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Yes, the Little Things Matter: Parents' Role in Helping Kids Become Socially Competent

Parents out there you know how it goes: you play the same game over and over again with your toddler or you help them put together a puzzle. This is the daily "stuff" of parenting and you may feel it doesn't make a difference. Well, turns out, it does make a difference! A recent study from the University of Montreal and the University of Minnesota shows that how parents interact with young children helps them develop crucial cognitive skills. Here's a brief overview of the study:

- researchers studied 80 pairs of moms and their one-year-old children

- the study focused on how moms interacted with their children in tasks such as playing games or putting together puzzles

- the researchers examined how these interactions predicted children's "advanced cognitive functions"--those are things like controlling impulses, remembering things and having mental flexibility

It turns out that how moms interact with their children in these tasks help the child develop these important cognitive skills. Children whose moms who interacted in the following ways had better cognitive skills at 18-26 months:

- provided guidance and scaffolding in tasks that were difficult for the child but did not take over the do the task for him/her

- followed the child lead and pace in completing the task or playing the game

- used a warm and sensitive tone when interacting with the child

One of the most important findings of the study was that these types of interactions helped support the child's autonomous behavior--that is, the child learns to do activities on their own. This is crucial because autonomy helps the child develop a sense of self and accomplishment.

So parents if you had any doubt that the little things you do everyday matter, worry
no more. All those moments of guidance and support really do help your child
become an independent, competent youngster.

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