They’re innocent enough questions—When did she walk? When did he say his first word? But what we parents really are asking is how does my child measure up? And when our kids seem to do something earlier than other children, we internally gloat that this is a sure sign of future brilliance. Nobody will own up to this. In fact parents with kids who have achieved milestones at an earlier stage will attempt to reassure their “less accomplished” peers that such markers are meaningless.
Well whatever parental one-upmanship these questions may inspire, they do indicate something positive—an awareness of child development. A recent study published in The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology found that mothers who knew about child development spoke more frequently and complexly to their children. This is important because just as exposing children to books helps develop their interest in reading; talking to children helps develop their language abilities. From a very young age, children are influenced by the manner in which their mothers talk to them.
Talk is so powerful in fact that it can overcome the higher risk for language development delays children from families living in poverty face. The researcher who led the study told me that teaching mothers about child development may be an important way to improve children’s language development and ultimately increase the likelihood of their academic success.
Now I’m wondering does it matter what we talk about. Let’s face it even though they may gurgle back, talking to an infant is a fairly one-sided conversation. When my daughter was a baby, the Bosnian conflict was in full force. I remember my husband and I saying ridiculous things to her in that high baby-friendly voice like “So what do you think about the situation in Kosovo?”
What’s the strangest “conversation” you had with your baby?