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If you’re not already one of the 58 million people who have watched this Facebook video of a father and infant son discussing the finale of the TV show “Empire,” it’s worth taking a look.
Filmed by his wife, it shows DJ Pryor, a comedian from Tennessee, in an animated chat with his youngest child, Kingston, who’s 19 months old and a fully-engaged conversationalist — even though no one can understand a word he says.
The 85-second video is go-viral entertaining: the kind of thing you feel like watching more than once. But it also underscores two essential aspects of early human development.
First, it vividly illustrates the responsive, loving, conversational interactions that are foundational to children’s healthy development, providing a brief, compelling window into how young children learn language and how they learn to respond and connect to others in the give-and-take of human relationships.
Indeed, humans are inherently social from birth. As infant development expert Dr. Beatrice Beebe explained in a recent AEI presentation, babies are intensely communicative and responsive to the emotions and behavior of those around them, beginning in the very first months of life. Research has established that a baby’s development is shaped by face-to-face social relationships. The nature of those relationships—the ongoing, back-and-forth with parents and other caregivers — interacts with an infant’s unfolding genetic predispositions as the primary driver of social, emotional, and cognitive growth.
In under two minutes, the video effectively highlights the profound importance of the day-in-day-out interactions that build strong relationships and strong brains. It shows how children learn to talk and how the foundation for “grade-level reading” is laid. It also demonstrates the appropriate role of screens in young children’s learning: to provide fodder for conversation, not replace it.
Second, the video showcases the great importance of fathers in the development and well-being of their children. Reflecting on the video’s enormous popularity — including 308,000 comments, 1 million “Likes,” and 1.5 million shares from around the globe — Pryor wrote on Facebook:
…I want the takeaway to be FATHERS WE ARE VERY RELEVANT TO THE NARRATIVE OF SOCIETIES PROGRESSION!… I’m Proud Of The Video Because It’s a Salute To All The Active FATHERS!!!…
This Year we are changing the narrative of fatherhood especially black fatherhood!!! WE ARE HERE!!! We Connect With Our Kids!!
A growing body of research underscores Pryor’s emphasis on the value of fatherhood, showing how fathers’ involvement plays a critical role in the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of their children. (For additional entertaining illustrations of fathers’ importance in children’s development, take a look at this father talking with his 4-month-old son and this one helping his toddler daughter learn to count.)
Children’s earliest development matters a lot and fathers matter a lot to children’s earliest development. It’s terrific to see that millions of people are paying attention to both.
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