TIME Research

Why Moms Are Better at Baby Talk Than Dads

mother-playing-with-baby
Getty Images

Do dads baby talk to their little ones? Researchers recorded hours of audio of parents interacting with their toddlers to find out

Most mothers do it without thinking: cooing to their young children in a sing-songy, high pitched way that seems to help them connect better with their youngsters. But do fathers who spend time with their toddlers do the same?

MORE: Who’s Better at Baby Talk, Mom or Dad?

Mark VanDam, a professor in speech and hearing sciences at Washington State University, wanted to find out in his new study presented at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. While previous studies have looked at how moms and dads interact with their preschoolers, most of these have been in the rather artificial setting of a lab. So researchers led by VanDam strapped recording devices on both parents and their toddlers for an entire day in order to hear what parents were really saying to their children—and how they were saying it—in a more natural setting.

They found that mothers do indeed adopt “motherese” when addressing their preschoolers, but fathers did not—even those who spent more time with their children. In fact, the fathers talked to their young children in the same way they conversed with adults.

MORE: How to Improve a Baby’s Language Skills Before They Start to Talk

That may be because mothers vary their intonation more and tend to speak in a more infantile way in order to bond better with their toddlers, according to a theory proposed in the 1970s. Mothers are supposed to teach their children how to connect on a more intimate level, and speaking in a more melodic way introduces children to this way of communicating, the theory goes. Fathers, on the other hand, are the bridge for preschoolers to the outside world, and fathers’ more varied vocabulary and adult intonations help to familiarize them with this way of connecting with others. “The basic idea is that moms provide the link to the domestic, more intimate type of talk, while dads provide the link to the outside world,” says VanDam. “In that sense, moms and dads provide different kinds of experiences that give kids more comprehensive exposure to what kinds of language they need in the real world.”

In his present study, both parents lived full time with the child, and in some families, mothers worked outside of the home. VanDam is hoping to extend the study to look at single-parent families, as well as same-sex households, to see if the gender-specific ways of interacting with toddlers stay the same.

TIME Parenting

How To Talk to Your Kids About the Contributions of African American Women

American abolitionist Harriet Tubman (1820 - 1913) escaped slavery and went on to lead the Underground Railroad.
North Wind Picture Archives/AP

No need to wait for Harriet Tubman to appear of the $20 bill

Harriet Tubman recently won a poll to get a woman on the $20 bill. While the poll was unofficial, it has led to a lot of arguing over whether the idea has merit, not all of it predictable: some conservatives have supported the plan and some African American feminists have opposed it. The chances of Andrew Jackson being displaced are still unknown, but you don’t have to wait until a woman’s face crops up on your money to talk about her with your kids.

Parents often tend to focus on the accomplishments of famous men, like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, says Tiya Miles, professor of African American History at University of Michigan, and a MacArthur genius. And when we do get around to women, Miles says, we often miss just how much their skills, creativity, and thoughts affect history.

So how can we help kids see the whole picture?

Elementary age kids often hear stories of figures like Harriet Tubman, who led enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad, or Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. Miles encourages her own elementary age kids to get curious about the brainpower those women must have had, with questions like, What kinds of skills must Harriet Tubman have had to help all those people escape? What skills did Rosa Parks use to fight for civil rights?

Middle school kids can start to think about the importance of vision. To work for freedom or rights, African American women had to “envision a completely different kind of future,” Miles says. That’s creative work, so poets like Jacqueline Woodson and Maya Angelou can show kids new visions, and help them form their own. Parents can encourage kids with questions like, What is a visionary? What change would you like to see?

High school students can do a deep dive into the history, to learn that Rosa Parks, for instance, didn’t just make one snap decision that swept her onto the national stage. She was a respected community leader who made a difficult choice to serve as a figurehead in the civil rights movement, and spent years of her life to build it. Then students can begin to apply those lessons in their own lives, says Miles, wrestling with questions like, “How have people tried to change the world for the better in the past? What does it take for change to happen? How can we turn a vision into something real?”

Subscribe here to TIME’s weekly parenting newsletter. It’s free!

TIME Accident

Massachusetts Man Calls 911 After Leaving His Baby in a Car

He will not face charges and the baby was found safe

A man in Massachusetts frantically dialed 911 on Wednesday after he had already boarded a train to let authorities know he forgot his baby daughter was in the back of his car.

The father had dropped off his older child at daycare and then boarded a T train at the North Quincy station, 7News reports. A half hour later, realizing his mistake, he contacted an emergency dispatcher, who contacted police to sent to officers that would find the vehicle.

