Mothers Need To Know - Child Development And Regulating Feeling
Child Development And Regulating Feelings
Though fear of flying can be triggered by a bad flight, other passengers on
the same flight do not develop fear of flying. Whether one develops fear of
flying depends largely on how well a person has learned to naturally and
automatically control and regulate feelings using resources build inside.
When enough is built inside, it is not necessary to turn to unnatural
resources such as drugs, or to control everything so that nothing happens
to trigger anxiety or panic.
One way to think of this is to consider a sailboat. Sailboats with keels
can withstand strong winds without being capsized. Why? Because the
bottom of the keel is filled with lead or iron to make it difficult for the
boat to be tipped over. The natural ability of the keel-equipped boat to
be ’self-righting’ is similar to the natural ability to be ’self-soothing’, to
be able to re balance ones self easily and naturally.
But in a boat that does not have a heavy weight built into the keep,
when the wings blow, the sailors have to use their own weight to keep
the boat upright, by sitting on the edge of the boat, or even extending
their bodies out over the water to counterbalance the effect of the wind
on the sails.
Without a heavy keel, the sailors must either avoid strong winds or
must use the described control to keep the boat from capsizing.
Obviously, it is easier when resources are - like the weighted keel -
built in. If resources are built in, the boat stays upright, or close to upright,
naturally. And, it doesn’t need to avoid conditions that would be difficult
or impossible for boats without such a keel.
When - instead of boats - it comes to people, how are those resources
built in? Because of research by Daniel Stern, Alan Schore, and others,
we understand far more about how the ability to regulate emotions develops.
PET scans have made it possible to see what areas of the brain are active
- or fail to be active when they should be active - to regulate emotions.
This research tells us that the ability to regulate emotions is produced by
the nature of the relationship between the mother and the child, mostly
during the first two years of life.
When I had pointed this out before, some have objected that I am blaming
mothers; so notice how the following article contrasts old thinking versus
new thinking. Much of what your mother would have needed to help you
better develop the ability to regulate emotions was not known until just
Please read the following article and you will gain, I believe, a great deal
of understanding on what led to the present problem, and on how to help
your own children be better able to regulate emotions naturally.
From what I have learned working with fearful fliers is this: when they
children and got upset, their mothers were not good at calming them, but
were upset by their child being upset.
The mothers were unable to help calm the overloaded and overwhelmed
child. In fact, the mothers frequently were the cause of overload and over-
whelm. Note this when you read the following: ‘Then, you notice the baby
turns away. You sense your child needs you to back off for awhile as she
goes back to a state of calm and restful inactivity’ and . . . ‘Learn how to
help your baby regulate his emotions, for example, by offering an emotion-
ally overloaded baby some soothing sounds or rocking to help him calm
Research has shown that when mothers become overwhelmed by their
child being upset, destabilize the child and prevent the child from learning
to regulate emotions.
Please see the full text of this extremely important article at:
The following is a very condensed version of the article ‘Raising Baby:
What You Need To Know’ by Joanna Lipari.
The key to stimulating emotional and intellectual growth in your child is
your behavior. The baby’s brain is the hardware; your behavior provides
The first two years are critical. How the brain grows is dependent upon
emotional interaction with you. Failure to provide this enrichment during
the first two years can lead to a lifetime of emotional disability.
1. FEELINGS TRUMP THOUGHTS
It is the emotional quality of the relationship you have with your baby that
will stimulate his or her brain for optimum emotional and intellectual growth.
OLD THINKING: Emphasis was placed on developing babies’ cognitive
THE NEW THINKING: Studies suggest that pushing baby to learn words,
numbers, colors and shapes too early gets in the way of the development
of the baby’s ability to learn. Instead, focus on building emotional skills.
WHAT TO DO: The central issue is your baby’s emotional development.
2. NOT JUST A SCREAMING MEATLOAF: BIRTH TO TWO MONTHS.
OLD THINKING: Until now, development experts viewed newborns’ needs
as mainly physiological–with sleep wake, hunger-satiation cycles–as a
friend calls it, the ’screaming meatloaf’ phase.
