Babies are wonderful and their cuteness likely evolved to help protect their survival. The desire to goof off with baby helps keep parents attentive, involved and attached. This helps keep the baby alive.
But this sometimes goes odd places, especially in the modern world. “First world problems” — like boredom and a sense of social isolation — combined with first world technologies sometimes has parents treating babies in a manner they probably shouldn’t for purposes of playing to the crowd.
Babies learn by mimicking their parents. Many parents find this funny and “experiment” with seeing how the baby reacts to certain things, often while not realizing this is potentially problematic down the line.
In this short clip, the baby’s father makes a huge pouty face and pretends he will cry. Junior follows suit, mirroring daddy’s pout and looking distressed. Daddy quickly reassures him that everything is okay, then does it again.
While this may get you “likes” on Facebook or Twitter, it’s probably not a good idea to treat your small infant like this just to play to a crowd of internet strangers. It potentially undermines trust between parent and child.
Pretending to cry when you aren’t really distressed is, in some sense, a form of lying to your baby. Do you want your baby to internalize the idea that emotional manipulation by pretending to be distressed is socially acceptable behavior? If not, then you probably shouldn’t do it yourself.
While babies cannot very effectively catalog their memories and articulate them until after they become verbal, this doesn’t mean they don’t file those memories away in some format or other. It also absolutely doesn’t mean they aren’t shaped by their experiences.
When you raise a puppy, it is a best practice to discourage the puppy from doing things you wouldn’t want the adult dog to do either. This goes double if the dog will be large. For example, don’t let puppies jump up on people or jump up on the couch or they will keep jumping up on people and things after they are big enough to do some damage. By then, it will be ingrained and impossible to reverse.
The same basic principle applies to human babies. You need to think about their long-term future behavior when deciding how to interact with your infant. They are a doll or play thing for grownups to goof around with.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the kid. You can have all kinds of fun, just not fun that would be viewed as a nasty prank if it or something like it were being done to an adult.
This behavior may not be cruel or outright abusive, but it’s not very responsible. Try sticking to capturing funny baby moments that happen naturally rather than trying to elicit a particular reaction from the baby to play to an internet audience.
This will help foster a better relationship with your child when the baby gets older. Your future self will thank you.