You Get So Emotional, Baby

by Ann Douglas

crying babyParents tend to underestimate the effects of early social-emotional experiences on babies and toddlers and to overestimate the extent to which a young child can exercise self-control. Those are just two of the findings to emerge from a study of 1,615 U.S. parents conducted on behalf of Zero to Three (The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, in Washington, DC).

The researchers found that just 69% of parents surveyed realized that babies as young as six months were capable of experiencing such powerful emotions as sadness and fear; and that 34% of parents had no idea that newborns were capable of picking up on their parents' moods.

The researchers also discovered that parents expect young children to control their emotions long before they actually become capable of doing so. Twenty percent of parents expect children to be able to control their emotions by age two (and forty-three percent of parents by age three) when, in fact, most children learn how to ask for help rather than throwing a temper tantrum sometime between ages three and five years.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

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