Why Parenting Matters?
It may sound obvious that parenting does matter, but the gravity, magnitude and vastness of this statement continues to impact me. By understanding HOW parenting affects the growing and developing mind, body, soul, character, strengths and nature of our little ones – we can make informed, clear, parenting choices for each ones benefit.
The following is based on a workshop. These are the basic skeletal points. Each section deserves a seminar in itself! But it creates a clear and methodical way of imbibing why parenting matters – from a few different angles.
I would also like to say that I am not writing as an “expert” in parenting. I write this because I am so passionate and eager to find out parenting ways that make sense in terms of consciousness and integrity regarding authentic, and wholesome outcomes.
I divide this statement into three:-
the effect on the developing physical body of the baby within our physical environment (our body).
The role and affect of our emotional state on the developing baby
Our relationship and connection with our baby
Actually parenting starts before pregnancy. This is because the nutritional and health state of our body is most important pre-conception! This is the time that most influences our pregnancy health and body – in terms of growing healthy babies. This was found during the Dutch Famine – studying outcomes of healthy babies who were conceived before the famine and the mothers were pregnant during the famine compared to mothers who conceived during the famine, and were therefore all ready affected. So this means prior to conception we should be paying attention to how we are treating our bodies, eating well and becoming the best fit and nurturing environment to grow our babies! And we should of course continue this during pregnancy too.
There is no barrier between our emotions and our babies. The blood can filter out some harmful nutrients, medications but there is not such filter for our negative and harmful emotions. Our babies share our emotional environment and are floating in out emotional stories.
They are reacting to emotional stresses and increased cortisol releases at this time. They are especially vulnerable to continued stressors and chronic stress. Too much cortisol has been shown to have a negative affect on brain development.
Our babies are also learning what to experience and expect as “normal” from what they are experiencing in the womb. For example when the mom is feeling fearful, unsure, unsupported and abandoned – these feelings filter down to the baby and he/she is learning what the experience of life is like. In contrast a mother who is feeling loved, supported and validated is surrounding her baby with this environmental stew that she is learning – “life is accepting and I belong”! This is forming what is “normal” for him/her.
Babies are aware and conscious in utero. The senses are developing and they are receptive to sound. Research is supporting babies recognising sounds and voices they were exposed to in the womb. Our relationship and bonding for both parents can start during pregnancy! And it should for further healthy and beneficial growing and bonding attachments.
A few tools of great importance come up at this time.
Nutrition! Physical health! Starting before conception and continuing through pregnancy. Wholesome meals, valued supplements, vital lifestyle and appropriate exercise.
Mothers must be SUPPORTED during this time! They should feel beautiful, amazing, loved and trusted!! They are performing the physical and emotional miracle of growing a baby! They should be supported and loved. Spoil her!!
The same goes with the healthcare providers relationship with the mother. She should come out of the consultation feeling like she is doing a fantastic job of carrying her baby and have full faith in her ability to decide and control her environment around her labour and birth. She is an integral and respected part of decision making.
Take a Fetal Love Break! Take a few minutes a couple of times during your day to send your baby a message. Give your baby some physical time, attention and care. Use these minutes to rest yourself and just be with your baby. Rub your tummy, put your legs up and fall in love with your baby! Even better is send your baby a message – a visual picture or a letter, sentence AND send it with an emotion. This is a profound and real way we can communicate with our babies.
The value of understanding the evolution of parenting through the ages
I found it difficult to go into the horrific details of the various parenting practices through the ages. BUT I find the value as researched by psycho-historians and psychologists incredible and insightful and very helpful. These are the 3 main reasons why:
It is incredible to consider the mindsets and attitudes towards children that enable the certain parenting behaviour at different times in history.
Studying the effects of different parenting ways through the various societies in history – and following up the generations as they grew up to become a part of adult society – shows how parenting affects our adult character and views. These include general empathy, war and military involvement, political actions.
The evolution of parenting and seeing how it has changed – slowly and in different ways through the ages gives incredible perspective and hope! As to how far we have come and how far yet we will go. It helps to understand our older generations sayings, advice and attitudes towards different parenting practices and why things are how they are!
The 6 evolutions of parenting include:
Infanticide Mode – Unwanted, weak, wrong sex, illegal babies were dumped, neglected, exposed or abandoned. Child mutilation was common (feet binding, finger amputation, cranial deformation, female and male circumcision).
