Face Off

How To Interact With Your Surprisingly Social Newborn

As a newborn’s father it can feel like there’re few chances to mix it up with your kid. There’s so much hustle and bustle, with the feeding and the sleeping and the visits and the feeding again. It can all make you feel as useless as an extra toe. Like you’re just supposed to hang around until your partner says “this is my extra toe.”

Then again, you might be okay with that. A new kid is almost more freaky than an extra toe. What are you even supposed to do with it? Just stare?

Actually, research shows that it’s hugely important for you to get ahold of your kid for some face (and voice) time. It might just keep them from growing up to be an asshole, which would be crappy.

flickr / Ian D

flickr / Ian D

The Importance Of An Early Dad Bond

A 2012 epidemiological study out of Oxford University explored early father-child interactions in 192 families. They were curious how these interactions might affect the kid later in life, if at all.

After a year of following these kids around (with clipboards and whatnot, probably) they discovered that kids who didn’t have strong infancy bonds with their pops were basically total jerks. What’s more, this effect was far more pronounced with boys, suggesting dad behavior be damaging even without building a super soaker flame thrower on a lark.

What’s interesting was that these outcomes occurred even if the dad was physically present but mostly lost in his own thoughts. So interaction with the kid appears to be the key (as long as you’re not teaching them how to knife fight at a week old, as fun as that sounds).

flickr / Family O'Abe

flickr / Family O’Abe

The Interactions That Count

Face-to-face interaction, with a standard side of baby talk, engrosses your kid the same way you’re engrossed by Luke CageExtensive proof of this fact exists out in the wide world of science (otherwise this would be some made-up BS).

  • Hard Wired For Faces: Your kid recognizes them right out of the womb. Yes, they’re blurry as hell, but they’ll track the ones that are familiar within hours.
  • Hearing Voices: Newborns will react to their mother’s voices immediately after birth. If you’re a loudmouth, or have spent the last few months talking to a belly, they’ll recognize yours too.
  • The Eyes Have It: Your kid prefers it if you make direct eye contact. In fact, studies show that newborns look longer at strangers who’ve interacted with them before, but only if those strangers looked deep into their baby blues.
  • You Mad Bro?: Research shows that babies dig it when you have an  animated face. When parents interacting with their children suddenly go emotionless, it really freaks the kid out. Honestly, it would freak you out too. Don’t do that.
flickr / Edwin & Kelly Tofslie

flickr / Edwin & Kelly Tofslie

The Takeaway

You’ve gotta get that kid into your arms and in front of your face as often as you can. Because it doesn’t only help their social brain get stronger, it also helps them bond with you and develop into a better human being. And all you have to do? Talk to them. Make faces. Discuss the mystery of extra toes. Piece of cake.

Read More