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Are You Baby Smart?

When does a baby begin to develop self-esteem? Can parents spoil their child by responding to her cries? These questions and many more were asked of 3,000 adults earlier this year in a national survey called "What Grown-Ups Understand About Child Development." It was sponsored by the Civitas Initiative, a nonprofit organization committed to educating those who take care of young children; Zero to Three, a nonprofit group that studies early childhood development; and Brio Corporation, a manufacturer of developmental toys. The answers were surprising: Many parents are misinformed about the behavioral development of their own infants. Test your own knowledge by responding true or false to the following statements, then read on for the correct answer and what it means for you and your baby.

Your Baby and Your Moods

My 1-month old is unaffected by my moods.
False If you answered true, you're not alone: More than half of parents with young children say a baby must be at least 3 months old to sense his caregivers' moods. But a study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry shows that babies as young as 1 month can sense their parent's depression and be adversely affected by it.

What this means for you Angry words around the house will be taken in by your infant, so try to keep them to a minimum. And if you're suffering from baby blues or postpartum depression, speak with your doctor, and try to get someone to help care for your baby.


If I go to my 3-month-old every time she cries, I'll spoil her.
False This is a common misconception: 44 percent of parents with young children believe this to be true. Actually, most experts say that children under the age of 6 months are too young to spoil. "Responding to an infant's obvious needs and some of her reasonable wants won't spoil her," says Polly Greenberg, author of Character Development: Encouraging Self-Esteem & Self-Discipline in Infants, Toddlers & Two-Year-Olds.

What this means for you Lavish affection on your tiny infant, and pay attention to her signals. You won't be spoiling her; you'll be showing her that you care about her and will always be there for her, thereby strengthening your bond.

Under Her Little Thumb

My 1-year-old is too young to have the ability to manipulate me.
True But not all parents are aware of this fact: More than a third of them think that 1-year-olds are capable of being manipulative. For example, if a child this age were to turn the TV off and on repeatedly while his parents were watching it, 38 percent of parents believe that the child is likely acting out because he is angry at them. Experts point out, however, that 12-month-olds are simply too young to harbor malicious intentions. They say that such actions are merely a child's way of exploring the world around him.

What this means for you Don't punish your 1-year-old for his behavior in a situation like the one above. Instead, explain to him what's happening to the TV when he pushes the buttons, then divert him with a toy. He's bound to lose interest quickly (children this age have short attention spans) and move on to explore something new.

Learning to Share

My 15-month-old should know how to share.
False The majority of parents (51%) think a child this age should be able to share, showing that most parents expect too much of their toddlers. Research shows that 15-month-olds are way too young to understand the concept of sharing — this milestone usually occurs closer to age 4, says BabyTalk contributing editor Anita Sethi, Ph.D., a research scientist in applied psychology at New York University.

What this means for you If your tot hoards all the shovels at the playground, it's not because she's selfish. It's natural for a 15-month-old to think that everything she comes into contact with belongs to her. Tell her that she can have one shovel to play with, and help her leave the extras behind.


I can begin to build my baby's self-esteem before she's 2 years old
True One in five parents thinks that self-esteem does not begin to develop until age 3 or later. But most experts believe that children actually start to gain self-confidence in the first two years of life, and many say you can start building it from birth.

What this means for you Boost your baby's confidence every chance you get. By paying attention to her, maintaining realistic expectations, and loving her unconditionally, you'll be setting the stage for your child's bright future.

The survey was conducted by DYG, Inc. For more results, log on to,, or