What You May Not Realize You Are Teaching Your Baby

Children have the unique ability to learn at an accelerated rate. Many researchers study the pattern of development in children for this essential reason, as much can be learned from a child’s ability to learn new things.

While you may be aware of what you are teaching your baby in a general sense, such as how to speak and walk, there are several other lessons your child may be learning through your behavior. For example, he or she may learn how to persevere through a difficult situation based upon whether you can do this successfully yourself.

With this new information in mind, you may be wondering how you can ensure you have a positive impact on the development of your child. This article can provide you with the knowledge needed to first understand how your baby learns and then how to use this as a guiding tool for how to behave around your child as he or she continues to learn and develop.

How Do Babies Learn and Develop?

Your baby learns by example. His or her brain requires you to first explain something before he or she can comprehend the information and turn this knowledge into action. You may choose to use a series of words and movements to ensure your child is learning the task or lesson you are attempting to teach them. This can include mimicking the movement of feeding yourself, so your child understands the process of holding a spoon or bringing the spoon to his or her mouth to begin the feeding process. For each new skill you want your baby to learn, you must lead by example.

If your child is listening to you and watching your movements throughout the day, he or she may develop certain habits without you realizing. When you are struggling to open a jar and become frustrated and fail to complete the task, your baby may lack in perseverance as a result of this interaction. Studies have shown when a parent fails to do something while a child is watching, the child is more likely to develop the same mentality when faced with a similar issue. This can negatively impact your baby’s development as he or she may start to reflect your bad habits over time, believing them to be normal behavior.

How Often Does Your Child Mimic Your Behavior?

A study conducted by MIT graduate Julia Leonard indicates your child mimics your behavior more often than you may have previously thought. When you are with babies, they are watching your actions and listening to your words, in an attempt to learn how to handle situations themselves. You may believe you are doing something harmless when you are failing to complete a task, but your child can learn from this occurrence and from how you choose to handle the situation. Julia Leonard found, for example, a child is more likely to try repeatedly to retrieve a toy from a difficult spot if he or she has watched you try to complete a similar task multiple times.

Even if you failed to complete the task on the first try, your child saw you were capable of finally completing this mission, regardless of how long it took you to do so. During Leonard’s study, children who watched an adult successfully complete a task on the first try were ultimately less likely to attempt a challenge repeatedly. These children put forth less effort than those who had watched an adult struggle to achieve something for 30 seconds or more. This means your baby may be less likely to try, or learn perseverance, if you are only ever showing him or her how easy it is to complete something.

Your child does not necessarily imitate you in everything you do, but he or she does observe you on a consistence base and thus can be influenced by your level of effort and persistence. You may make a conscious effort to teach your child fundamental motor skills but incorporating a productive method of teaching your child basic life skills, such as sticking with something when it is difficult, is important to implement at a young age. Your baby is capable of growing, learning and developing at a rapid rate. You can use this growth as a productive means of helping your child succeed as they get older.

How You Can Have a More Positive Impact on Your Child’s Development

Creating a positive impact on your child’s development in terms of influencing his or her persistence can be easy to accomplish when you apply a few simple methods into your every day routine. When your child strains to complete a task, encourage him or her by saying what a great job he or she is doing. By praising the effort instead of the outcome, you are allowing your child to understand positive reinforcement for their actions. If you simply allow your child to complete the task and then praise him or her for his or her level of intelligence, your child may learn the wrong lesson and try less in future endeavors. This not only benefits their development but could contribute to stronger mental health later in life.

To ensure you are using this developmental tool successfully, you must make eye contact with your child and say his or her name before you display how to overcome a challenging task. In doing so, you have your child’s full attention and can instill a fundamental lesson through repetition. Your baby may not mimic your effort in everything he or she does, but you may notice a difference in his or her perseverance level as time moves forward. The sooner your child learns how to try and learn from his or her mistakes, the easier it becomes to handle more intensive life challenges throughout schooling and beyond.

Solely showing your child how to do something is not recommended. Instead, learn how to engage with your child before you show him or her how to open a jar, retrieve a toy or hold a utensil. Once your baby is focused on the task, he or she is more likely to develop important life skills early on.

Related Article: Preventative Care for Children

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