Simple Ideas with Profound Impact
Take a Chance or Take Control
A few weeks ago, one of our followers on Instagram posed a great question – “why is it that some parents don’t see raising their child as something so complex, and that they just think that their children will be fine with whatever happens in life?”
Because it is a question that touches on a lot of important issues I promised in my Instagram response to answer it more fully in a blog post. So, @brookehilder, here goes! I’ll start by rephrasing and simplifying the question. Why do some parents leave their child’s development to chance rather than take an active role in promoting it?
Let me begin by talking about parents. Here at BrainFit Kids we have the utmost respect for and confidence in parents. We believe with our hearts and souls that the best chance that every child has in life rests with his or her parents. This is because of what we call the anthropological reality of the family bond. Woven into the very nature of what it is to be a human being is the love that exists between parent and child. This is no ordinary love but a special kind of love that only a parent can understand. There is no sense in trying to explain it to someone who is not a parent. You simply have to experience it for yourself. But once you experience it, you will never be the same person again. Ask any parent.
We’re convinced that parents really do want the best for their children. We have always taught that parents know their circumstances and their children best and they should decide what is best for them and their children.
We know that parenting is a tough job. Raising children often involves making sacrifices and establishing new priorities. Parents today face challenges and pressures and decisions that are unique to our modern era.
When two parents are working outside of the home, whether by necessity or choice, it can be difficult to reconcile their baby’s deeply ingrained biological and physiological needs with their own social and psychological needs. That is something that each family must figure out for themselves. We think that’s the way it should be.
So let’s get back to the original question – why do some parents leave their child’s development to chance rather than take an active role in promoting it?
I think it is safe to say that from the moment a couple learns they are expecting a child, they begin to have hopes and dreams for their little one. Some parents have really specific dreams but mostly parents dream that their child will grow up to be healthy, capable, successful, and happy. And so the little bundle of joy is born and then many parents cross their fingers and hope their dream comes true. Why? There are probably as many reasons as there are parents but here are two reasons that most parents share.
First, for most of recorded history the standard dogma about child development, particularly child brain development, has been that it is the luck of the draw. Remember, we have been at this game for more than forty years. As the popular Farmers Insurance commercial says “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two”! The phenomenon of neuroplasticity (the idea that the structure, chemistry, and function of the brain is influenced by experience) was proved and recognized as scientific fact in other mammals (dogs, cats, mice, rats), as early as the 1950’s. But neuroplasticity in human beings was denied. As recently as twenty five years ago, the medical, education, and psychology establishments taught that the human brain was not affected by experience or its environment.
While we now know that neuroplasticity exists in human beings, the popular belief remains much as it was forty years ago… if you are lucky enough to be born with a good brain you will do well in life; if you are unlucky and are born with a compromised brain you will struggle. So, it is no surprise that many parents assume their child will be fine. In a certain sense, this assumption is a bit of self-preservation because if it’s the luck of the draw anyway and there isn’t much you can do about it, much better to just think positive!
Second, the rise of the professional class (medicine, education, psychology) over the past hundred years or so has resulted in a shift of responsibility for many aspects of our lives. Generations ago, parents truly were responsible for every aspect of their child’s development. Without any fancy degrees or special knowledge, drawing on their personal experiences growing up and relying on wisdom passed down through the generations, parents managed to raise children quite successfully. Knowing nothing about neuroplasticity, mothers and fathers managed to bring us from the caves of the prehistoric age to the modern age. In the process they raised some pretty extraordinary humans. The philosophers of ancient Greece, the geniuses of the Italian Renaissance, the Founding Fathers of the American experiment in democracy are just a few examples of amazingly capable people who were once children who were raised lock, stock, and barrel by their mothers and fathers.
Sadly, some parents today feel insecure about this responsibility because, after all, they are just parents! What do they know about raising children? Part of the insecurity parents feel is due to the fact that generally we have smaller families today so many parents have little personal experience to draw on. Part is due to the fact that, as least in the United States, the family is not the close unit it once was and we are a much more mobile society. So parents often can’t rely on the wisdom of previous generations. So they turn to professionals!
Education professionals in particular are only too eager to capitalize on this. All one needs to do to see how far this has gone is to look at the push for universal daycare and universal early childhood education. After denying neuroplasticity for decades, professionals today try to justify having every child in daycare or school as early as three months of age on the basis that it is important to take advantage of neuroplasticity!
Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. We believe that every child should get the best quality care and a good early education. Indeed, that’s what BrainFit Kids is all about! We’re all for taking advantage of neuroplasticity! It’s just that we believe that parents are perfectly capable of doing this and can do so much better than professionals. What parents need is knowledge and our support in making that possible.
So, what’s a parent to do? Well, that really depends on how parents see their role and how much of themselves they want to and are willing to invest in it. Again, that is something that only parents can decide. But for those who want to take an active role in fostering their child’s development, the answer is education. Unlike a new car, little babies don’t come with a manual that tells you how they work. We started BrainFit Kids to fill in that knowledge gap.
Parenting With the Brain in Mind is about parents having an awareness of two things – the absolute miracle going on inside the head of that little baby they love so much and the extraordinary influence they have on that miracle. Once parents have that knowledge and awareness they can never look at their child or themselves in the same way again. That leads to children who are more capable and struggle less.
Speaking about struggle, today we have an epidemic of children diagnosed with attention problems, behavior problems, and learning difficulties. More than 5 million American children take drugs for attention problems alone. These children suffer terribly as a result of their limitations. The tragedy is that much of this suffering is completely avoidable. When parents have more knowledge and awareness about child brain development they are in a much better position to help and make a difference!
I’ll end with two final thoughts. As you make your own personal decisions as to what works best for you and your family, understand that there is no such thing as perfect parenting. You can parent with the brain in mind, which is to say with a very important purpose, but you can’t possibly be a perfect parent. So cut yourself some slack and just do your best. And keep in mind that raising children is the ultimate responsibility because, as Wordsworth said, “the Child is father of the Man”; children are our future! So long as you recognize the importance of that responsibility, you and your children will be just fine and our world will be a better place.