Understanding Cognitive and Social Development in a Newborn

Promoting a Baby's Development

As a parent, you will play an important role in determining what kind of person your child eventually beccomes. As you learned on the previous page, a child's IQ can vary quite a bit depending on their upbringing. You can actively promote your child's cognitive development by providing a safe, nurturing environment. Read this section for suggestions on additional steps you can take to promote your baby's development.

Promoting Optimal Development

Children who are loved for what they are, not for what they will become, develop a sense of security and belonging. Parents who promote a feeling of basic trust allow their children to develop deeper human relationships in later life; therefore, they contribute in a positive way to the formation of their children's personalities. By building on feelings of trust, honesty, integrity, and reliability, parents can do a great deal to promote optimal development.


Ideally, your role in promoting your child's development starts at the moment she is born, with the close body contact that begins the bonding process. When this initial physical closeness with the mother is not possible for one reason or another, bonding can be accomplished later through loving and touching. The first three years of a child's life are extremely important developmentally, and the greatest gifts you can give your child during this period are your time and your enthusiasm for her developing skills. Your child learns during every waking moment, and your best function is not so much to teach as to provide a stimulating environment and an emotionally supportive atmosphere. Follow your child's lead; don't push and don't try to rush her. For play to be rewarding and creative, your child needs appropriate toys, but she also needs warm and nurturing attention and guidance. If you entrust the daily care of your child to someone else, choose that individual carefully. Children must be with people who love and value them if they are to learn to love and value themselves and others.

Even infants need privacy, time to themselves. The environment in which your baby learns and develops should be a protective one, safe and secure. She needs a quiet, peaceful place to sleep, and, when awake, she should not be constantly at the center of an overly active household. Keep visual and auditory stimuli toned down to provide a calm atmosphere in which your baby develops her perceptions of the outside world.

Toddlers also need periods of peace and quiet away from people and activities. They need time to recharge their batteries, to rest, and to organize their inner lives. Children who are overstimulated, spend their days in crowded quarters, and are never alone except during sleep tend to be excitable, dependent upon others for their entertainment, and unaware of their own abilities.

Another essential in your child's development is your guidance -- the setting of limits, the enforcing of boundaries. A child needs parents who set limits appropriate to her age level at each step of development. Self-control and inner discipline develop only after limits are firmly set. Overall consistency is important because it builds up feelings of security in the child.

The basic idea is to try to achieve for your child balances between routine and variety, sameness and contrast, protection and freedom. Trust your own instincts, advises prominent pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton. Children are remarkably adaptable, and you cannot fail to be successful in promoting your child's optimal development if your aim is to provide a deep and warm personal relationship with your child as well as an appropriate world of toys, experiences, and instruction.

Recognizing Your Child's Uniqueness

Environmental influences alone cannot explain the variability in a child's development. Your child's temperament plays a significant and active role through interaction with your own parental style. Unfortunately, mismatches sometimes occur between the temperaments of parents and their children. However deep their love and respect for each other, these parents and children simply have trouble getting along, sometimes all their lives. It is important that parents come to understand the differences between themselves and their children, what makes their children tick, and how they can best help and guide them. In especially difficult cases, a specific management program instituted by a therapist can help improve the fit between a parent and a child.

The term temperament means the unique behavioral style of each individual. Many psychologists and others have described what they believe are the most easily identifiable characteristics of various types of temperaments and personalities. For example, one category of temperament often referred to is the "easy child." The easy child is characterized by biologic regularity (of the bowels, bladder, and feeding cycles) and adaptability. At the other end of the spectrum, the "difficult child" displays biologic irregularity, withdraws from new situations, has negative moods, and adapts slowly. Then there is the "slow-to-warm-up child" who is somewhere in the middle, combining some of both kinds of traits.

Keep in mind that terms such as "easy" and "difficult" are subjective. The parent's temperament and experience come into play. What is easy or difficult for one may not be for another. Also, make sure that you don't equate "easy" with "good" or "difficult" with "bad." And finally, note that temperament is not necessarily stable, particularly during the first months of life.

So what should you expect from your child? Turn to the next page for an overview of cognition theories by four of the foremost experts in the field: Benjamin Spock, Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson and Arnold Gesell.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.