Predictability is comforting for babies and toddlers. Everything in their life is new and surprising for them. So, knowing what to expect from something makes them feel secure, and in turn calm and happy!
As adults we like surprises because a lot of things in our lives are now monotonous, they’ve been the same for a very long time, and to feel the thrill we try to make a lot of things as a surprise for our loved ones because surprises make us happy. So surprises are stimulating for us as adults.
But the case for babies is the opposite; they’ve just come into this world so everything is “naturally a surprise” for them. The air we breathe, the sounds we hear, the smells we smell. Everything is new and stimulating already, so their guards are always up, they’re always stimulated.
Hence surprises are not the things for them.
What makes them feel secure and calm and happy is Predictability!
What I mean by predictability is — same things, same environment, a routine in their caregiving activities, same people, similar places.
This helps them be calmer since they find a natural rhythm in things, and know what to expect.
Plus they’re overwhelmed with the fact that all the other people (adults) just seem to know it all, and they don’t know what to expect, a lot of times.
They are new to feelings too — so doing or seeing the same thing that made them happy the other time, makes them happy again, and they develop a fondness for that thing or person!
In other words — Predictability is comforting to babies.
How can you use this fact for our benefit?
Calm they Down when they’re fussy
The most important way to use the fact that predictability is comforting to babies is — when your baby is upset for a known or an unknown reason do something with them that they already know, something that’s a routine or a “connection thing” between you and the baby.
BUT, make sure they’re not fussy because they’re hungry or have a poopy diaper or some other known reason. Even apart from these, babies do tend to get cracky for unknown reasons a lot of times.
These are the times when doing something for or with them that they have done before and know the feeling and experience of, in the key to calming them down!
So, maybe read to your baby when they’re upset and make it a thing, that you both just do. This way you’ll make a great connection between their minds and books, since the books with make them calm down!
Or if your baby is upset and the weather is nice, take them outdoors; make a usual spot like porch or backyard or maybe just near the window looking outdoors to calm them down.
When you do these things over and over again, it comforts them, it may not work the first time but doing similar things, again and again, is comforting for little kids without a doubt!
Create a “sense of predictability”
The other way to use this fact that babies like predictability in their life, is to use it counter-intuitively —
When you do something new, tell your baby about it, they probably wouldn’t understand your words yet, but they do understand your thoughts, feelings, and intentions. So don’t feel weird about talking to them and tell them, what you all are up to, even for the older routine things.
It’ll create a ‘sense of predictability’ for them, and it’ll be easier for them to do those new things; being it going outside the house, and even staying inside the house.
As a norm, it’s great to talk to them about the plan of the day, with their morning feed. Or another caregiving activity, like changing a diaper or changing clothes.
It just gets you both in a healthy habit of making a connection early in the morning (kinda over breakfast, with other kids).
#momtip: Once this happens (making a connection in the morning about the plan for the day), it doesn’t matter how crazy busy the rest of the day is, that morning connection and knowing the plan for the day helps everyone keep grounded.
Believe me or not, this works for older kids too. When your 2 yr old is throwing a tantrum, or your 5 yr old is upset, it could be because there are too many new things around; at this time try to look for “what’s new for them”. Is it a new place? are there new people around? is there new food around? new sounds? all these matters for them, because it’s all new and different.
I would never suggest if there is something new around drop what you are doing and go home so your child feels comforted. That’s no way to progress in life.
But there is another way to handle the situation when your child feels overwhelmed with new something or everything around.
It’s aknowledgement, and acceptance!
Yes, when you realize your child is feeling anxious because of new things around, first accept the fact that this is a normal feeling for a child (doesn’t matter how old the child is) to feel overwhelmed with new things.
And then talk to them about it – acknowledge this to them. Ask them – I see there are new people around, is that a lot of new stuff for you? Let them answer it or pause for them to understand it, and then reassure them that it’s okay to feel that way, but remind them that they can trust these people, and you are always there with them in the presence of new people.
You don’t have to use words like, are your overwhelmed? does that make you nervous? This is going to make them feel more nervous. I think just acknowledgment of the particular this like; “it’s a new place”, or “there are so many people around”; or “that particular sound is just so loud and constant” is good enough.
I would not expect any magic out of it; like acknowledgment does not calm them instantly. BUT, when you acknowledge their feeling every time they’re overwhelmed, that forms a rhythm of comforting words from mom every time I feel “this way”. Which makes acknowledgment comforting for them over the long run!
I can’t emphasize the importance and Joy Predictability in a child’s life. In simple words, it makes them feel more like you the adult, who knows what’s going on!