you won’t get a “real” answer. Nevertheless, ask anyway – what do you ask? Whatever comes to mind; for instance, “Do you need a clean diaper?” “Do you want to sing along with me?” “Would you like to go for a walk in the park?” “What would you like to eat from the refrigerator?” On the other hand, whenever he babbles, talk back to him with the same sounds he uses (this is the exception of which we spoke). Then introduce new sounds and as he reacts to the new sounds you introduce, repeat the sounds he seems to like best.
Obtain Mother Goose books from the library: Read nursery rhymes and sing songs to your Little One. They prepare her to enjoy reading and storytelling: what this does is to aid in sequencing and it promotes the ability to take a situation from the beginning to a realistic conclusion. The best nursery rhymes are the one’s where you involve her senses: “Patty cake” is a good one, one of my other favorites is “Peek-A-Boo.” Maybe it has been a while, or maybe your parent(s) (caretaker) never played it with you, so as a reminder here is how it goes:
Grab the infant by the wrists, look her in the eyes with your loving smile and as you gently smack the infant’s palms together say, Patty cake, (smack them together again) patty cake (smack them together again) bakers man, (smack them together again) make me a cake as fast as you can. When she babbles, stop and listen to her until she stops, then continue with the rhyme or song. Later, you and she will sing along together, but generally not at that exact time.
“Peek-a-boo” is simply a matter of covering your face with both hands while peeking between the fingers as if your Little One can’t see you, and all of a sudden pull your hands away and say “Peek-a-boo.” Be sure to produce a big smile when you do it: kids love that one.
When you and he are out-and-about (if in a car, make sure he is properly protected with a seat belt) tell him about the things you see and make sure he gets to look around. Also be sure you talk to him as well as other people along the way. This way he’ll become more secure, more positive, and more persuasive in his personality and mannerisms. Help him get used to all manner of people: friends, baby sitters, other family members, store clerks.
Don’t go overboard, but don’t shy away from allowing other people to hold him, starting with just a few minutes at a time. What this does is help your Little One perceive that others care about him and will not harm him (we’ll talk later about being over-protective, at the same time being vigilant: if you remember, we talked about that during the coverage of the parent’s mindset).
This is the time to teach him to be respectful of the rights and priveleges of others, at the same time to reveal his “humilipride.” Remember way back during our talk about the parent’s mindset, we revealed “humilipride”? These are the times you want to invoke that attribute.
Cleanliness and safety are always important concerns because illness and injury can be reduced simply by heading it off at the source: in other words, before you wrap up any activity, insure you leave it clean and teach your Little One to do the same — talk to him, tell him what you are doing and why. Doing it now will make a huge difference later in life. When thinking safety, you’ve got to be in a different mindset for your Little One.
Incidentally, even though we know that the habit of brushing one’s teeth is important, the toothbrush, if used improperly, could present a hazard to your Little One. No need to be paranoid about it; nevertheless, you have to think about things that have sharp edges, things that might cut or puncture, things that might break, or that might be swallowed.
Be careful, consider the potential hazard of long cords that your Little One might get tangled in; also, be very considerate of small pieces that might cause choking.
Give your little “Bundle of Joy” interesting things to look at and touch; for example, a piece of fruit (such as an apple) could serve multiple purposes. You could talk about the color, the shape, the weight, the texture, the fact that it has protective skin, that it can be eaten, that the taste is sweet, that it is nutritious, that it has a stem, which means it grows on trees, etc.
Oftentimes your Little One wants you to know she wants your personal attention, that could be one of the reasons for crying, or the equivalent tantrum – don’t fall for that tantrum nonesense. The thing to remember is that a child will attempt many different tactics to achieve a desired result: he has a wide range of choices. On the other hand, you have complete control: use of the power of the parent with the two “friendly weapons,” at your disposal: discipline says “NO” (do it with a smile, or that look of yours, that helps you relax and compose yourself), and love (you don’t have to smile, but you do want to think warm). Don’t get rattled, just remember, you are in control: a good parent always maintains control — without anger or animosity (do it sternly and relax: you are in charge).
Remember, your child wants to please you; however, she will also continually test you. Not for any sinister reason, she simply wants to determine her limits and your patience.
We know you can’t always provide personal attention; however, temporary involvement that titillates her imagination is a satisfactory substitute. Consider some of those hanging things above her crib, (they call them “mobiles”) as a temporary pacifier and attention-getter. Word of caution: be sure a mobile is out of reach because it can be dangerous if your Little One can reach them from her relaxed position.
Provide different sizes, shapes, and colors in as many different places as possible for her to view. Incidentally, television is an excellent medium of exchange; however, it is not a substitute for you, it is best used with you, not instead of you.