“While this was one of the worst days of my life, I know that we were also very fortunate as it was a mild temperate day and I had come to my senses before too long,” the man said in a statement. NBC News reports the child was “never in distress” and was later turned over to her mother. The man will not face charges for leaving the child in the car.

[7News]

TIME Business

This Is How Successful Leaders Spent Their Teenage Years

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.

Spending time alone is really, really important

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Note: I don’t think I have ever before been compared with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. I am no where near as successful or accomplished as most of the people on this list. But for what it is worth, I’ll give you a trait that I think is common among most of these people (including myself).

Lots of alone time
Most of these people spent a massive amount of time alone when they were kids and young adults. And most of these people still spend a much larger percentage of their time alone today than most outsiders would think.

Especially when people are growing up, spending time alone gives one the space to explore, to be weird, to learn, to imagine, and to dream.

Reading is really (REALLY) important.
Read a wide variety of books and articles that stretch your imagination. Don’t just read easy books (like Harry Potter). Read difficult texts that really stretch your mind.

Read fiction and non-fiction. Read wonderful novels written by authors from far-away lands. Read things that challenge your political thought. Read the Bible, the Koran, Buddhist texts, and ancient mythology. And don’t just read conventional things assigned to you in school (like Hemingway, Shakespeare, and more) but try to seek out authors on your own.

Because most of the people mentioned grew up in a different era, they spent a big portion of their time just reading the encyclopedia. Many of them would eventually read every encyclopedia volume letter. These people had an insatiable need to learn new things.

When these people walked to class, they were probably reading a book or a magazine (in those days, it was a paper book). Some of these people even got injured walking into things because they were reading.

Most of these people had parents that asked them to read less.

Today the encyclopedia is free and on the internet. But today the encyclopedia is so big that it would be impossible to read in a lifetime — so today choices about what you read could be a bit harder. But reading is still really important.

Play acting
At an early age, most of these people spent more time play-acting than others. Very few of these people spent their time playing organized sports … they instead were in their bedroom, backyard, or nearby park playing by themselves. They were letting their imagination run wild.

They were imagining themselves as secret agents, slaying dragons, marshaling their toy soldiers to do battle, starting businesses, dealing with family situations, and more.

Experimenting
It is amazing how many successful people lit things on fire, blew things up, captured and studied bugs, built bird nests, and more. My guess is that every single one of the people listed subjected themselves to multiple electric shocks (some on accident, some on purpose).

They were building, creating, viewing, and observing. And they were the ones in charge of the experiment — they were the prodders.

Lots of creative activities
While most of the people listed are known for their right-brained prowess, most spent a very large percentage of their childhood and adolescence doing very creative things. They were writing short stories and plays, painting, sculpting, writing poems and lyrics, writing computer programs, and more.

Creating versus consuming
Reading, watching wonderful movies, listening to music, etc. are all great ways to spend time. But they are passive — these are consuming functions.

Most of these successful people spent a large percentage of their time creating vs. consuming. They were building things, starting things, etc. This is really important.

Today it is harder to spend time creating because there are so many more options to consume. In the days when most of the above people grew up, one would get bored pretty quickly of the consuming options (usually the best option was to read a book or watch bad television) where today there are just so many more options. In fact, the tablet is essentially designed to maximize consumption (unlike the PC which is a better tool tool for creation).

Get away from the social pressures of school
School, especially middle school and high school, is socially incredibly high pressure for everyone. People are jockeying for position and cliques are forming and unwinding constantly. There is a Game of Thrones aspect to the social standing within high school that is ultra competitive and hard to escape.

By spending time alone, people get needed breaks from the high school Game of Thrones. Alone-time allows you to spend time actually exploring yourself (rather than spending time conforming to some sort of norm).

Today, alone-time is frowned upon
Something happened in the last 30 years to encourage parents to spend more time with their kids. Another huge trend has been for parents to give their kids opportunities by enrolling them in lots of sports, weekend classes, summer learning retreats, and more.

While there are so many good things about the trend of more involved parenting, one of the very important unintended consequences is that kids have significantly less alone-time then they once did. And even when they are alone, they have the means to be a part of of the larger group through social networks, SMS, and more. So it is harder of them to escape the social pressures of school.

So we should expect the best strategy for kids today to not be the same as the best strategy for past generations. But most everyone (young and old) — especially those that have good social lives and have been reasonably successful — could use more time alone and more time to themselves.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How did successful people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Max Levchin, Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel, Vinod Khosla, Oliver Emberton, Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Auren Hoffman etc. spend their time when they were young, between ages of 10 and 22?

