Earlier this week a video featuring a baby having a full-on gibberish conversation with his father went viral. In the video, father and son are lounging on the couch watching television. As they watch, the baby starts pointing at the screen and speaking gibberish. Dad responds to his kid as if he’s chatting with a close friend. And though we can only understand dad, it looks for all the world like the pair are having a real conversation. It’s extremely adorable. But the video is also a really great example of developmentally sound parenting: There’s a very good chance that kid will grow up to be a fine conversationalist.
From a developmental psychology perspective, what we’re witnessing in the video is a baby who is actively developing a capacity for speech and language. A child’s ability to talk doesn’t just happen. Children acquire a capacity for language by listening and interacting with parents.
The acquisition of language often begins when parents and babies are experiencing the world side by side. As parents share their child’s gaze, by looking at the same object, picture, or event, and name what they see, children begin to associate the word with the image. But the development of vocabulary is not the development of communication. After all, communication is cooperative. Modeling the cooperative nature of communication then is crucial.
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Whether the dad in the video knows it or not, he’s helping his baby understand that communication is a two-way street. In particular, he is using a technique commonly used by speech and language pathologists — the three-second pause. The dad isn’t just engaging in a monologue. After he responds to his baby, he waits. That pause allows for his kid to respond. This allows the kid to practice the cadence of conversation that will ultimately build a strong foundation for future communication.
What makes the interaction even more incredible is that the dad is showing real interest in what his child is saying. He’s responding to the inflection, gestures, and tone in a real way. This social interaction helps to build a bond between baby and dad — it shows that a parent is engaged and caring, promoting even more interaction.
Importantly, if the pair had been silent, the kid wouldn’t have been learning much about language from the TV itself. Studies have shown that children are less likely to learn language skills by watching communication occur on a screen. Real progress occurs when a kid is interacting with a real person. That’s where the developmental spark ignites.
So kudos to this awesome dad — not only for giving us a glimpse of his adorable kid but for showing the world what great parenting looks like.