The Power of Praise

Come on, admit it, you all love to be told you’ve done well. Whether you accept the praise graciously or lap it up it’s always nice to get a pat on the back. Some people thrive on it and it motivates their work, others need help to recognise it as they modestly underplay their achievements. I have to admit I can always work that little bit harder if I’m rewarded with a ‘well done’ somewhere along the line. So it was no surprise when at the end of Phoebe’s Water Babies class our instructor confirmed that Phoebe loves the praise!

This got me thinking about our tagline at Grow Liverpool, ‘Let nurture become second nature’ and how early we should start thinking about the effects of what we say to our babes. It would be easy to assume that these tiny little babes don’t have much of a clue what we’re talking about and to a certain degree that’s probably true. They are unlikely to be following the story line of whatever Netflix series you have been binge watching through the long days of feeding and nights of broken sleep. Similarly, you probably don’t need to introduce that swear jar into the house just yet, although it could take a while to kick the habit!

Research shows it’s not necessarily what we say but how we say it. have broken down the milestones of baby’s understanding and perception of language-

1. Newborn to Two Months

As soon as your baby is born, he begins to absorb and perceive information. Although this information may seem foreign to your little one, your baby is learning to emotionally adapt to you and the rest of the family. Your baby is getting secure in the family environment she is born in.

2. Two to Four Months

Your little one begins to observe everything that goes around him. He is now able to understand your responses to his activities. At three months your baby will start attempting to respond back to your actions. He will start making certain gurgling noises when he hears the tone of your voice.

3. Four to Seven Months

Your little one can now fully tune into the tone of your voice. She will start recognizing the names you call her and will respond to your words in actions or funny noises. When you sound happy, she will respond back joyfully and if you seem angry, she will begin to cry. She will be able to make out the difference between you and other family members. She will link each tone of voice to the personality associated.

4. Seven to Twelve Months

Your baby can now obey orders. He will follow and do what you say. Your little one will also test your responses to his action and behaviour. He will also understand and associate actions and gestures to certain words, such as refusal to eat, or waving someone goodbye. He will slowly start uttering and copying words that you or your spouse speak.

Talking with your baby on a regular basis will help him grasp the ability to understand the tone of your voice, and pick up communication skills. Encourage your baby’s responses to your behaviour as he will understand what is acceptable and what is not. Your baby will soon develop eye contact, body language and communicate the same way you do!


Most commonly we adopt a musical tone to our voice when speaking to babies and this helps not only to emphasise the correct emotion in the sound of the words but also encourages us to over emphasise our facial expressions. A noticeable improvement in Phoebe’s swim sessions has been her ability to recover quickly from going underwater. Whilst there may still be a moment of panic when returning to the surface. Our instructor’s technique to gently stroke her head whilst repeating ‘well done’ has seen a drastic change in the time it takes her to regain composure and settle again in the water. The video below shows the moment this happens and confirms she is definitely a sucker for the praise!


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