How A Mother's Mindset Can Influence Her Child's Development - Baby Chick
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How A Mother’s Mindset Can Influence Her Child’s Development

Discover how your decisions and behaviors may be responsible for shaping your child's emotions and relationships.

Updated April 10, 2024

by Rachel Tomlinson

Registered Psychologist

When you find out you’re pregnant, you start to worry about the foods you eat and the things you put in your body. We are often told about the effects of our decisions on our babies as they develop in utero. Goodbye soft cheese, hello prenatal vitamins! But a mother’s mindset continues to influence her child long after she has given birth.

Mothers play a unique role in the development of their children. A mom is with her baby before they are born, and they tend to be the primary caregiver after the baby is born. So, every action and behavior during those early days, weeks, and months when you are your child’s primary attachment figure influences their development. Your child starts learning about their first emotions and relationships via their bond and experiences with you. A mother’s mindset and how she engages with the world around her can significantly influence her child’s development.

A Mother’s Mindset Impacts a Child’s Sense of Safety

By providing your child with a safe place to land, where it’s okay to have big feelings or be flawed, they learn what it feels like to be safe and trust people. This significantly impacts their self-esteem, and they are more capable and confident in exploring the world around them, which helps their development. Ensure you express your unconditional love for them, nurture them, show warmth and affection, and ensure you are consistent so they know what to expect from you. It’s also essential to allow them to be independent when it’s safe and developmentally appropriate.1

Shift Your Mindset

Independence might seem scary or can be challenging for moms to adjust to their little ones no longer needing them quite so much, but it’s integral for our children to feel comfortable leaving our loving arms to explore. This helps them learn all about what they are, what they like, what they are interested in, and, most importantly, what they are capable of. See independence as something healthy to embrace!

A Mother’s Mindset Can Affect a Child’s Future Relationships

How you react to your child’s needs and nurture them, in turn, deeply impacts how they understand other people and their emotional needs. Essentially, you set the cornerstone for their future relationships because you demonstrate what they can expect from other people and how to treat others. Securely attached children become securely attached adults with higher self-esteem and confidence to express and share their feelings. They also have better, more mutually beneficial, and positive relationships. It doesn’t mean you have to be a perfect mom, but being attentive to them and genuinely interested and accepting of who they are helps them understand they should be respected and that their needs are important and deserve to be met.1,2,3

Shift Your Mindset

It’s easy to rush through the day doing all the practical parenting things that take time and attention. But let’s remove some of the pressure. While it would be lovely to have all the time in the world to wonder at your child, you don’t necessarily need quantity time with your child; you need quality time. When you spend time with them, focus on switching off and being entirely present with them. Try to find a few minutes each day where you get on their level, show wonder when they explore the world, learn new things, and show interest in what they are engaged in.

Mother’s Mindset Can Impact How a Child Develops Empathy

A mother can help her child develop empathy by being considerate and sensitive to her child’s needs and feelings. By experiencing what it feels like to be on the receiving end of compassion or having someone consider and respect their point of view, your child will learn the skills to offer this to others.2,4

Shift Your Mindset

Try to avoid the trap of fixing your child’s feelings. It’s hard to see them in emotional pain, but they need opportunities to feel the feeling. If we rush our kids through emotions, we can accidentally invalidate their feelings. This doesn’t mean you ignore your child or don’t offer support, but instead of trying to fix it, be present with them, name their emotions, and help them understand what to do with their feelings rather than fixing it for them.

A Mother’s Mindset Affects Whether a Child Has a Positive Attitude

How you handle problems and react to the world can directly influence how your child’s attitude develops. Responding with optimism, problem-solving, and a positive attitude helps your child develop the skills to be resilient.5,6

Shift Your Mindset

You don’t need to be happy-go-lucky and positive about everything. Still, it is essential that your child has opportunities to see you persist and work through challenges and learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and see them as learning opportunities. If you see a problem or a challenge, take the time to work through some problem-solving, and ask your child to help you come up with solutions.

A Mother’s Mindset Can Encourage a Good Work Ethic

You can determine your child’s ability to work hard by showing them how you do it. Again, you don’t need to be a perfect parent or machine who never stops, but it’s about showing them how you plan tasks, complete your goals, and problem-solve to get things done.6,7

Shift Your Mindset

Instead of praising your child by saying “Good boy” or “Good girl,” try to praise their efforts instead with, “I can see how hard you tried.” This shifts their attitude from only feeling good when they get a positive outcome to feeling good about their effort or the skills required to persist and meet a goal. Even better, instead of praising your child directly, ask them how they feel. For example, if they show you a painting they have done, you could say, “Wow, I can see how much effort you put in; how do you feel about the painting you have done?” It’s great to build their skills to self-reflect and feel a sense of pride in things. Shift your mindset from outcomes to process and help your child reap the rewards.

Your Mindset Helps You Manage Your Own Well-being

Mental health conditions are common and not something to be judged or stigmatized. However, when becoming a mom, many women might experience pressure, sleepless nights and exhaustion, fluctuating hormones, lack of support, or have a pre-existing mental health diagnosis. All of these can impact a mom’s mental health and well-being, directly impacting their parenting and child’s development.8

Moms with a mental health diagnosis or who experience symptoms are good moms, but it can be harder to cope or manage. Their resilience might be lower, they may respond inconsistently to their child, or they might not be able to regulate their emotions all that well. This may influence how a child is parented, and as kids learn from what they see, they might also pick up on certain things. For example, a mom who feels anxious may avoid something, and subsequently, their child might not experience certain situations or learn to fear them if they have picked up on the mom’s worries.8

Shift Your Mindset

Look after yourself! It can feel selfish to put yourself first, and many moms may feel like if they put themselves first, they are somehow taking something away from their child. But it’s not true. When a mom looks after herself — whether asking for help, taking some time out, or accessing therapy or other mental health supports — she can address her concerns and well-being. This means she is more available to support and look after her child. And in addition, children learn it is okay to prioritize and look after themselves if they see their mom doing it.

As a mom, you are a huge (if not the biggest) influence on your child’s well-being. Most of these points highlight that you only need small shifts to optimize your child’s development. You might already be doing many of these things, or perhaps only a small tweak to your mindset could result in huge and simultaneously positive outcomes for your child. Remember, you don’t need to be a perfect parent. The most significant gains can be made by being emotionally available, authentic, and transparent with your child.

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Rachel Tomlinson Registered Psychologist
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Rachel Tomlinson is a registered psychologist and internationally published author of Teaching Kids to Be Kind who has worked with adults, families, and children (birth through eighteen years old) in… Read more

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