Leveling with Toddlers Communicates, “You Matter”
Positive, affirming interactions with toddlers and children in a natural “leveling position” promote safety, connection, and reinforce enduring messages that they are valued and loved.
by SETH EISENBERG
When I stepped into the early pre-school classroom of our 16-month-old son recently, looking down to see him among the tiny children lining up in front of the door was an unusual sight.
I realized later that what was strange was that this was one of the few moments in Zachary’s life that I was seeing him from the position of towering over him.
From our son’s earliest moments, it’s been natural to nearly always maintain a leveling position with each other when he’s awake. As a newborn, infant and now growing toddler, family members regularly hold him in our arms or laps where we can maintain natural eye contact without our baby having to look up or us having to look down.
When he hasn’t been in our arms or laps, there are few occasions that time together hasn’t meant sitting or kneeling to be at the same level, either on the floor, in bed, on the couch, or with our son in a booster seat that makes it natural to see and engage with each other free from the distraction caused by differences in height.
Studies have shown that experiences during their earliest months have a lasting impact on a child’s development of healthy self-worth and self-esteem that will shape their lives long into adulthood.
It’s helpful to recognize that kids, especially, hear as much with their eyes as with their ears. Making a conscious decision to regularly communicate in a leveling position with children through interactions that promote natural eye contact – as with adults – is important to creating feelings of safety, connection, and letting them know they matter.
Seth Eisenberg is President/CEO of PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.
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