Wait…babies ask questions? “But,” you may say, “babies can’t talk.”
Oh, but they certainly can. From the very beginning, a baby communicates when he or she is hungry, uncomfortable, sleepy, lonely and afraid.
Parents know that each cry has a unique sound and communicates a unique need. As a caregiver, such as a child care professional or volunteer, your responses to the infant’s needs and cries answer the critical question being asked from birth to about 1-year-old: Am I safe?
In other words, babies are asking, “Will you . . .
- feed me?”
- change my diaper?”
- hold me?”
- rock me to sleep?”
- come back?”
Why do babies need this reassurance?
Famous psychologists and child development specialists (aka, really smart people) have supplied us with a variety of reasons why it is important to consistently let our infants know, “Yes, you are safe!”
Piaget determined that infants are in the sensorimotor stage of development and that your baby is building direct knowledge of his world through trial and error. He needs to learn that objects exist and events occur independently of his own actions.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that the needs of babies are biological and physiological. A baby’s basic needs must be met before she can progress to higher level growth needs.
Vygotsky proposed that social interaction plays a fundamental role in overall growth and development. He believed that cooperation and collaboration with a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) is the key to cognitive development in infants.
In Erikson’s Five Stages of Psychosocial Development, he emphasizes that the crisis of infancy is one of trust vs. mistrust.
Kohlberg proposed that people are shaped by moral development. That means an infant’s morals are shaped by the standards of adults and reasoning is based on the physical consequences of actions.
Setting an infant up for lifelong faith
As parents and caregivers, we don’t need to memorize decades of research in order to answer an infant’s questions. However, we can apply this evidence to what we already know about our sweet babies. You are the More Knowledgeable Other in the life of your baby. And you are meeting their basic physiological needs by feeding them, keeping them clean, and placing them in a safe place to sleep. You are the person who helps your baby understand that it is not a good idea to pull the cat’s tail. Yes, you are the person who lets your little one experience new things. You rejoice when they are excited about a new toy and show empathy when that toy is lost.
When you impart the knowledge and wisdom of Piaget and friends, you are answering your baby’s fundamental question, Am I safe? with a resounding, Yes, you are!