Meanwhile, try to establish routines early on, they help your Little
One adjust to her new world. As she grows, schedules and routines become even more important. Establish a set time for her meals, her bedtime, naps, and other daily activities. Jeanne Murphy provides excellent examples of schedules in her book titled, “Baby Tips: Baby’s First Year,” published by Three Rivers Press.
I know it’s not always feasible; however, when you can, as soon as sleeping time is over, get your Little One out of the crib so you can enjoy each other’s companionship and so she can listen and learn from you. Also, be sure to take her with you as often as feasible so you can show her off (she loves it when you show others how much she means to you), and so you can continue to enjoy each other’s company. That way she can learn a great deal by watching and listening to you live your life. The important thing is to have fun with your Little One, and let her know that you and she are best friends. Word of caution here though: as a parent your goal is to be a guide and teacher, not a friend (that is simply “icing on the cake”). When you do it right, you will have no concern about the cake or the icing.
One thing I might share with you is the premier toy a parent can utilize to help develop your child’s physical abilities: a ball! A ball can be used as the toy of the ages: it’s a primer for teaching throwing and catching. In the Archives titled “Games and Recreation,” I reveal the teaching method of the inestimably value of the game of “catch”. That’s the game that practically obviates the need to respond to your child if he says, “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do!”
Incidentally, you’ll know when to introduce a ball by listening to your instincts. If you have doubts, probably the optimum time is as soon as he is proud of himself because he finally can sit up (yep, he finally did it); isn’t it a joy, just watching the natural development of your little “Bundle of Joy” is priceless!
Now, we have talked about the positive ingredients in a parent/child relationship during the first six months, but we have not talked about some of the potential problems inherent in being a parent, guardian or caretaker of your child (your most precious asset). So, let us briefly do that.
At this point, even though RAM Time should become practically automatic (you’ll know when), we have not talked about morality – the reason for that is that the art of you and your child getting to know each other is the primary concern at this stage. Unless your Little One gains trust and confidence in you, she will be inclined to stray from the straight and narrow at the faintest tremor of immorality: that is why RAM Time is so important, but don’t worry, we’ll get there. Meanwhile, a point of interest: the child could have been aborted; such was not the case. Either because of morality, reason, or fear, the child is a presence in our lives; which means, the first hurdle is behind us. No need to linger with that fact, it simply means that now we have an obligation to secure a human life and provide her the opportunity to be an independent and productive member of our world.
The second item on our agenda is for us to understand that we don’t own our children. We are simply caretakers entrusted to guide and help develop a fledgling newcomer into a polished adult: one who will further enrich our society and become a positive force in the advancement of our kind (homo sapiens). A polished adult is defined as a productive person: one who respects himself and others, as well as his property and that of others.
The third item on our agenda is for us to understand that guiding and helping develop our youthful newcomers is not a matter of time as much as a matter of caring and giving of one’s self. Quality of time is much more important than quantity of time. In other words, giving of ourselves does not mean a day is more important than an hour, nor does it mean giving material things represents caring and concern. What it does mean is that an hour of caring and sharing of one’s self can equal many days, even months, of simply accompanying our youth in body alone. I said all that to say that many caregivers contend that there is simply not enough time in the day to do all that needs to be done, plus properly attend to their dependent Little One: not true.
There is no denying that time is a commodity that cannot be replaced — once gone, it cannot be retrieved. Nevertheless, there are things that you can do to energize every hour of each day and get the most out of what your life has to offer. The single most effective thing you can do is to plan what you are going to do a day (or longer) in advance. The more detailed the plan, the more effective it will be and the more time you will appear to have at your disposal. That in itself will help you zero in on each individual event of the day. Then when you meet and greet your Little One, you can temporarily wipe everything else out of your mind and devote your total energies to enjoying the alliance with your little “Bundle of Joy.” Remember your favorite love song? Think about those words and respond in kind with her (one of my favorites is “Close to You” by the Carpenters).
“Why do birds
you are near?
Just like me,
they long to be.
Close to you!
Why do stars
fall down from the sky,
you walk by?
Just like me,
they long to be
Close to you!”
One other thing a person can do: get organized; of course, that is easier said than done, but Stephanie Winston has written a book titled, “Getting Organized” (Copyright 1978, published by Warner Books in arrangement with W.W. Norton & Company), it is outstanding and it can be a tremendous help. Of course, that’s not the only one, but organization is one of the keys to a fulfilling life, if Stephanie’s book doesn’t float your boat, find one that does and cuddle up with it when you have the time.