More from Quora:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

All In is Lean In for Dads

Josh Levs' book is a call to arms for working dads

Men should lean in just as much as women—they should just do it in a different direction.

That’s the gist of Josh Levs’ All In, a manifesto of work and life for men that aims to be for working fathers what Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was to working mothers: a cogent analysis of the systemic problems in work culture that make it so difficult to be a parent. Levs says he consulted with Sandberg while he was writing the book.

Josh Levs is a CNN reporter who made headlines in 2013 when he filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Time Warner because he said their paid leave policy discriminated against biological dads. At the time, Time Warner offered 10 weeks of paid leave to biological mothers, and to parents of both genders who adopted or had a child through surrogacy, but biological fathers only got two weeks. Levs challenged this rule and won, and went on to become an advocate for better workplace policies for dads as well as moms.

Levs’ central argument is that American culture—especially American workplace culture—doesn’t allow parents of either gender to spend enough time with their children. There’s been a lot of discussion about how tricky that problem is for women, but few have dug deep into what it means for men. “There’s this basic mentality about what men and women are that has held back our policies,” he says. “Our structure is based on the assumption the woman will stay home and men will work, so why would you need paid maternity leave? The women will stay home! Why would you need paternity leave? They’ll work!”

Clearly, that assumptions aren’t true anymore, but Levs argues that workplace policies have not kept up with the changing times. “Our policies didn’t grow up, our policies are stuck in the past,” he says.

The book is a “call to action,” Levs says, not only for long-demanded workplace policies like paid maternity leave, but also for widespread paternity leave and greater flexibility for all working parents. He repeatedly notes that the United States is one of the only nations in the world without paid maternity leave, and that many other industrialized nations have paternity leave on top of that.

Changing American workplace policies isn’t just a question of accommodating parents, its a question of looking out for children, Levs argues. He says that paid leave shouldn’t be considered a luxury—he says it’s no different from “absolute basics” like public schools or medical care for kids. “Another absolute basic is making sure what when a child leaves the womb, its parents, or one of its parents at least, hopefully both, have time to stay home and not hand the child over to strangers and rush back to work,” he says.

“That’s not left or right, that’s not a battle over taxes, its just doing what’s right for kids,” he says. “And whats right for a society’s kids is always best for a society.”

Levs isn’t just calling for better workplace policies, he’s also asking men—and women—to re-examine what it means to be a dad. He argues that the antiquated expectations of a worker-bee dad and a stay-at-home mom have left modern fathers feeling shut out at home in the way some mothers feel shut out at work, even as fathers are increasingly aware of the importance of active parenthood. That’s creating an identity crisis for the American dad. “We are carving out a new role for fathers in America,” he says. “That’s a challenge and an opportunity. There are opportunities that men have now that our fathers didn’t have. So that gives us a chance to define a new meaning of manliness.”

“We’re all in this together, pushing forward for a new meaning for fatherhood.”

TIME Parenting

Surviving That Mad Max Road to High School Graduation

Rear view of female family members walking through field
Getty Images

Susanna Schrobsdorff is an Assistant Managing Editor at TIME. Previously, she was the Editorial Director for Newsweek Digital. She is the winner of a New York Press Club award for Outstanding Web Coverage and three Front Page Awards for cultural commentary and interactive journalism.

I’m starting to suspect that I was covertly enrolled in some sort of secret government stress test to see what happens when you put a woman of a certain age and two teenage daughters in a small Brooklyn apartment with a disgruntled cat and no central air-conditioning.

It’s the perfect hormonal storm: all the angst of middle school, a high-stakes dose of college-application hell, plus a trip through the Bermuda Triangle of women’s health–what doctors so poetically call perimenopause, a condition they blame for everything from ankle acne to homicide–and the irrational urge to get yoga-teacher certification.

Let’s just say there are moments when I think anyone who visits our house should be issued an estrogen dart gun. We run high on laughter but low on impulse control, mood regulation and common ground when it comes to room-temperature preferences and body piercings.

Nonetheless, we have not only survived the past four years, but both daughters will be getting diplomas this month. This was not a given. The usual maladies of puberty are magnified by our frantic digital ecosystem–even the toughest kids can be knocked off track.

Then there are the unexpected tragedies. For us, it was when the girls lost their beloved stepmother in a freak accident. At the time, my eldest had just finished a rocky entry into high school and her sister was in fifth grade navigating the maddening rules of tween cliques. The fragile bridge they were building to adulthood crumbled in a day.

