WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Even something as simple as play can be complicated: A new study shows that mothers who try to tell their young children how to play with their toys can turn their kids off, at least in the short run.
The happiest children had two things going for them, the study found. They had the least amount of interference from their moms as they used their toys, and their mothers demonstrated what the researchers describe as "warmth" -- a gentle voice, a big smile and a dash of encouragement.
Children with the more "directive" mothers tended to respond with anger, throwing a toy away after a mother offered it to them or rejecting it outright and whining or crying in annoyance.
The research shows the danger of being overinvolved in what a child is doing, said study author Jean Ispa, a professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri, in Columbia. "We need to allow them to make decisions about what they'll play with, how they'll play and the pace of play," she said.
But Ispa cautioned that her research doesn't suggest parents should completely ignore a child who is playing. "If a child is doing the same thing, day after day, you might want to suggest something more complex, but do it in a kind and respectful way, so the kid still feels it's really [him or her] in charge."
The study, published Feb. 4 in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice, analyzed interactions among more than 1,300 pairs of mothers and children videotaped while the children were playing in 15-minute sessions.
The children were 1, 2, 3 and 5 years old, and the mothers whites, blacks and Hispanics (Mexican-Americans) -- were all participants in a federal study on Early Head Start. At each age level, the mothers were given a different bag of toys and told the children could do anything they wanted with t
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