MOTHERING

In a psychological sense, mothering refers primarily to three aspects of the relationship between mother and child: emotionalwarmth, personal care, and sensory stimulation. All three are considered essential to healthy personality development, and are particularly important in infancy and the early years of childhood.Emotional warmth comprises genuine affection, coddling, and caressing, as well as encouragement, admiration, and reassurance. In a word, it includes everything that makes a baby feel loved, accepted, and wanted. It is the basic ingredient, pervading all other aspects of mothering. Personal care consists of tending to the child when he is hungry, wet, cold, or uncomfortable in any way (but without making an unnecessary “fuss”). It also includes soothing the child when he is distressed or anxious, helping him adapt to a comfortable feeding schedule (comfortable for the parents as well as the baby), finding a formula and a bottle that are right for him, encouraging him to accept new foods at the proper time, and expending the time, effort, and ingenuity necessary for successful toilet training.Sensory stimulation, the third ingredient, is less often associated with mothering than warmth and tender care, yet recent studies of sensory deprivation indicate that it should be an integral part of the mother’s relationship to her child. The stimulation should awaken and develop all types of experience: touch, hearing, sight, taste, smell, balance, and movement. Some of the ways in which this can be done are: talking, laughing, and humming to the baby; providing him with play materials of different shapes, colors, and textures; showing him how to play by playing with him; helping him become aware of the different sounds of the world, including music as well as noise; giving him foods of different taste, texture, and smell as he grows; helping him achieve co-ordination and balance through free movement and the use of play apparatus geared to his age and ability; and helping him adapt to the sight and sound of other people.Mothering in its fullest sense gives the child a solid start in life, since it fulfills his basic needs and lays the foundation for future development. It provides a sense of security, makes him feel at home in the world, helps him form a positive self-image, and prepares him to meet reality on his own.The term mothering denotes a general relationship to the child rather than specific behavior of a single person. While it is true that the mother is herself the most important figure in a child’s life during the infancy period, it is also true that a mother substitute (or surrogate) can meet the child’s psychological and physical needs if the actual mother is not available. An aunt, foster mother, nurse, or worker in an institution for children can serve as a mother figure, provided she is warm and accepting. Moreover, the child can and should be “mothered” by his father in all three senses described above. There is a great deal of evidence that young children feel happier and more secure when both parents take a full interest in them. The father’s participation is particularly important when the mother is ill or absent from the home.For the effects of insufficient mothering,

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "MOTHERING," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/mothering/ (accessed November 12, 2019).
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