Grief seemed to reshape my girls at a molecular level. One held tight to the tangible evidence of loss, cycling through photos and calling her stepmom’s cell phone just to hear her gentle voice until the account was shut down. The other turned inside herself, shutting out school, shielding herself from the outside pressures to counteract what was going on inside. It was a dark summer.

I wonder, are young hearts more resilient? Do they heal better than an adult’s? Do they become stronger or just accumulate scar tissue? All we can do is wait and see, and that might be the hardest part of being a parent. But for now, for us, the world is back in focus, if in a new, more tenuous way. Every college acceptance letter or drama performance that seemed unlikely or impossible three years ago brings a sweet kind of gratitude.

This week we will get new dresses for graduation, in all new sizes (good news for them, bad news for me). You’ll see us on Facebook looking as if we floated into the frame effortlessly. But know this: if our clothes reflected the reality of our journey, we’d look like extras from a Mad Max movie, sweaty, proud and buttressed by homemade armor.

Come graduation day, I know I won’t be the only parent with invisible armor who worried that a diploma might be knocked out of reach or rendered irrelevant by bigger issues. There is an epidemic of depression and anxiety in our schools–and I suspect we’re only documenting a fraction of the problem. So while there will be tall young women, cool and confident in their caps and gowns, some will have spent eight weeks at grueling wilderness camps foraging for food because they stopped eating at home. There will be brilliant boys who cut themselves, a tangible reflection of wounds they get in the social-media Thunderdome. There will be kids who don’t have safe homes, or homes at all, and others who have everything but a purpose.

And the school auditorium will be filled with the parents who’ve soldiered on, mortgaged houses to pay for substance rehab, spent more time in emergency sessions with teachers than on vacation, who turned the city upside down to get their son a place at that last-chance school. They know about the impossible choices and disappointments that aren’t in any parenting book. And they include some of the people you think have done everything right. Sometimes what looks like indulgent, competitive helicopter parenting is really a desperate fight to be ordinary. For all of them, this rite of passage is anything but ordinary, but you wouldn’t know it.

Sometimes it feels like a secret society. Kid trouble is the last taboo, after all. We confess to infidelity or Botox or grownup mental-health battles, but we cover up or downplay our most visceral fears about our children even when we’re talking to our oldest friends. It’s the topic that makes us most vulnerable. Which is all the more reason to celebrate a diploma.

Plus we’re at the cusp of June, and everything is a few tender days away from full bloom. By August, my family will be back on the Mad Max highway. But until then, the three of us get to argue about tattoos over dinner. One of us will leave the room sobbing (probably me). We’ll take turns turning the air conditioner on and off in our ongoing climate war. No one will clean the cat box unless I yell. And we will all know that this is the good stuff.


This appears in the May 25, 2015 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Nutrition

Most Parents of Obese Children Think Their Kids Are ‘Just Right’

Getty Images

Because they're compared to their peers, not to medical standards

Parents of obese kids often don’t recognize that their kids are overweight, and the vast majority think their obese children are “just right,” according to a new study.

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center studied two groups of young children: a group of 3,839 kids from 1988-1994, and another group of 3,151 kids from 2007-2012, and published the findings in the journal Childhood Obesity. Similar findings were reported last year in the journal Pediatrics.

The NYU researchers found that even if their kids were overweight or obese, the vast majority of parents were likely to see no problem with their child’s weight. In the earlier group, 97% of parents of overweight boys and 88% of parents of overweight girls said their kids were “about the right weight.” In the more recent group, 95% of parents of overweight boys and 93% of parents of overweight girls thought so, too. The children in the later group were significantly more obese than the kids in the earlier group, but their parents were just as likely to see them as healthy.

In both groups, misperception about overweight kids being “just about the right weight” was most common among African-American and low-income parents, and the misperception decreased as family income rose. Researchers said this may be because lower-income parents are comparing their kids to their peers, who are also more likely to be overweight, rather than to medical standards.

Researchers warned that the lack of awareness of childhood obesity could contribute to the problem, because if parents don’t recognize that their children are overweight, then they won’t be able to help their kids.

TIME Parenting

Why Millennials Are Giving Their Kids Weird Names

And because Millennials love small brands

Every time the Social Security Administration releases the list of most popular baby names in the U.S. for the prior year, observers of the human species try to figure out what the significance of the most popular names are. This is not so surprising since we are the only species on the planet that gets to name its offspring (as far as we know.) Some of these explanations are more speculative than others, but none feels completely right.