There are many other things you can do to maximize your time, but that objective is for some other effort, not this one.
Finally, the matter of finances comes into play. We talked about the “money mentality” in part one, now comes the action. The strange thing in this matter is that the ability to buy material objects tends to muddy the focus of sharing and caring to the degree that a person often provides his little “Bundle of Joy” with material gifts as opposed to gifts of the heart, emotion, and true self. I know you are thinking of things your Little One can play with when you are not around; however, it is best to help him be creative by motivating him to create his own interim games. In many instances, the gift-giving is a sign of selfishness in that the caregiver really wants to gain more time to himself, and giving a toy is one way of rationalizing that fact.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not always a matter of selfishness, and there is nothing wrong with being selfish, that’s a gift of nature; however, your little “Bundle of Joy” needs you more than any toy. Just as a suggestion: we talked about a ball as a premier toy, the parent can start a session of ball-play with your child very briefly and right before he tires and tends to want to rest, you can leave him as he begins his little trip to la la land.
Even at Christmas time when gifts are expected and appreciated, the advantage of limiting gifts and toys to just a few, and giving of yourself instead of a toy, is that in later life your Little One will better develop creative ways to entertain himself; in addition, you will be inclined to find more creative ways to entertain both him and yourself. The wonderful thing is, you don’t have to be extremely creative, just do something. Almost anything that comes from your heart will do just fine.
If you possess lots of things of material value, that’s great, congratulations. If you possess little to no things of material value, that’s not a problem, it is simply a condition: one in which you can control (easy for others to say). The important thing is to teach your Little One to think in terms of appreciating the positives of what he does have and to value it. And to express value as something that comes more from inside a person than outside.
“I’m bored, there is nothing to do!” Have you ever heard youngsters say that? Sure you have. That’s the time your little “Bundle of Joy” becomes more inclined to seek other avenues of joy, like drugs and entertainment from the dark side of our world. Reduce the number of toys and increase the creative effort from your heart and you will seldom, if ever, hear that weary phrase. Incidentally, toys are not bad: it’s just that over-abundance of them is counter-productive.
One more thing: making toys from things around the house or out in the yard is another way of inducing creativity in yourself and your Little One. For example, find different size sticks in the yard and race them in water at a nearby creek (or on a rainy day practically anyplace), either one-on-one (mine and yours), or several (I’ll take the short fat one, which one do you say will win?). It really doesn’t matter who wins, but you’ll find it fun and a learning adventure for both of you.
Now let’s continue with launching your little “Bundle of Joy” on a lifetime of progress and success.
Six Months to One Year
Change is a product of time, and your little “Bundle of Joy” seems to change completely in her second six months of life. She sits up and turns over, plus she starts trying to talk in her own inimitable way. What really gets interesting is that she tries to feed herself and she seems to start to better understand what you are saying to her. At this point, the most important thing is to encourage her in every way, especially point to the new skills she is acquiring. The best way to encourage her is with praise; she won’t be perfect in anything she attempts, but she will make progress and that’s when acknowledgement of her advances is paramount. She’ll look to you and expect you to respond, that’s when you pick her up and tell her how wonderful she is, and remember to give her great big hugs and kisses.
A word of caution: this is the time your little one is extremely curious; she’ll get into everything. With this in mind, you need to childproof everything in every room if possible. Everything that is sharp should be locked away. Anything that might break or shatter should be moved to “higher ground”, or an area that is impervious to being pulled over. Poisonous items should be placed out of reach, and electrical outlets should be covered. All open stairways should be closed off or in some way childproofed.
Your little one will want to place practically everything in her mouth, so be very careful about what you leave laying around. Let her explore as much as possible, and try to limit the occasions for saying “no.” On the other hand, do not shy away from saying “no” when appropriate: she might pout, but she’ll get over it. When you say “no” there should be no hesitation on the actions of your little one to stop what she is doing immediately. Keep in mind, you should have a legitimate answer when she asks that soon-to-be-coming-question, “why?” Incidentally, your little one is born secure and confident, and you want to do whatever it takes to support that trait. Your primary goal, however, is to guide her, and you may not always grasp a good solid answer. There are times when you will need to use the phrase, “Because I said so!” even though it is not a legitimate answer. Whenever that happens, try to remember the situation and give her a legitimate answer as soon as possible. One important thing to remember: when you say “no,” critique the behavior, not your Little One. For example, “You are a wonderful little girl and I love you very much, but you should never do that: and this is why.”
It is at this time that you want to encourage your little one to “help” around the house. If you are peeling fruit, such as an apple or orange, give her one to look at and touch.
