The mother of nine month old Samantha was startled and outraged to receive a letter from her infant’s daycare provider that seemed to indicate the baby was being malicious to other children. The handwritten note describes how the mother should tell Samantha “it’s not OK to hurt her friends” and that the baby seems to enjoy hurting other babies by “smiling” because they are crying.
Nine month old babies are busy learning lots of physical and cognitive skills– including crawling, pulling up, possibly cruising, and most importantly, how to interact with others. This requires that they gain experience from cause and effect. It’s not coming from a place of malice or anger, but rather of curiosity – “When I do this, what happens?” Cognitively normal infants are also busy learning to read the reactions of others by the tone of their voices and the looks on their faces. They simply aren’t capable of being truly manipulative or of unkind behavior until well after their first birthday.
Dr. Adelle Cadieux, a psychologist at a children’s hospital, concurred that developmentally, it is not a matter of being mean to other children.
“Kids go through that stage where they just to see want cause and effect: ‘If I do this, this happens.’ They’re learning. They get excited about the learning aspect as opposed to recognizing, ‘Oh what I’m doing is wrong.'”
The note was hand-written and given to the mother when she picked her child up from daycare. Samantha’s mother, Vero, was stunned to read the contents.
“Samantha has been playing roughly and aggressively with the other babies; they will be crying and upset but she is smiling and enjoying herself — even our using firm voices to tell her it’s not OK to hurt her friends and remove her from area, she is smiling and going right back. Can you help us out by maybe discouraging her to not play roughly with her friends and her dog.
There is no way that Samantha can understand “it’s not ok to hurt her friends,” and suggesting she’s a social deviant by smiling at other children crying only illustrates that the babysitter has a lot to learn about child development.
According to Dr. Cadieuex, the best way to deal with unwanted behavior at this stage is to direct the child – get them interested in blocks, or a game of peek-a-boo. Of course it’s ok to say “No”, but that’s simply to teach the baby what she or he is doing is unwanted behavior. While there’s no word on how Samantha’s mother plans to respond to such a note, perhaps she should be wary of a childcare provider who has no knowledge of cognitive development in babies.
[image via babble.com and hdwallpapers.com]