The moment you become a parent, you realize all the other parents talk about are true. I recently heard an with a songwriter in which she mentioned a line in her song that says, “Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind.” That’s about the perfect description of parenthood and its worries.
To put your mind at ease a bit, however, we’ve put together a few key developmental issues you don’t need to lose sleep over:
1. Spoiling your baby
This myth is hopefully on its way out of fashion, but you still might occasionally hear well-meaning grandmother say something like, “If you hold that baby all the time, you’ll spoil her.” In past generations, there was much concern over babies. Nowadays, thanks to better child development research, we know that it’s basically impossible to spoil a baby.
Babies do not have the mental maturity to manipulate or intentionally cause you distress. They cry because that’s the only way they can express their needs. Research has shown us that babies whose parents respond to their cries consistently and sensitively actually cry less at 6 months old compared to those whose parents were not as responsive.
Additionally, comforting and cuddling your baby actually changes their DNA for the better. New studies confirm that babies who were held more had a more advanced molecular structure at age four than those who were not comforted or experienced more distress as infants.
2. Your newborn’s unusual reflexes
Newborns are really amazing. If you remember seeing your new tiny one use her rooting reflex to find a nipple to eat the first time, you’ve witnessed Mother Nature at work. Besides this basic survival reflex, newborns have other mysterious reflexes that have puzzled scientists for years.
For example, when you hold an infant upright in a standing position (while supporting her head), she will instinctively make a stepping motion. It may seem like this is just practice for learning to walk, but curiously newborns lose this reflex after about two months.
Another reflex that happens to be super cute is the fact that newborns instinctively grasp something put into their palm. Your infant holding your comparatively huge finger sure makes for a sweet memory, but it’s actually their Palmar reflex at work.
Curious fact—you don’t have to pry your baby’s hand open to get her to let go. Just stroke the back of her hand and she’ll probably release her grip. Helpful to know when she’s gripped your hair (ouch!). Take those pictures soon because this reflex relaxes around 6 months of age.
3. Your child’s spirited temperament
Is your baby the one who cries at the drop of a hat (or ring of a doorbell)? Is your toddler then one that refuses to be buckled in the car seat or throws a tantrum of epic proportions when they don’t get that toy at Target? Well, you’re in luck! All your patience and loving guidance will pay off.
We know from several studies now that children with “difficult” temperaments are actually more sensitive to a lot of things, including parental guidance. With caring, responsive parents, children with spirited temperaments are not at greater risk for behavior problems than kids with “easy” temperaments.
4. Pushing academics
In today’s competitive parenting environment, there is an underlying sense that early academic achievement is better. Your friend at the playdate might not come out and say that her 4 year old can already read, but somehow you end up knowing this fact before the day is out.
What tells us, however, is that young children learn best through play. Play is the engine of learning for little ones. Sure, preschoolers might recite back words or letters they learn from flashcards, but the lesson will “stick” better if they learned that lesson through a game or song.
Rather than enrolling your preschooler in a rigorous academic school, focus on and play. Reading classic stories, playing with blocks, and answering all those “why” questions will serve your little one better than worksheets and flashcards.
5. Your child’s intense love of dinosaurs, trains, dolls, etc.
Many kids go through a phase where they are really into a certain toy or interest. For many kids it’s dinosaurs. They learn all the names, what they eat, where they lived, and many more facts that you could ever remember. For other kids, it might be trains or butterflies. This usually happens around age four to six, when kids have a good grasp of language and can soak up new information like sponges.
So what is behind this intense interest in one thing? tell us that this intensity is actually a great aspect of kids’ learning. With this laser focus, they build essential skills like longer attention span, information processing and confidence in their abilities.
This is the perfect example of , which we know is the ideal way for kids to learn anything. Kids take something they are already interested in (like dinosaurs) and expand their knowledge in every way they can—playing with toys, reading books and telling their parents.
So take heart, and take a deep breath. That little creature you are raising is really quite amazing.