Babies may cry, smile, cling, protest their carer’s departure, greet their carer, be frightened, explore, be curious, play and demonstrate many more behaviours. Many of these behaviours change as babies and toddlers develop; until eight weeks of age, a baby will cry as a way of expressing either discomfort or pain, a demanding two-year-old, however, may shout!
Both behaviours are normal.
Both behaviours express a need.
Both behaviours are a necessary part of development.
All behaviour has meaning.
We asked Dr Sue King-Smith, formerly program manager for Communities for Children at St Luke’s in Bendigo (now part of Anglicare Victoria), what she loved about Innovative Resources’ Baby Strengths cards.
‘I think Baby Strengths is a powerful tool to use with parents to reframe the behaviour of their children (particularly very young children). Often, in our work with Communities for Children, we worked alongside families who are facing significant and complex challenges. This can sometimes feel really overwhelming and, because parenting young children is such an intensive and demanding job, parents or other carers can sometimes start to see the child as part of the problem. If a family is under a lot of stress, young children may not have the words to express what they are feeling, so this stress comes out in their behaviour.
I have talked to workers who have used the Baby Strengths cards to completely turn around a parent’s experience of parenting and their understanding of their child’s behaviour. They go from seeing their child as part of the problem to seeing their child as reacting to the problem. Parents begin to see their child’s reactions to the problem as being healthy and as a sign of their child’s intelligence or compassion or resilience, rather than being a negative thing. It is one of the most powerful tools I’ve seen for creating transformative conversations with parents and for building parent-child attachment.’
The baby ‘strengths’ featured on each of the 25 cards in Baby Strengths have been chosen because they are behaviours integral to a baby’s development. They are also, at times, the behaviours that can be challenging for carers. These cards are created from a baby’s perspective; they provide carers with an opportunity to relate to how their baby is feeling—why their baby does what he or she does—and to reflect on what their baby needs. Baby Strengths also provides a useful tool in helping soon-to-be new parents think about baby behaviours and about building a bond with their baby.
A process for setting up card selection could involve asking group participants to choose a card that they feel expresses a behaviour their new baby may display. Some question arising from this card selection may include:
- What is the behaviour shown on the card you have chosen?
- How do you feel about this behaviour?
- How do you feel you may respond if your baby shows this behaviour?
- What do you think your baby will need from you when he or she is behaving this way?
- How do you think your baby will be feeling if he or she behaves this way?
Other ideas to prompt conversation around Baby Strengths cards may include:
- Why do you think a baby may ‘need’ to feel safe, secure and connected?
- How might you help your baby to feel safe, secure and connected?
Baby Strengths was developed in collaboration with Anglicare South Australia