Abandonment Mode – Children were sent off and raised by wet nurses, foundling homes, foster homes, sent off for child labour, apprenticeship, slavery and oblation. The mortality rate soared and foundling homes were over-full.Children were subjected to inhumane working hours and conditions from young ages.
Ambivalent Mode – Children grew up at home with obedience and control were priorities. Time with parents was minimal but they remained at home. The belief that children were born evil and needed to be taught to be good prevailed. The basis of learning was fear and included cruel corporal punishment. Practices include tight swaddling (to control wandering hands), child labour and sexual abuse was also common.
Intrusive Mode – The concept of games and fun came in and children staying at home greatly improved the infant mortality rate as well as lowering the fertility rate! However although children were nearer they were definitely tamed with severe and cruel corporal punishment.
Social Mode – Children are valued as children with different needs, rights and expectations. They are allowed to play. But they are expected to fit into our lives – socially and according to our needs and desires. So they are trained to do so. Their emotional health is not prioritised nor understood. Breastfeeding, feeding generally, sleeping perhaps event toilet training is scheduled. This mode mostly employs corporal punishment, shaming and positive and negative manipulation.”Children should be seen AND heard BUT not taken seriously.”
Helpful Mode – the mode of parenting that we aspire for. Emotionally sensitive to the child’s developmental and growing needs at certain times and responding to them with insight and patience, in this way opening deep qualities of empathy. Seeing and accepting our children for what they are and not for our projections onto them. Moulding our lives to fit our child’s needs rather than expecting them to fit into ours. Employing babywearing, co-sleeping, demand breastfeeding and positive gentle discipline and boundary setting enhances the helpful mode of parenting.
Passage of Rites at Certain Ages
Understanding the basic and normal needs and stages of a child’s emotional and mental development truly helps to understand their behaviour and how to respond to best meet these needs. It also helps to understand the detriment of not meeting them and thereby reinforcing how important and beneficial it is.
The basic first rite starting in the womb until about 6 months old. Needing to have needs met immediately as a baby has no evaluation of time. The importance of having a conscious healthy and connecting pregnancy, gentle birth and no separation afterwards. Importance of skin-to-skin, breastfeeding and co-sleeping.
This is the time core beliefs are built; like “I belong” “I have the right to be here” “Life is good and safe”. Or negatively “I don’t belong” “I am alone.”
Rite to Need
This is the second stage from birth to about 18 months. Babies are extremely skin-centred and touch is a huge part of meeting their needs. It is a chance to become securely attached which has shown to improve mental health, mental security in the future. This involves both parents, and the father’s role is very significant in supporting the mother as she is meeting her babies physical needs of nourishment and touch. This can be very overwhelming and exhausting and the importance of having support for the mother is very important here.
If a child’s needs are not met here or postponed – they continue to be in the stage of need as an adult and co-dependency problems can result. In contrast by meeting these needs and increasing attachment now there is increased resistance to stress later in life.
Rite to be Supported
From about 10months to 2 years babies start to learn to master their own body and start to explore their environment. Now we need to respect their autonomy, support their development at their own space and time with healthy, firm but gentle boundaries. This is when parents may start to shame children for exploring and this is not helpful for their development. We want to support their need to explore, depend on their own strength – to be there when they need support and allow them to be vulnerable. In this way we show that vulnerability brings support and not shame.
A challenging time perhaps, as our 2-4 year old learns to define his own boundaries and self – often by opposition. We need to allow their right to protest without crushing their sense of self, nor humiliating them. We respond with respectful relating and allow them to follow their own natural rhythms.
Rite to Love
From the age of 3 – 7 years our children are learning to relate and express their feelings to each other as well as explore their physical genitals in often an exhibitionist manner. This time needs to be supported, respected and not shamed nor humiliated nor taken advantage of in obscure roles. By supporting this time and stage with respect and dignity we are fostering and teaching important exchanges of love and sexuality.
This is an honourous and huge task for new parents. The importance of SUPPORT cannot be underestimated. Now we are living in isolated, nuclear family systems. I encourage parents to have reliable, loving and understanding support systems in place before the birth of their baby. Support for the mother and family is very important for the family to continue meeting the demands in a healthy and nurturing way for all.
Parenting For A Peaceful World – Robin Grille
Lloyd de Mause – psychohistorian
Raising our Children, Raising ourselves – Naomi Aldort