Family, Kids & Relationships

Sensitive Responsive Parenting Linked to Improved Language Skills

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

What if someone told you that the way you respond to your baby’s cues can greatly impact their ability to develop early language skills? The answer may be as simple as paying closer attention to your child’s needs.

It turns out that how we respond to our children’s cues may be the key to helping them establish early language skills, according to recent research in the journal Pediatrics. It looked at whether parental sensitive responsiveness — which really just refers to a parent’s ability to tune in to a child’s emotions, concerns, and needs and respond accordingly — physical affection, or both, were better associated with a child’s developing language skills. The winner was sensitive responsiveness, though both had a strong correlation.

Mothers who were more responsive and warmer in their interactions with their kids were found to have children with better language skills, especially in low-income households. Researchers think those moment-to-moment interactions and responses to a child’s attention shifts are key to brain development, which is connected to language. As parents pay attention to a child’s cues, a secure attachment forms that better enables children to explore and learn from their environment — the latter serving as the building blocks of early language. 

This isn’t the first set of studies to determine that infants learn language more rapidly when caregivers respond promptly to their cues. In fact, additional research shows that young children develop better problem-solving and attention skills when their parents are both sensitive and responsive.

So the next time your baby babbles or seems to be trying to tell you something, go ahead and respond, even if you think they won’t understand you. The attentiveness and back-and-forth interaction does wonders for a baby’s natural development, plus it will make them feel secure and loved — a win-win.

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.