It’s time to help your baby learn people skills.
WORDS DR NICOLA DAVIES
Child and parenting experts the world over advocate different techniques for strengthening a baby’s already inherent social abilities. These include:
While many of these techniques appear to be a matter of common sense, each is supported by scientific research.
Recently, Dr Victoria Leong and her team at the Baby-LINC (Learning through Interpersonal Neural Communication) Lab at the University of Cambridge, UK, discovered that making eye contact with your baby helps to sync your brainwaves with theirs. According to Leong, when an adult and baby look at one another, they communicate their intention to interact. The brains of both the infant and the adult respond to a gaze signal and become more synchronised. Used effectively, eye contact can enhance communication between parent and child and improve the child’s learning.
David Brooks, in his book The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, aptly states that parents need not be psychologists to have success in honing their babies’ social skills. “Instead, parents just have to be good enough. They have to provide their kids with stable and predictable rhythms. They need to be able to fall in tune with their kids’ needs, combining warmth and discipline. They need to establish the secure emotional bonds that kids can fall back upon in the face of stress. They need to be there to provide living examples of how to cope with the problems of the world so that their children can develop Unconscious models in their heads.”
Encouraging face-to-face interaction, responding attentively, and providing
a secure environment can help develop your baby’s people skills and social behaviour.
Sowing the Social Seeds Early On…
Care, love, attention, and communication – these are some of the fundamental pillars that build your baby’s social skills and the foundations of their personality. Certainly, it is important to remember that children have varied levels of social ability. Therefore, how you use the tools of touch, interaction, encouragement, and gameplay will largely depend on your baby’s likes, dislikes, and what they respond to. Furthermore, as they grow, children are exposed to influences beyond the exclusive primary socialisation they are used to during infancy. At this stage, the influence of peers, teachers, and others encourages them to learn more complex interaction and social skills. However, the traits they are encouraged to form as babies largely shape their later personalities and behaviours. For example, a child who has not experienced positive interactions with a parent or caregiver may develop into a shy child who lacks self-confidence and finds it difficult to interact with people.
On the other hand, children who share loving, caring, and encouraging relationships with people at home
and outside may have little trouble with developing self-confidence and a sense of social self-worth.
Ultimately, when it comes to preparing your baby for the outside world, it boils down to recognising your baby’s social personality early on and choosing how you behave with (and respond to) their subtle signals. Sometimes even in the womb, a baby can sense their mother’s touch if she rubs her stomach. It is about caring and nurturing within your baby’s personal comfort zone and giving them the attention they seek through their gestures, baby speech, and emotional displays. Babies are more sensitive and evolved than we give them credit for. Sowing the seeds of social behaviour at the outset can, therefore, have considerable impact on your baby’s psychological and social development over time. So, the next time your newborn gurgles at you, don’t underestimate the positive power that a similar response from you could have. This simple act not only enhances your relationship with your baby but also primes them for positive future social relationships.