Now that this year’s list is out, name-watchers have noted that J-names are getting unpopular while names starting with vowels are hot. Names that end in a plosive (Pete, Jack, Kate) are less popular than names that end in a fricative or a vowel. People seem to be losing interest in New Testament names (Mary is thin on the ground and Michael, who had a 45-year reign as male baby name No. 1, is trending down.) But Old Testament names (Noah, Jacob, Ethan, Abigail and Daniel) are enjoying a spike.

Now comes Goldman Sachs, pointing out in a study of Millennials, that even the most popular names these days aren’t anywhere near as popular as those of yore. Twenty five years ago, 3% of American babies were called Michael, and 2.3% were called Jessica. But Michael and Jessica, who are now of childbearing age, are giving their kids names that fewer kids share. The most popular names in 2014, Noah and Emma, accounted for only 1% of babies each. The report points out that you’d need to add all the Noahs, Jacobs, Liams and Masons together to get the percentage of Michaels there were in 1980.

“We turn to the history of baby names to possibly provide a window into evaluating parents’ expression towards brands,” says the Goldman Sachs report, which identifies two main reasons for the wider spread of baby-naming: “greater diversity among parents and … an appetite for more differentiated and unique brands (which we believe names are).”

That’s right: parents want to give their kids a different name not so they can call it out on the playground and not have five kids look at them, and not so that Olivia (second most popular girl’s name) will be the only Liv in her class, and not so that if she loses her towel at camp everybody will know whose it is, but because they want their kid to have a unique brand. Millennials are disruptive; they prefer small brands. And they don’t want their kid associated with any monolithic name that might dominate the cut-throat baby name market. (Tip: get in early and invest in Gannon and Aranza now.)

Goldman Sachs somewhat gingerly admits it doesn’t know everything about Millennial parents: “…their attitude towards parenthood strikes us as being more idealistic and aspirational,” than their forebears, the report notes. “Having said this, we acknowledge that we are still in the infancy of this theme and are likely to be introduced to changes in values, companies and business models as it develops.”

Just to prove disruption isn’t limited to Millennials, this Gen Xer has put both her kids names in this story. See if you can spot them (hint; they’re lower case.)

 

TIME Television

Watch John Oliver Use Mother’s Day to Slam the Lack of Paid Maternity Leave

"You deserve the very best moms, you're just not going to get it."

To celebrate Mother’s Day, or as John Oliver called it on Last Week Tonight, “the only day of the year we don’t look at our phones and go ‘yeahhh not now, mom,'” Oliver called the United States to task for its failure to provide mothers with paid maternity leave.

According to Oliver, the U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries that do not give any paid maternity leave. While the federal Family Medical Leave Act guarantees women won’t lose their job if they take 12 weeks of unpaid leave, it only applies to women who are full-time employees in medium and large-sized companies. Freelancers, part-time, and contract employees and employees at smaller companies are not covered.

For Oliver, this is unacceptable treatment of mothers. “You deserve the very best moms, you’re just not going to get it.” In Oliver’s opinion, it’s especially appalling, because when California enacted a paid maternity leave law, they found the results overall to be akin to having hockey on in the back of the bar—”it’s not hurting anyone and a few people are really into it.”

This Mother’s Day Oliver encourages passing meaningful legislation instead of another Hooters gift card.

Read next: Why We Need More Mothers at Work

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Parenting

See the Most Popular Baby Names for 2014

Baby
Evan Kafka—Getty Images

Charlotte made the Top 10 list for the first time ever

Noah and Emma were the most popular baby names of 2014, followed by a few newcomers to the top 10 list, like James and Charlotte.

The Social Security Administration released on Friday its annual list of the country’s ten most popular baby names for boys and girls.

James, a popular choice in the 1940s and ’50s, returned to the top 10 after missing out for several years. And Charlotte, ranked #10, made it to the list of top names for the first time ever (and the name is likely to stay there, thanks to the new arrival of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.) There’s even a newborn baby monkey named Charlotte at a zoo in Japan, although zookeepers are considering a name change. to avoid offending the British Royal Family.

 

Here’s the full list of the top 10 names for boys:

1) Noah

2) Liam

3) Mason

4) Jacob

5) William

6) Ethan

7) Michael

8) Alexander

9) James

10) Daniel

And for girls:

1) Emma

2) Olivia

3) Sophia

4) Isabella

5) Ava

6) Mia

7) Emily

8) Abigail

9) Madison

10) Charlotte

 

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com