In the early 1970s, an American psychologist named Ed Tronick started visiting newborn nurseries. Each Saturday, he and his colleagues would examine babies together, noticing how newborns communicated through behavior.
They did this for 8 months. Back then, the social development in babies had never been studied. That's when Tronick said, "This is what I'm going to do."
He was curious to find out:
"What goes on in the exchange between a parent and child that allows a relationship to be smooth?"
And he did.
In his groundbreaking research, the Still Face Experiment, he documented how babies reacted to their parent going completely expressionless.
“...Rapidly sobers and grows wary. He makes repeated attempts to get the interaction into its usual reciprocal pattern. When these attempts fail, the infant withdraws [and] orients his face and body away from his mother with a withdrawn, hopeless facial expression.”
This was the first time in history it was understood that even tiny babies have a sense of the relationship between facial expression and emotion.
When the baby and the parent "click," it's called attunement. The parent is tuned in to the child's needs and the child knows that she is in good company.
Attunement is the basis of a secure attachement. But we can't be attuned all the time. No parent can. No parent will. So how attuned should we humanly be?
Tronick found that even exceptional parents were attuned to their kids only 20-30% of the time.
This amount of attunement is enough for a secure attachment if parents are willing and able to repair the rupture — the pain of misattunement or "empathic failure" — that happens when they "mess up.”
So, when we don’t get it right the first time – when we yell or lose our cool, or when something we said or did hurts our kid's feelings, we can repair and find attunement again.
Read more in my new ebook: Attachment for Parents: The Science of Human Connection. (More on this below!)
The Still Face Experiment in our homes
Let's imagine we are eating side by side with our child. Our bodies are next to each other, but our minds are miles apart — we are on our phone, scrolling.
It’s not that we are absent. We're here, but not exactly. Not much different than the Still Face Experiment.
The term for this is "technoference," when tech meets interference.
Studies show that "parents’ distraction by mobile devices may hinder infant social-emotional development."
Attention is a limited resource and ours is being pulled by a thousand opposing forces.
This week, I made a video on how to handle this. The 3 tools I explain in the video will help you pay more attention to your children: Concentration, Curiosity, and Compassion. Hope you find it useful!
At the opposite of The Still Face Experiment, we have emotional awareness.
Emotional awareness is a parenting theme gaining popularity in our century — and it's going to dominate the next.
I've made this idea into this fun video. I'm so new, but if you're on Instagram, I'd be so happy if you follow Apparent for more experimental videos from me. :)
🦉 On my mind
"Attention is the beginning of devotion. [...] Any parent who has felt the twinge of shame that comes with the belated realization that a social-media feed has taken them away from a conversation with their child knows this to be true."
Mary Oliver, American poet
📓 On the blog
Why all parents should learn about attachment: Learning about attachment can transform your parenting. We discuss 4 reasons.
How to avoid turning your child into a people-pleaser: Discover how some attachment styles can cause people-pleasing behavior. Although people-pleasers neglect their own needs, it's a strategy for being loved and accepted.
📺 On the tube
How to pay attention to kids » 3C's: 3 tools from mindfulness that will help you pay attention to your kids. Concentration, Curiosity, and Compassion. It's not always easy! But by using any one of these 3 tools, you can become more present mentally.
🎨 On the canvas
🧘 On the site
Big day! My first ebook is finally out. I can't believe how far we've come. Thanks for your support! Introducing 🥁 Apparent ebooks.
First publication is on a subject that's close to my heart: attachment.
So much practical knowledge in this one. You'll find out the theory and science of attachment, but you'll also understand how it shapes our relationship with ourselves and our kids — and later on, our kids' relationship with themselves and others. It's the essence of how we bond.