If you are performing other activities, don’t hesitate: encourage your little one to “help you” do other things as well. For example placing dishes in or taking them out of the sink or dishwasher, sweeping the floor, running the vacuum cleaner, cutting grass, shoveling snow, and any normal activity. Also, try to provide clean, safe pans and utensils for pretend-cooking, or, as is probable, a coming together of the sounds of the kitchen (banging of the pans).If you have not already begun, now is the time to begin reading to your child – at least fifteen minutes each day. Remember, for a child who has not yet learned to read, it is probably a strange, mysterious, yet fascinating process. Reading is undoubtedly the single most important skill for your child to master because it is the key to all the other subjects your child will learn in school, and it is the key to worlds of pleasure and information via books, magazines, and newspapers.Some parents might be embarrassed because they are either poor readers, or in some cases can’t read at all. That does not matter. At whatever stage you reside, you are far ahead of your child, and you will continue to be ahead for quite a lengthy period of time. If nothing else, and if at no other time, now is the time you can leave your legacy to the world – teach your child(ren) to read (even if you are in the process of teaching yourself)…
The question is: when is your child ready to read? The technical answer is, she is ready when she has the language skills, eye control, and emotional maturity needed to make a strong, steady effort. Children begin maturing at different rates; therefore there is no single age at which we can say a child should begin reading. The real answer is: she is ready when she is ready, but you will not know it unless you begin reading to her. On the other hand, you can speed the process and motivate her to want to read by having fun as you share the reading experience.
When you read to her, hold the book, or magazine at a level she can reach. If she starts grabbing for the pages, that’s good, but show her how to turn them without soiling or tearing them. Look for stories with big print and lots of colorful pictures, and as you read the names of things and people in the books, ask her to name them and point to them in the pictures. Also, get her accustomed to reading the newspaper, that way you can keep her abreast of current events in the world around her. She won’t know what you are talking about, but she’ll grow into it and prosper in many ways.
One of the most valuable things you can do when out-and-about with your little one is to ask her questions about things around her; for example, “Do you hear/see that?” Then describe the sounds your little one hears/sees, and talk about what makes them significant; for example, train whistles (guess how many cars the locomotive is pulling!), thunder claps (how far away is the storm?), ambulance/police/fire sirens (which one is it: an ambulance, a fire, or police vehicle?), waterfall (what does that sight/sound remind you of?), how old do you think that person is?
It is about this time that you want to begin teaching her about her body and how different parts relate to each other, plus their function; for example, the feet, where are they, and what are they used for. She will begin experimenting and exploring long before you are ready to talk about her body, but now is the time to begin the exploration with her.
What is the mouth called, and for and what is it used, also how about the lips and the nose, the teeth and the tongue? How many eyes and ears does she have and why do people have only one mouth but two ears and two eyes. Some people say it means a person should see and hear twice as much as they speak. At this stage, she will be extremely curious, and now is an excellent time to take advantage of that extreme curiosity. A word of caution: don’t overwhelm her with too many things at once, there will be plenty time for absorption. For example, point to her eyes and say, “What is this?” “Do you have more than one?” “What do you call the one to which we pointed?” “For what are they used?” “Tell me something you see that is red.” “When you see red, of what does that remind you?”
You might want to make that day a special one. Call it the “eye day,” and every month on that day, go see something (the art museum, a dance, a movie, etc) in recognition of her special “eye day.” You could do the same for the mouth. Make it the special “mouth day,” and go eat something special on that special day: same thing for the ears, nose, lips, hair, etc. You might want to consider having at least one special day each month, do something and make it special; nothing elaborate. Those special days could become reasons to celebrate being alive. The goal is achievement, and any number of things that tend to maintain the special bond between you and your Little One. One subtle point that might be added is that the same special day can only be repeated once a year.
Change orientation. When our older son, Logan, was in the second grade, his teacher thought he might have had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), so we took him to a testing center. They determined that he did not have ADD, he was simply a curious and healthy young boy. They determined two significant items though: they said his perception of numbers was extremely high (off the chart), and for his age he was extremely worldly. I attribute his worldliness to the fact that at the early stage, beginning at about six months, we would show him new and different things. He was fascinated with construction equipment, so we spent a great deal of time touring construction sites.
We would look at cars up close and we’d point out the tires, the roof, the doors, the mirrors, and we’d identify their function. We would walk through new houses under construction (after hours) and talk about the structure and where would be the location of the bath, the basement, the bedrooms, kitchen, the garage, etc. We would introduce him to different people that he was unaccustomed to seeing, like the fuel deliveryman at the gas service station, the utility meter-reader in our neighborhood, etc. And to new places like the Laundromat, the shoe store, the post office.
