Yes, we do!! We might all be parenting on what we think is instinct but it is really beliefs and practices handed down by earlier generations. We raise children interacting with them the way we have always seen adults interact with children. And can we assume that all these actions are beneficial to the child?
Today, we are in this amazing position where years of research and studies on brain development are actually able to tell us how parent-child interactions impact a growing child’s brain. And some of these discoveries are startling! Take this example, research tells us that for healthy brain development, children need an environment free of fear.
When we share this with parents in our workshops their first reaction is this — “If our child does not fear us what control do we have over the child? The child should fear at least one parent”. Well, according to neuroscience, the brain seeks safety more than anything else as survival is the main function of the brain.
If a child does not feel completely safe, all aspects of his development — learning, health and behaviour — are compromised. In fact, when children experience too much of stress and fear, the stress hormone called cortisol, is released in the brain.
Cortisol actually kills brain cells. So now we know that using the age-old methods of fear and threats to shape behaviour actually do not help children at all.
Is this true of all our age-old practices? Not so! In Indian culture, we have never believed in letting a baby cry and we strongly believe that babies should always remain near the mother — held, carried and sleeping close. This has been thoroughly endorsed by science.
According to the Centre for the Developing Child, Harvard, practices which make a child feel safe and responded to, build healthy brain architecture. Do I need all this science? You may wonder as a parent. We could consider ourselves lucky.
The information revolution may be confusing but if we learn how to find the right information, we can use it to nurture the best in our children. For all of us as a society to benefit, we need to talk about parenting.
We need to give it the importance it deserves and bring it to the forefront. For every job in the world, people receive training, but this the most important and the challenging of all we are expected to know what to do without an instruction manual!
Let us make parenting a topic to be discussed in our schools, workplaces, and even social gatherings (not just for mothers but fathers too). Let us learn what we can do to bring up the next generation with care and compassion.
Imagine a world where children are raised with this knowledge and understanding. We will have a society of confident, caring, balanced, responsible adults. We, parents have the power to change the world.
The writer is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.