Self-Control First Sign of Future Success

Cry. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

This is a pattern all too familiar to parents of newborn infants.

Starting at birth, babies begin the life-long process of learning about themselves and the world around them. From the very start, they are acquiring skills that are necessary for navigating the social world successfully. These skills are commonly grouped under the term self-control or self-regulation.

Fundamental self-regulation skills are developing from day one, but that doesn’t mean that infants should be expected to exercise self-control. These early skills won’t mature until later in development. In a baby’s first year, for instance, crying doesn’t indicate a lack of self-control; it’s a way for him to alert parents and caregivers to his needs.

During early infancy, a baby’s needs are few – eating, resting, and playing, for the most part. But it’s just as important for him to get consistent, warm, and attentive care from loved ones. These positive experiences are necessary for the healthy development of his brain, his social functioning, and his emotional adjustment.

Can too much attention spoil a baby?

But as a baby moves beyond his first few months, his parents may begin to wonder whether responding to his every whimper or sign of distress is displaying their love and concern or is in fact creating a helpless and spoiled child.

Consistent nurturing, love, and attentive care from parents is essential throughout infancy and the toddler years for all areas of development, but especially for social and emotional skills.

Although some parents may confuse consistent, responsive care with coddling or spoiling, research suggests that parents who are actively engaged in their child’s life are promoting later independence and resilience.

Caring and responding to your baby fosters independence and resiliance later!Tweet this!

The earliest self-regulation skills may take time to become apparent, but they are the foundation for a child’s later ability to regulate his emotions, develop basic coping strategies, and engage in appropriate social behavior. All of these factors help to promote school readiness and support later academic and career success.

The Beginnings of Self-Control

Between age one two, children begin to develop the ability to control their immediate impulses. Parents will notice that in this stage, crying may decrease as baby begins to use gestures and words as a means for self-expression and communication.

Even once that point is reached, a child’s pleas for attention should not go ignored.

Research indicates that when an infant’s social and emotional needs are ignored, there is a greater risk he will encounter problems with language and soft-skills development. In fact, if parental indifference is serious enough, it can interfere with emotional and self-regulation, and cause larger socialization and behavioral problems to occur and persist in later childhood and adulthood.

From birth to age three, when the brain is developing rapidly, a child’s home environment and social interactions greatly influence how connections are being formed in the brain. Positive interactions and surroundings appear to strengthen brain areas involved in self-control, behavior, and problem-solving ability.

Many parents believe that letting a child ‘cry it out’ will help him become more independent and self-reliant. On the contrary, this practice can create toxic stress that hinders brain development. The traumatic feelings of abandonment, fear, and hopelessness make it difficult for him to understand and regulate his own emotions. In short, he becomes less likely to develop positive behaviors.

Self-control is a critical component of positive early childhood development. It contributes greatly to the formation of social skills that affect a child’s ability to learn, to follow directions, and create positive relationships. These abilities are strong predictors of future success.

Make the Most of the First Years

So although the ‘cry, sleep, eat, repeat’ pattern may become tiresome after the first few months, it’s important for parents to resist giving in to exhaustion and exasperation. Disregarding your child’s early signals for attention, affection, and love can make their later years less enjoyable and more challenging.

Early on, welcome the sound of your baby crying as a reminder that you are needed, and stay eager and prepared to do whatever it takes to sooth him.

Life moves fast, and young children quickly mature and become more independent. Parents soon have to face the harsh realization that their attention and affection is not as needed and appreciated as it once was.

Therefore, parents are encouraged to trust the process and enjoy every step of the journey to raise a happy and healthy child.

Tarrin McGhee is the owner of Pique Creative.

This article was originally published by The Tri-State Defender.