Hopefully, everything you have been doing for your baby has been directed towards making her a self-reliant and independent person in her own right. To achieve this she will need the necessary mental and physical abilities to ensure that her successes outnumber her failures; that she is flexible enough to cope with new situations and endowed with sufficient self-esteem to set herself realistic goals.

This may be far ahead in your childs future, but what you do in the first three years of life has a vital bearing on how she develops later on.

Unfortunately, children are normally at their most taxing during these years and it is hard for new parents to cope with the physical care of a child as well as her emotional, social and mental development. Studies have shown that parents in all cultures do a fine job of meeting their childs physical and emotional needs during the first ten months or so, except in situations where the child may be malnourished or abused through poverty or ignorance. But their handling is often so unsatisfactory after that age that only about one in ten children reaches her potential.

This is not meant to induce guilt in parents who have more than enough to cope with, but to help clear away misconceptions about the nature of the child and in particular what promotes sound mental and emotional growth.

It cannot be stressed too often that all children are individuals and should be treated as such if they are to flourish. Trying to make your child fit the norm is self-defeating and potentially harmful. Get to know your child, then adapt the knowledge at your disposal to her special characteristics, in the same way as you would approach any challenging and creative task.

But first get rid of any stereotyped ideas of what children are like and how they should be handled. For example, showing fear is acceptable in a girl, but taboo for a boy; yet the ability to see danger in a situation is a sign of intelligence in a child.


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