Monday, September 10, 2012

Missing the Point

A colleague at UC Davis recently alerted me to a news report from a TV station in Washington DC that raised the concern that signing with babies might diminish interaction between babies and parents. Nothing could be further from the truth, as any parent who’s lived with a signing baby can testify.

First of all, modeling signs for babies means parents are (a) making lots of eye contact and (b) actively looking for opportunities to do so. A mom who might otherwise be content to simply plop a bunch of Cheerios in front a a baby, is likely to put a few down, stay close, and model the sign for MORE when the first ones are gone. Result? More, rather than less interaction.

Second, parents who are modeling signs are inevitably also anxiously watching their child to see if he or she is (a) understanding the sign, (b) imitating the sign, or (most exciting of all) (c) spontaneous using the sign to direct the parent’s attention. Result? Closer observation means more rather than less interaction.

Third, once a baby is able to request specific items with signs, everyone’s frustration is reduced. Result? Fewer tantrums and tears mean more time and emotional energy for pleasant interactions.

Fourth, once a baby is signing, parents begin experiencing the magic of having a window into their child’s mind. This means they can easily figure out what is fascinating their child at the moment (e.g., a butterfly, or the sound of a dog barking) and join the child in reveling in the experience. Result? Richer and more rewarding interaction for both parent and child.

So, next time you hear or read something so off-base as that signing reduces parent-child interaction, consider sharing these points—or better yet, your own experiences—with whomever it is that needs educating!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program
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