Now for the drum-roll deserving, edge-of-your-seat, epic, astrological, million dollar question. What makes a good parent?
We’d cue the drum-roll but that would be redundant. Of all the pillars of child-rearing– instilling good behavior, table manners, diligence and potty training– the most critical aspect of parenting is something so obvious it’s practically shouting at us. The answer is simply that good parents talk to their babies.
Hart & Risley Study – Parents Talking to their Children
A 1995 study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas found that parent-to-child baby talk is perhaps the most critical part of early child development (specifically from birth until age three). Hart and Risley studied 42 families from varying socioeconomic backgrounds over six years, measuring the speech patterns between parents and their children. Not only did they measure how many words parents from affluent, working-class, and welfare dependent families spoke to their children per hour — they measured the number of “conversational turns” and ratio of positive and negative tone to the conversation.
Affluent parents spoke over 2,100 words per hour to their babies. Working-class 1,200 words per hour. Welfare… 600 words per hour. When it came to conversational tone, Hart and Risley found the ratio of affirming (encouraging) words to prohibition words to be 32:6 per hour. For working-cass families, families accumulated 12 affirmatives and seven prohibitions per hour (approximately 2:1 affirmatives to negatives). For the average welfare family, the ratio of affirmations to prohibitions was 1:2.
On one hand, these discrepancies are easy to explain. Families on welfare are under more stress and may not have the same educational backgrounds to garner a generational vocabulary. But overwhelmingly, welfare parents were reportedly unaware that talking was connected to their child’s intellectual development.
“The greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school.”
Hart and Risley’s study, reviewed in this recent NYTimes article by Tina Rosenberg, cuts to the heart of Kindermusik’s mission. The power of talking can just as easily be said for the power of singing. Whether you’re transporting your child to the stony, riverside city of Galway singing “All the Way to Galway” or counting with “Wheels on the Bus,” you’re exposing your child to the world’s complexities in a fun, nurturing way– not leaving them without a means of expression and understanding.
In Kindermusik classes for babies and toddlers, there are many activities that support parent and child interaction, especially involving talking and singing with your child. For example, in one of our music classes for toddlers, we have fun with a song called Morning Song which allows parents to sing with their child, letting the kids insert the sounds an animal makes when they get up in the morning.
Parent: “When dogs get up in the morning, they always say good day.”
Child: “Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff”
Parent/Child together: “That is what they say.”
Parents can extend the learning at-home by making up their own verses and using different animals and sounds to teach their children.