If You Think Your Baby Doesn’t Understand, You Are Wrong
We all know it takes babies about a year to start talking and then even longer to hold conversations and understand what is actually being said. Turns out that babies as young as five months old can recognize one another’s emotions; associating the sounds with the corresponding facial expressions. This is not too surprising to those of us who have children. We’ve all seen it in action. If you flash a big smile and make happy, cooing sounds the baby will respond in kind. If your tone is stern and angry, the child will react to that as well.
Ross Flum, an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University and co-author of the study, says that babies are very much aware of emotions and highly sensitive to our communicative intent. This means that even if your baby doesn’t understand what the words mean in what you are saying, they completely understand how you’re saying something.
“They can really understand how we’re saying something, so if you’re talking to a young infant, they might not understand exactly what you’re saying but they would certainly understand how it’s being conveyed.”
When one of my girls was small, we would spell, “b.a.t.h” because we didn’t want her to get overexcited and run streaking toward the bathroom, but soon she recognized the spelling intonations in our voice just as she did the word “bath”. Sure enough, we’d spell it and she’d be ripping her diaper off and running towards the bathtub, grabbing at the rubber duckies. The same thing happened with “b.e.d” and soon she would run away from us for a bedtime ritual of hide and seek the baby.
Children are so much smarter than we give them credit for, even when they are very little. They can recognize social cues, voice intonations, body language, and facial expressions before they can ever depend on their knowledge of the written word. Babies are amazingly observant and great listeners. Maybe more adults should take a page from the babies’ communication playbook.
What kind of communication did you use with your baby that surprised you that they could understand?
Image via Flickr/ mbi