Lessons from children: Babbling

This is a continuation of the series on 'lessons from infants/children'. If you have not already ready the previous posts, please take a look here and here.

When you first read the title of this post, you may be wondering how on earth adults are supposed to learn from infant 'babbling'. Have you heard an infant babble? It's a jumble of sounds that seem to be halfway between humming and speaking. It really is quite amusing when you watch a child babble - they do so without any fear of judgment, simply moving their mouths and enjoying the fact that sounds are emerging!

First, let's briefly talk about the value in babbling. Infants babble before they are able to produce 'real' words and sentences. Babbling, hence. is a form of early communication. Apart from the fact that babies are learning to produce vocalizations, babbling also allows them to learn to make eye contact with others, hear changes in sounds, and see 'how communication' works in real-life. There is evidence, as can be explored in many articles including this one, that shows the value in responding to an infant's babbling and how it increases their self-confidence, provides a safe environment, and encourages speech development.

Now, what can we as adults learn from baby babbling? 

One thing I adore about my little patients (and my adorable niece!) is that they babble without judgment. My niece, for example, couldn't care less whether anyone is actually around her listening as she babbles. She wants to talk! She wants to show off her skills as she learns to talk. Now, mind you, this doesn't imply that adults should simply blurt out words whenever they want! What I learn from the spontaneity of infant babbling is the desire to learn and improve one's skills. Infants want to babble to develop their speech, a new skill. They want to babble to learn how to communicate with the world around them.

Are you willing to try something new (assuming it is safe for you and others!) to learn a new skill, and not worry about others' judgements of you?

Are you willing to explore the development of a new skill, even if that means at first, you seem WAY far off from the ultimate goal? (Similar to how babbling often doesn't replicate real words).

Are you able to find the words and sounds you need to vocalize and communicate your needs in a healthy way?

Another thing to notice about babbling is the persistence with which infants babble. They don't just stop at one or two sounds - they keep producing new sounds, phonetic musical vocalizations, etc. Why? The innate need to develop the skill of communication is there. Each time a parent or caregiver responds to the babbling with encouragement and communication, infants learn that they are 'on the right track'. Nodding, talking with infants, and maintaining eye contact lets babies know that they are being heard. Thus, babbling requires us to respond to it, encouraging our little ones to keep 'talking' as they develop their speech.

We all need motivation! As an adult, do you provide motivation and encouragement to others when they are working on their skill development? Are you supportive to others when they need it? 

Similarly, where in your life do you require more support? Who can you reach out to today and let them know that you would appreciate their encouragement, advice, listening ears, etc. in your life? Who is a safe person that motivates you and supports you?

Do you keep working on a skill, even when you feel that you are 'far' from the ultimate goal? Do you maintain progress and keep working on a skill/habit, knowing that you will eventually reach your goals?

Who knew that infant babbling could provide so many lessons and pearls for us as adults?! I encourage you to stop to listen to a baby as they babble - or even a small child who is still learning to speak (heck, even YouTube has a bunch of videos featuring baby conversations!). It is quite fascinating watching the spontaneity, motivation, and joy that children have as they learn to communicate with the world, as they seek out reassurance and support to develop new skills, and as they persistently and lovingly work to acquire new skills (all these apply to us as adults, too!).

I hope that you can take a step back and reflect on this post, finding where in your life you can use a dose of 'baby babbling'.

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