This is excerpted from the book, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years" by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser, the ParentsPlace.com Parenting Experts.
One of the main ways we learn about our children is through observation. When we consciously and thoughtfully watch our children, we gain invaluable insight into who they are and how to best interact with them.
Observation is something parents do naturally. As soon as our babies are born, we find ourselves gazing at them -- both when they're asleep and when they're awake. Their every gesture, sound and random movement keeps us spellbound. There's a reason we find our babies so riveting. It's nature's way of making sure they're protected and cared for.
Parents observe the ways their babies explore, the expressions on their faces, the tenor of their cries, the color of their poops, and the number of diapers they wet. We notice how long they nap, when they cry the most, and what seems to calm them. It is through this observation, this taking of mental history, that we begin to know our children.
After practicing observation in an infant class, Razel, the mother of eight-month-old twins remarked, "When I sit back and observe my boys, I learn about the way they each solve problems. They're like little scientists. And the amazing thing is that they each do it so differently."
Most parents rely on observation to learn about their babies in the first year of life. But once children start talking, many parents assume that observation isn't as necessary. Yet there are many things even verbal children can't articulate.
Observing older children -- watching their facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, peer interactions and dramatic play -- continues to give parents important insights and knowledge.