THE NEW THINKING: In his revolutionary book, ‘The Interpersonal World
of the Infant’, psychiatrist Daniel Stem challenged the conventional
wisdom on infant development by proposing that babies come into this
world as social beings.
WHAT TO DO: See your baby for the special individual he is at birth.
Then, introduce the world to him in a way that maximizes his delight
and minimizes his frustrations.
Learn how to help your baby regulate his emotions, for example, by
offering an emotionally overloaded baby some soothing sounds or
rocking to help him calm down.
3. THE LOVE LOOP: BEGINNING AT TWO MONTHS.
At approximately eight weeks, your baby can make eye contact. Early
visual experiences play an important role in social and emotional
development. ‘The mother’s emotionally expressive face is the most
potent visual stimulus in the infant’s environment,’ says researcher
OLD THINKING: The mother pumps information and affection into the
child, who participates only as an empty receptacle.
THE NEW THINKING: The loving gaze of parents to child is reciprocated
by the baby with a loving gaze back to the parents, causing their endor-
phin levels to rise, thus completing a closed emotional circuit, a sort of
‘love loop.’ Now, mother (or father) and baby are truly in a dynamic,
The final aspect of this developing interactive system is the mother’s
development of an ‘emotional synchronization’ with her child: the
mother’s ability to tune into the baby’s internal states and respond
For example: Your baby is quietly lying on the floor, happy to take
in the sights and sounds of the environment. As you notice the baby
looking for stimulation, you respond with a game of ‘peek-a-boo.’
As you play with your child and she responds with shrieks of glee,
you escalate the emotion with bigger and bigger gestures and facial
expressions. Then, you notice the baby turns away. You sense your
child needs you to back off for awhile as she goes back to a state of
calm and restful inactivity.
Schore says the mother is teaching and learning at the same time.
This moment-by-moment matching of emotion produces emotional
connection. The mother needs to fine-tune her activity level to the
infant during periods of interaction, and to allow the baby to disen-
gage and recover quietly during periods of non play before initiating
arousing play again.
Attuned interaction–engaged play, disengagement and restful non-
play helps the brain develop the hardware and the software for the
child to learn to regulation his or her own emotions appropriately.
The act of calming her down, or giving her the opportunity to calm
down, will help her learn to handle ever-increasing intensity of stim-
ulation and thus build emotional tolerance and resilience.
WHAT TO DO: There are two steps to maximizing your attunement
ability: spontaneity and reflection. When in sync, you and baby will
both experience positive emotion; when out of sync, you will see
negative emotions. If much of your interactions seem to result in
negative emotion, then it is time to reflect on your contribution to
‘Misattunement’ is not a disaster if you can become attuned again.
Falling out of sync and returning to sync teaches children resilience,
and confidence that the world will respond to them.
Let your baby take the lead. Follow the baby’s own spontaneous
expression of himself. That lets the child know another person, i.e.,
mom or dad, can understand what he is feeling, doing, and even
thinking. This assists in the development of empathy which is what
makes us most ‘human.
4. THE SHAME TRANSACTION
Between twelve and eighteen months, positive responses from mothers
transition toward instructions, directions, and prohibitions.
OLD THINKING: Researchers advised limiting situations in which the
child would feel shame.
NEW THINKING: Limit the shame situations, but episodes of shame
can actually stimulate development, as long as the shame period is
short and followed by a recovery. It’s not the shame, but the inability
of the parent to help the child recover from that shame, that is damaging.
WHAT TO DO: What is important to remember is there must be a quick
READ MORE ABOUT IT
The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to
Grow, Learn and Flourish, T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Stanley
Greenspan, M.D. (Perseus Books, 2000)
Building Healthy Minds, Stanley Greenspan, M.D. (Perseus Books, 1999)
MORE TECHNICAL AND EXCELLENT BOOKS ON DEVELOPMENT
The Interpersonal World of the Infant, Daniel N. Stern
The Developing Mind, Daniel J. Siegel
Parenting From Inside Out, Daniel J. Siegel4c87