A baby’s first tool for communicating with the world is the ‘social smile’, usually around six to eight weeks of age. Unlike the involuntary smiles of a newborn reacting to internal stimuli, the first ‘real’ smile is in response to something in the world at large.
Positive Reinforcement of a Child’s Smile
As a baby grows, the ability to maintain eye contact, strengthening of the facial muscles, and awareness of familiar faces lead to that first social smile. The baby’s delight is matched by enthusiastic feedback from the parents. The lesson is learned that smiling leads to happiness.
This parent/child bonding provides the earliest means of communication. The parent begins to solicit smiles by playing games like peek-a-boo, imitating animal sounds, or making silly faces.
Through these interactions, a child’s first bonds are created. From bonding with parents and caregivers, the child will branch out to form relationships with others, such as playmates, teachers, extended family, and friends. Allowing your child to do things with their friends, from going to the park to having a water park-type party for their birthday are part of that positive reinforcement.
Building Connections With Others
Positive connections beyond family help children move into and through the teen years with confidence and stability.
Christine Carter, Ph.D.,(sociologist and Executive Director of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University in California, states that healthy social connections may be the main element in a child’s happiness, and “the more connections your child makes, the better”.
Parents: Beware of Making Your Child Happy
The above-cited article in Parents Magazine warns against parents trying to create their child’s happiness by fulfilling their every wish or giving them everything they ask for.
By taking responsibility for the child’s happiness, the parent deprives the child of the opportunity to learn to deal with negative emotions. Sadness, anger, and frustration are part of every life. Parents should let the child learn to tackle these challenges on his/her own.
Give Praise Selectively
Children need positive feedback in order to gain confidence. A parent should praise the child’s effort and hard work, and avoid tying approval to success. Instead of praising attributes like prettiness, athleticism or brightness, recognize the effort and hard work.
When attending a child’s football practice or dance recital, offer a smile of encouragement when a mistake is made, and the child will feel unconditional love.
Try to Elicit a Smile by Giving a Smile
You can protect your child’s smile by providing excellent dental care. Clean, healthy teeth are vital to a confident, happy smile.
Getting teeth cleaned regularly will prevent cavities and keep your child’s smile radiant and beautiful for decades to come!
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