All babies cry. But how do you recognize your baby’s different crying sounds to…
Your child learns from the experiences they have. And because a baby cannot discover the world on their own they are completely dependent on you. Therefore…. the interaction you have with your baby has a major effect on the brain connections your baby makes!
- Be emotionally and physically present
- Respond to their specific needs!
- Respond quickly and in the right way
- Give your baby the chance to discover
- Failure is part of life!
- Give your child a safe, loving and secure basis
According to “Better Brains for Babies,” from the University of Georgia, USA, these are the crucial characteristics of a parent in relation to interaction.
In positive parent-child interactions, the parents:
- Are emotionally and physically present;
- Are sensitive and responsive to a child’s unique needs;
- Respond quickly and in the right way;
- Give their child the chance to discover things;
- Provide a safe, secure basis of love and protection.
1. Be emotionally and physically present
A baby’s brain grows better when someone is emotionally and physically present. Yet this is not always overly clear or even logical for people. You can be there and yet still be absent.
Take this situation as an example: a mother is at home with her child. She is constantly on the telephone and puts a film on for her child. That is an extreme example of ‘being there yet being absent’.
Another example: a mother works but has made sure that the person caring for her baby always gives the little one the love and attention her baby deserves. This is an example where, as a mother, you don’t (always) have to be present but you have made sure there is always someone who is emotionally and physically present for your child. In short: for a child, real love and someone with them is crucial. That is when the brain grows best.
2. Respond to their specific needs!
No single child is the same; after all no single human being is the same! Every child takes a leap at the same age, but how that leap is expressed, that new skill your child develops after taking a leap, is different for each child. Furthermore, the way in which babies deal with different situations is different for each baby.
Even though it seems completely logical, it can be difficult to get to know your baby’s unique character and unique needs. It often takes time, but eventually you will get to know your baby better than anyone else.
Getting to know your baby’s unique character and unique preferences is also crucial for your baby’s brain development. If you do that and respond to them they will develop not only stronger connections between the brain cells, they will also develop a greater number of connections.
That all sounds very logical and yet there are still many parents who mostly play games that they like to play. And that is not the way to do it… respond to the things your baby likes and finds interesting.
3. Respond quickly and in the right way
It made sound strange, but your baby’s world often changes at a much faster pace than ours does. It is easy to spot in a pre-toddler. In the morning, their favorite color is orange, and by afternoon it is blue. Something that was highly interesting in the morning is boring a few hours later.
During babyhood things develop very quickly, and that is why the things your baby is interested in also change quickly. Indeed, a baby can be interested in something for a brief moment and when that moment has past, so has their interest.
Consider the following: you are walking with your baby in the pushchair, you pass under a tree and you see your baby turning their head in the direction of the tree. They have seen something that they find fascinating. That could be the play of light of the leaves and branches in the sun, for instance. Your baby can learn a lot from these simple things if they get the chance to look at them. If you keep walking and do not notice that they are interested, then you have missed the moment. If you stop for a minute and give them the chance to admire this, and let them know you find it interesting too through sounds and words, then you are doing precisely what your little one needs. You are responding quickly and in the right way.
4. Give your baby the chance to discover
Babies who are given the chance to discover things make stronger brain connections than babies who do not get that opportunity. This is also called facilitating parenting. To enable your child to discover things you need time, calmness, an observing eye, and … you have to manipulate the situation so your child can do something for themselves.
Imagine: at 6 months your little one can sit independently, but is not completely stable yet. They are sitting on a play mat and there is a toy just out of reach. At this time, your baby has no concept of their limits so they will try to grab it and ‘fall over’. In baby’s mind, they haven’t succeeded, while success is so important. If you see these situations about to occur, then place the toy closer to your baby, within their reach. They can then grab the toy themselves. You shouldn’t hand it to them, your baby wants to grab it themselves after all, and thus discover ‘grabbing’. In short: facilitating parenting is making it easier for your baby to discover and explore the world. So, give them the chance to discover things.
5. Failure is part of life!
In order to make it a bit more complicated: failure is a part of life. You do not have to influence everything so that it works. You simply pay attention to things that are genuinely too difficult or simply impossible at the moment. You influence the circumstances.
To go back to the example of the baby who is can just about sit on the play mat: place the toy just within their reach. They still have to do their best to get it and they may not manage the first couple of times but the toy should not be in a position that is impossible to reach. On the other hand, you should not put all the toys just within reach because your baby needs to make an effort. Of course, if the toys are already very close to your baby you shouldn’t move them further away either.
- A child cannot do what is physically or mentally beyond their ability.
- Your baby learns from trying and likes success.
- Also give compliments when baby attempts to do something, not only if they succeed!
- Give them the time and chance to discover something.
- Adjust the surroundings so that things not impossible for your baby to do.
- But don’t make it too easy for your baby either by doing everything yourself.
6. Give your child a safe, loving and secure basis
It sounds ironical but a baby is just like a human. Every person thrives with a safe, loving and secure basis. This is, however, still underestimated when it comes to babies. Empty statements such as: “Ach, they won’t remember any of this later anyway,” or “they don’t understand me so I can joke about them all I want,” are all too common.
A baby’s brain is extremely receptive to love, even more so than adult’s. Love is a kind of basic vitamin they can’t live without. Love literally affects the physical growth of the brain.
Research has shown that the interaction between parents and babies causes certain neurochemical reactions. Consider each smile, look, kiss gesture; they all directly affect your baby’s brain. These neurochemical reactions then influence the connections babies’ produce in the neurons, the brain cells. In turn, these connections are responsible for the secure attachment bonds between parents and child, among other things.
Even though people can remember nothing of their babyhood, the consequences of the love a child receives during babyhood affects them throughout their entire life. So, don’t hold back: cuddle, talk, laugh, look at each other, caress them, and smile. All these wonderful things feed the brain!