In a baby’s life, the first stage is from birth up to the age of one year, stage two is toddler-hood up to four years old, and the final stage consists of the early school-age time.
The baby spends most of the first year getting to know its mom and dad. When it is hungry, it is fed; when frightened, it is comforted; and when it cries, it is cuddled. At about six months of age, however, the baby becomes very close to, and grows a deep attachment to the mother. By the age of four and a half, most children are able to go off to school independently.
Primary requirement: The baby needs lots of care and affection. In fact, the need for emotional attachment is inbuilt in him. This is the reason why a baby is kept close to the mother after birth and breastfed on demand. It instantly provides him with a sense of emotional security and instills a strong maternal bond, via touch, response, and mutual gazing.
Actually, this bond begins to flourish during pregnancy itself. The production of oxytocin during lactation increases parasympathetic activity, thus encouraging this bonding. Detailed studies (Condon and Sander, 1974) of the amazing behavioral capacities of the normal neonate have shown that the infant sees, hears, and moves in rhythm to his mother’s voice in the first minutes and hours of life.
The close relationship between the child and the mother nourishes the child’s growing brain. The mother plays with, sings, speaks, reads, or tells stories to the child; in short she handles him with great delicacy and sensitivity. This has a significant impact on the child’s growth and future potential.
A mother’s response to a child’s crying, and to talk soothingly to him while holding him in her arm fosters a sense of trust and security in the child’s mind. This early bonding helps develop a broad range of abilities like the ability to learn, be self-confident and have high self-esteem, positive social skills, and successful relationships in future.
Well loved children who interact frequently with family members learn quickly. If parents consistently talk, read, and sing to infants, it develops their social and language skills. Learning becomes quicker and easier through hearing and singing songs, having stories told or read to them, and repeating rhymes.
On the other hand, excessive stress due to punishment, exposure to violence or negligence can cause emotional and behavioral problems. Providing children with clear explanations about what to do and praising their good behavior can encourage them to become well-adjusted and productive human beings. If they are given a sympathetic hearing they are more likely to grow up happy, secure, and well balanced. Their self-confidence helps them to cope more easily with life’s challenges.