As children grow more independent – off the toddler reins and onto their own two feet – they need your guidance more than ever if they are to feel good about themselves and happy in others' company. 

* Don't compare them to other children or siblings. Each child develops (walks, talks, skips, reads) at different times and they will sense your disappointment if you are constantly pushing them to do what everyone else is doing at the nursery or when you're out with friends. Remember, too, that some toddlers who learn to walk may decide to revert to crawling for a few weeks, just because they feel comfortable doing it. And some children who feel happy to play away with friends one day may be clingy the next. Your disapproval will slow things down, not speed them up. 

* Do show them how much you love being with them. Ten minutes one-to-one time can mean the world and help make your life easier too. Next time you take them into a cafe, for example, point out the pictures on the wall or read them a short story. This will help settle them down to a game or some drawing while you enjoy a coffee with friends, simply because they'll feel confident and content in your company.

* When young children try new things (be it tasting new foods or tying their shoelaces) praise the effort as well as the final achievement. For example if they taste just a small amount of a new food, show them you are pleased. Don't remark on the stuff they didn't eat.

* Don't leave young children playing together unsupervised and then rush in when the tears start. Be there in the background to referee during play and to praise good behaviour as well as pick up on the unacceptable. 

* Do help them get used to playing or being out with a friend or family member for a while before you plan to leave them with a babysitter. Go out with the babysitter to the park, or have that same friend round for tea while you're there so they get to know the other person, and the other person gets to know them. And don't let them pick up on your worry if you're leaving them for the first time (with granny or with a friend). Be enthusiastic and excited instead, and try not to rush away until they're settled.

* Prioritise one-to-one time, even when they start school. That feeling that you love their company – for the weekly movie on a Friday, or the trip to the park after school on a Tuesday – and that they have you all to themselves regularly, is the food of love and confidence.