Today we’re going to talk about how your baby learns to feel about new situations and people. I call it the Quick Glance.
Have you ever noticed that when you encounter a new situation or a new person your baby quickly looks over at you? Just like a cub in the wild, your baby is trying to ascertain – Is this person a threat? Are we in danger? Are we running? Are we staying?
Sometimes your baby glances over at you so quickly you barely notice it. And in that instant they gather all the information they need.
Psychologists call this Social Referencing. I like to call it the “Quick Glance.”
The Quick Glance is when your baby tries to understand your emotional state through your facial expression, vocal tone, and body language, in order to form their own response toward other people or events in their environment.
The “Visual Cliff” study is a perfect illustration of this.
In this study, babies between 9-12 months are brought into the lab and put on a table with borders. At the midway point the table has a visible drop that is covered by plexiglass so it looks like it drops, but it doesn’t. A toy is placed at the other end of the plexiglass.
So what do the babies do? They want to reach the toy, But when they approached the plexiglass with the visible drop, they hesitate and freeze. And then they quickly look over at their mother.
They search her face to find signs – is she relaxed? Smiling? Nervous? Tense? And they only keep moving forward when they’re satisfied that their mother is calm.
Your baby is expert at picking up your subtle cues. The thing is, often we’re not even aware of our facial expressions and body language. And sometimes we feel one thing but try to convey another – like meeting someone you feel uncomfortable with but smiling during the interaction.
Your baby is watching it all.
So what can we do to help our babies with their Quick Glance?
- Own It.
Simply being aware of the fact that your baby is seeking out your cues will make you be more careful about what you are conveying to your baby.
- Be Consistent.
This one is a tough one – your baby is confused by inconsistency. When you smile on the outside but are feeling tense on the inside, or when you feel ambivalent, your baby has a hard time discerning how to make sense of the situation. We can’t always do this, but try to sync your behavior with your expression (if only we could all do this all the time.)
- Calm Down
Especially when your baby is doing new things, like trying new food, climbing up to the slide, learning how to crawl or walk, etc, they are going to look to you for reassurance. Keep your face relaxed and your expression open and positive. The best way to do this is daily meditation, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day.
Here are some extra tips for relaxing your face:
- Pick up the corners of your mouth ever so slightly.
- Massage your forehead moving to your temples.
- Massage your jaw (we hold so much tension there!)
- Massage behind your ears
- Meditate! A few minutes a day relaxes your face for the rest of the day.
Want to learn more about the Quick Glance and other ways you and your baby communicate? Check out my FREE masterclass called The Biggest Mistake New Parents Make.
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