The actual process of perceiving and responding to your infant's signals requires an awareness that the infant has signals and the child is making an effort to communicate. Next, it requires the adult to internally integrate the incoming message with their own understanding, past experience and so on, so they can sort out the possible meaning of the signal—that is, the meaning of the message that's being sent. And, finally, the process includes a response from the adult. Dr. Ivri Kumin, a psychoanalyst in Seattle, Washington, has recently written an elegant book that delves into these processes in great detail.
Issues & Advice: July 2009
My son used to love to ‘shave’ with me. I would help him lather up his cheeks and give him an empty razor so he could pretend. But, on a busy morning, it was easy to forget how important his drive to imitate my behavior really was, and how much of a compliment it was, too. As the minutes ticked by, I would try to remember this, however, and to encourage and support his play-acting. I would guess most parents have had the same experience. To remain patient, I would remind myself about just how much of a role model parents are to their children and what a big help it can be in cementing your relationship and providing guidance. Keeping this in mind may help prevent you from misunderstanding some of your child’s imitative behavior and from injuring your child’s good-hearted impulse to be like you and be liked by you.
When your baby expresses the signal for interest, he is clearly engrossed. His eyebrows are slightly lifted or slightly lowered. His mouth may be a bit open. If the object that’s caught his attention is moving, he’s following it closely with his eyes. His whole body seems alert, a little tense. He then turns his head, and perhaps his body, toward the object of interest. If he can crawl or walk, he’ll move toward it. Interest is expressed on a continuum from interest to excitement.
If you are able to help your child understand and gravitate to what interests him, you and your baby both reap great benefits now and in the future.