I know I have often been known to jokingly compare puppies and babies, but I loathe to do it in a serious manner seeing as how when other people do it tends to annoy me. Not because I think puppies are any less cute or loveable than babies, but because I think they are not the same. I have had puppies, and I have had babies. Trust me, they are different. However, today I will, in all seriousness (for the most part), compare the two as I announce the importance of socializing babies and small children.
Yes, just like dogs, kids need to be socialized. I don’t think you can wait until your kid is in school before you take him out in public. I mean, you can. I don’t think there are any laws against this sort of thing. But I highly recommend that you don’t.
Small children need to learn the proper rules of engagement in social settings, and I have found the best way of doing this is early exposure. There are certain behaviors in which we don’t participate in public. Unfortunately this knowledge is not innate. I have found a lot of parents shy away from this approach because they will take their baby to a restaurant, and he will scream bloody murder. They will immediately leave and swear to never go back. Yes, if your child is screaming his little head off in a restaurant, please take him outside. But also understand this is a learning curve. He will not get it the first time. Or the second time. Or multiple times after that. So you may not actually get to sit and eat the first few times you try this. Here are some tips that may help (keep in mind this is all based on my personal experience; the model of your child may vary).
Start early in a baby’s life. Because I love really silly analogies, if your child has been living at Starbucks since before birth, by the time he is ten he will know how to order a venti triple shot mocha frappacino. Otherwise he will just stare at the menu in confusion, and probably start screaming and crying. In other words, if public places are common for your baby, he will be more used to the idea. Frightened babies tend to scream.
Start early in the day. If you are taking your baby out to dinner, don’t do it during dinner rush hour on a Saturday night. There will be far too much commotion.
With this in mind, start with family friendly restaurants. Places that expect to have families and small children are expecting a certain amount of noise. As are the other patrons. Do not take your newborn baby to the expensive steakhouse in the nice neighborhood. It will be far less stressful for you. Because this is really what it is about. It is not about your baby, it is about you. The more comfortable you are in the situation, the more you are likely to do it, and the easier it will be for your little one.
So yes, babies need to be socialized. The above examples are all related to dining, because I have found that to be the most stress inducing activity for new parents. But socializing is not limited to taking your baby to dinner. Nor is it simply for your benefit. Taking your baby the places you normally go will not only make it easier on you with time, as he gets accustomed to them, but also will make for a more socially integrated child.
For example, Munchie is great about being in large groups of people she doesn’t know. At first, just like every other child, she gets shy, cuddle’s my leg, and hides her face. Then, ten minutes later she is fine. She has been thrust… er exposed to these types of situations since birth. It was very hard in the beginning, but it all turned out for the best. Next thing I know she will be in politics.