We’d sneak up on animals; for example, a bird in it’s nest, and observe their actions and reactions. We’d ask questions and talk about what we saw. All during this time, not only did he learn things, but, on occasion, I also learned new things that I didn’t know myself. We had fun doing it, and we always found time to play together. We’d play peek-a-boo and patty cake, we’d make silly faces in the mirror; we’d build towers and knock them down. At the same time we would insure that he knew that some kinds of behavior was not OK (the beginning of more formalized training to distinguish right and wrong). For example, knocking down the towers of other children, or biting, hitting, and throwing things except in games is not OK.
You should have no problem with saying no. Your child will seldom ask questions that are beyond your ability to answer; however, always have a ready and positive explanation for the “why-not.” On the other hand, it’s great when you don’t have an answer because it provides a chance to gain another teaching moment, plus it offers the opportunity to guide your Little One toward a means of getting correct answers when you are not around.
This is also a grand time to help him learn how things feel. We would often climb trees and talk about the rough tree bark and compare it to the smoothness of the petals of a flower, the softness of towels and blankets, powdery flour, foamy shaving cream, and the coarseness of sand and dirt, also the wetness of water. We’d describe what each one feels like.
We would also walk in the rain and race sticks in the rushing water that the rain produced; we would walk along the creek and race sticks in the creek too. We would play in the mud and get all grimy and mushy (“mom” didn’t like the muddy clothes, but we had loads of fun).
In the wintertime we would play in the snow, and enjoy snowball fights. Later, we would talk about the fun we had and describe how it felt. All those things were simple yet very personal and very effective means of guiding and directing him toward the simple joy of being alive.
One thing that happened with my little girl, Gervaise, is that she did something that I knew she knew she should not have done (about nine months of age). I said to myself, “She’s going hate me for it, but she’s too young for me to expect her to reason it out, so I’ve got to spank her.” I grabbed her little hand and spanked her on the back of it hard — two times, and then hugged her and talked to her softly, explaining the reason for the spank. As I looked in her eyes, during the explanation, I was blown away by her response: she cried briefly, and then looked up at me as if to say, “Thanks, I needed that.”
The point to be made here is that when you can look deep into your Little One’s eyes and know she knows exactly what she is doing, it is time to start establishing and enforcing rules of behavior.
As we close out this first year we might highlight one more thing: Worldbook Educational Products had a phenomenal program titled “Letter People.” We would listen to the music and dance and sing along with the “letter people” as they sang. They no longer provide that program; however, the TV program “Sesame Street” provided something similar to it. It was fun for all of us, and it helped teach them rhythm, music, love and caring.
Incidentally, we can’t do all things all the time, so don’t be afraid to ask for aid in helping your Little One; I guarantee you, it’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of wisdom. That first year is critical in forming a lifelong bond between you and your Little One, as well as the rest of the world. Regardless of what happens in the future, that first year is really something special. If you are seeking peace of mind and the joy and satisfaction of making a difference in your world, you can make it happen. The essential thing is to make it fun.
One final thing: during this year, your little one may not be close to being toilet trained yet – but don’t worry about it. Keep in mind that patience is very important, and praise is always much more effective than threats or punishment.
Now comes the “knight on the white horse,” or whatever you call those individuals who have the answer to one or more of our illusive problems. Potty training is so much individual that, in my mind, there is an easy method designed just for you, but you’ll never know it until you observe it from different outlooks.
I have found that the best way to find the potty training method perfectly suited for you is to access your favorite computer search engine (i.e. www.Yahoo.com, www.google.com, www.msn.com, etc.), then search “Potty Training Videos.” Then scroll down to view any of the numerous videos that seem to be the answer for you: you’ll find numerous techniques of which one is guaranteed to suit you.
What a relief, now you can get on with your parent/child relationship in your own inimitable “barrel of fun.”
Before we enter the next section, let me say one more thing. In spite of my success during stage one and two with Gervaise, Logan, and Troy; remember, there are five stages to parenting, partial stage completion does not make a good parent. One more thing, I just want to repeat: many parents try their very best to be a friend of their offspring; if friendship happens, that’s great. However, your job is not to be your Little One’s friend (that’s “icing on the cake”); your job is to be a parent, a guide, a sculptor and confidante. I know, I’ve said that more than once before, but it’s that important.
Your Little One and the rest of us are counting on you. The wonderful thing is we know you can do it (we know it’ll help if you consume this site).
End (of the first year). To share additional concerns re Bridging Action: Birth through the first Year, please access “Love is Timeless (Archives).” then go to, “Bridging Action: Year One to Year Two.