The way we handle our children physically is crucial to their developing self-esteem. We convey our children’s inestimable value through the ways we touch. As important as words are over time, the way we are with them from the beginning matters more than what we say.
In addition to the value of a loving touch, we parent best when we stay emotionally available and warm with our children. When we sustain this availability as a constant through our “parental tone”— through feeding, bathing, dressing (when they are babies), meals, limit settings, awakenings and bedtime for older children — it helps us stay responsive to our children’s cues. That’s why it’s best to pick up those crying babies in the first six months of life and see what the problem might be, no matter how many times you have done it before. Or to put your arm around the pouting toddler and say, “I’m right here —what do you need?” If you’re lucky enough to figure it out, your baby or toddler will respond instantly, and if you’re not, at least you’ve shared a good cuddle in the meantime. There’s no harm in showing your child that you are there for them and you care enough to try.