Busy, busy mothers tuned in to their cellphones, BlackBerrys, iPods, iPhones, and chatty girlfriends, just don’t have the time to tune in to their children – that’s just reality! And you can’t expect nannies (equipped with the same electronics) or day care workers with scads of kids to supervise or babysitters with other things to do to spend time tuning into your children either. That’s just reality.
Why is this an issue? Well, children just don’t develop their language, communication skills, sensitivity to eye contact and facial expressions without input, stimulation and attention. This fact will surely dismay parents and liberal educators who say kids just need a few minutes of quality time a day, and they’ll be just fine.
According to Randi Jacoby, a speech and language specialist in New York, who was quoted in the New York Times: “Parents have stopped having good communications with their young children, causing them to lose out on the eye contact, facial expression and overall feedback that is essential for early communication development.”
That means that, instead of you parents going off to work when you have babies or small children, and then handing them over to institutionalized care or the care of someone hired to watch them all day and report back to you about “food in and waste out,” you need to be home with your children, doing things like:
- Recognizing that communication begins as soon as the baby is born. The way you touch, hold, look at and talk to your baby helps him or her learn language. Even though your child doesn’t necessarily understand what you’re saying, your calm, reassuring voice is what he or she needs to feel safe. You cannot spoil babies with attention and responsiveness to their cries.
- Talking all the time while you are doing things. Talk about where you are going, what you will do when you get there, and who/what you’ll see. Talk about cleaning up the dishes, preparing meals, putting on makeup – everything – all of this is attention.
- Putting down the cellphone or other electronic device to look your child in the eyes as he or she tries to communicate or when you are engaging him. Responding to a child’s communicative attempts with complete attention is a sign of interest and love, and it teaches communication. It might even help you with your spouse!
- Engaging your child in conversation, once he or she starts talking. Expand what they are saying to help them learn to do the same. For example, when your child says “Doggie,” respond with “Yes, that is a big black dog.” Ask questions, play games, sing songs, recite nursery rhymes, and read books.
Parenting is not about making sure your child lives through the day. It’s about an investment of time, and loving energy to help them develop the skills they will need to function well in life. Nannies, day care workers and babysitters just don’t fill the bill. Nobody trumps a loving mom and dad.