Is your baby fond of being thrown up in the air, held upside down, or zoomed above your head like she’s flying?
Or perhaps she enjoys poking your neighbour’s dog straight in the eye instead of gentle petting?
If your little bundle finds this “dangerous stuff” hilarious, it means you have a fearless adrenaline junkie on your hands who likes to play with fire. Literally.
For us – parents, it is indeed terrifying to see such behaviour in our little ones.
Here are a few reasons your baby may be thrill-seeking to put your mind at ease hopefully.
Why Is My Baby A Fearless Adrenaline Junkie?
There are three simple reasons for fearlessness in babies: first – fearlessness is a hereditary trait passed with the genes. So, if risky behaviour runs in your family, that may explain why your baby thrives on adrenaline. Secondly, babies have no clue what danger is and how to react to it. So they learn by observing their parent’s responses to their risky behaviour. And lastly, they learn by experiencing the potentially dangerous situation. That’s how they develop a sense of fear and learn to avoid these threats the next time they arise.
Genes Are To Blame For Fearlessness In Babies
Some babies are naturally hard-wired to seek highly sensational experiences. Because they have it in their DNA. AND fearlessness is a hereditary trait.
In other words, genes may make your baby prone to fearlessness.
Now, even if both parents are more apprehensive or mousy by nature, it doesn’t mean that their ancestors weren’t.
That’s because sometimes the genes associated with fearlessness (or, in fact, any genes) might be hidden for a while and re-emerge a few generations later. This means the parents may have passed down to their children the gene, even if it was “switched off” for them.
So, it’s worth investigating whether fearlessness runs in your family or your partner’s family.
When fearlessness is written in your baby’s genes, it also doesn’t mean your baby will be lionhearted forever.
Despite the genetic influence, your gutsy baby might change the intensity of fearfulness even several times as they grow up.
So if your baby was a thrill-seeker at an early age, she may develop fear later on.
The opposite is also possible. If something easily frightens your baby during its early days, she can still grow brave in adulthood.
That’s because genetic influence that affects fear intensity in infancy may decline during adolescence and adulthood.
Because of this specific trait, the genotype is particularly dynamic during childhood and can easily change with time.
We should also remember the stimuli that are harmful to a baby may not pose any danger a few years later. So it’s expected that your baby’s perception of fear will change as they grow.
Besides, the intense hormonal changes during puberty may also alter fear mechanisms.
The bottom line is that genetically inherited fearlessness will probably change as your baby grows.
They Have No Awareness of The Risk and Danger
Babies are born with no clue about the world’s dangers.
Because why would they know things such as:
- The oven and radiator are hot, so it’s better if they stay clear of it.
- Stroking a strange dog may make them poorly, aside from the bite risk.
- Putting into their mouth literally anything they may find on the floor or whatever they can fish out from under the sofa may cause tummy ache and/or pose a choking hazard!
Of course, babies would not have the foggiest idea that these things (amongst many more) are potentially dangerous.
And the consequences of their curiosity and experiments can be not only unpleasant but also harmful.
But that’s when parents come to play.
Since babies are naturally great observers, they watch their parents’ negative emotions in response to their risky behaviour and perceived danger. Specifically, their facial expressions.
And they will learn from these reactions about the fear and basically copy their emotions.
So, how a parent reacts to spiders, bugs, mice, rats, or other common fears will strongly influence how the baby reacts to these “threats”.
Based on the research conducted on seven months old babies, it turned out that they tend to carefully examine faces that express fear, which signals a potentially dangerous situation.
Furthermore, a face that shows anger or fear keeps them more curious and fixated than one that shows happiness!
Nevertheless, that’s how babies develop a sense of fear and learn about the world’s dangers.
How a baby was trained to fear
They Don’t Know What The Fear Is
For babies, fear is a learned emotion rather than an instinctive reaction.
Except for two innate fears that we are all born with:
- Fear of falling.
- Fear of loud noises—so-called startle reflex that I discussed in my post: Should I Swaddle My Baby For Daytime Naps?
So it’s not like a baby is automatically scared of spiders and rats. They learn that these things are scary by observing the cues from their environment (and parents, as we said in the previous point).
Over time, babies will grow into fears as part of their social learning. Once they become more mobile (around six months), they begin to learn and experience their natural surroundings and environment.
As soon as they crawl, they develop depth perception and learn how to tackle visual obstacles that may not be safe for them.
As they get older, they will develop some fears by experiencing them and because of association.
As an example, if a wasp stung them in the past, they will become afraid of them.
Or they will learn that they can burn their fingers when touching a hot pan or iron.
So, such experiences will help them associate wasps or other insects with danger or hot pan with pain, and activate fight or flight response next time the potential for these events arises again.
This fear learning process has a name: fear conditioning. It is when a baby experiences a frightening event and responds to it with apprehension the next time it happens.
And thankfully, these memories will last for life with very little forgetting.
Final Few Lines
Most babies thrive on activities like hanging from heights, jumping off the couch, or other thrilling experiences.
But the good news is buzz seeking will probably change with time.
Specifically, as your baby gets older and learns from their parent’s facial expressions and emotions that what they are doing is potentially harmful.
Their perception of fear and danger will also change over time as they experience frightening events, learn to avoid them or fear them when they occur again.
And if fearlessness runs in your family—the chances are genes controlling this trait will become less influential with time.
Therefore, despite the fact that caring for fearless babies might be challenging for their parents, it is a reality that many of us have to handle…