Language is a wonderful thing. Through the power of language, one person can translate the most complex and nebulous of ideas into terms that another can understand. Thus, not only the understanding but also the realisation of a new or different concept can be transposed from one mind to another. It’s really a miraculous process.
Powerful and adaptable tool that it is, language is not the basis of communication, just a useful facilitator. Communication is about taking what is in one person’s head; their ideas, state of mind and emotions, and making this clear to another person. Unless you live alone in the depths of space, this is an indispensable necessity.
As the father of two beautiful babies, I have found that communication without words is quite possible. Indeed, this wordless communication is as emotionally enriching as any eloquent discussion I’ve had.
When a dog is happy, he wags his tail — everyone knows that. Communicating with your babies is similar — simple, natural and easy to learn. Patience and empathy are the keywords here. Right from birth, your baby is sending you signals.
Babies are born with instinctive abilities to communicate their needs — for instance, “My face is all screwed up — Dad, that light is too bright!” The most effective communication tool a baby is born with is their cry. They let us know when they are hungry, cold, in pain or when everything is not quite ‘just right’.
I can see you new dads out there wincing at the mention of crying. Sleepless nights are no fun, and your baby’s cry does get to you — it’s supposed to. A new baby’s cry is perfectly tuned to grate on Mum’s and Dad’s nerves and bring them running faster than any other sound.
After a few weeks, your baby will learn to smile, frown, maybe even laugh. She is beginning to discover ways to communicate her emotions, not just her needs, to you. Be extravagant with your own facial expressions, matching them with your tone of voice. When you talk to your baby, this will help them learn.
My toddler found her voice at about seven months of age. She began mimicking sounds, and by thirteen months she could put whole words into context — for example, “COOKIE!” while pointing to the top of the fridge.
Effective enough to get her needs met by a soft-hearted dad, eh? As I write this, she is twenty months old. She still communicates in much the same way, though her vocabulary and range of concepts have expanded exponentially. Sometimes I even hear, “COOKIE NOW PLEASE!”
Communicating with your baby is rewarding — it is also very necessary. A baby is not a short-term burden or responsibility like looking after a friend’s car. A baby, your baby, is a thinking, feeling, intelligent and creative human being with whom you’re going to share the rest of your life.
Realising this helps us to bond with our babies and enjoy their company, making our family lives richer.
So put them on your knee, talk to them and listen to what they have to say. Open your heart, mind, eyes, and ears — eventually, they’ll get through to you.
Photo by Mart Production.