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Middle Childhood » Childhood Development

How Does Understanding Looking at my Own Childhood Make Me a Better Parent?

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Are you able to be a different (kind of parent) from your parents?

Do you know why most parents are not anxious to raise kids the way they were raised?   The reason is… young new parents do not want to morph into a replica of their parents as they get older, but they are afraid of failing in the eyes of parental authority.  Their experiences are bound by a set of family attitudes, adhered to and believed in each lifetime.  Whatever Mom/ Dad said or did, you did, hoping for approval and the attention you craved.  

It mattered not at all if you were healthy, abused, rejected, happy, no matter what your circumstance, you came with a set of instructions from your parents. Your parent’s values and behaviors, ingrained into them, now are integrated into you!  This understanding of your life from infancy to maturity now enables you to guide and draw from your set of instructions for successful parenting!  

To each generation, thinking back on styles and traits of their own upbringing is not appealing, but it is good preparation for being a successful parent.  Say: “That was my household, my legacy.”  That is as far as it needs to go, because the roots of parenthood are in the nature of each parent’s personality and temperament.  Stable over time, personality traits are not only long-lasting; they vary little during one’s lifetime.

To test this reality, try to remember your preschool /kindergarten year.  Your memories may be vivid or vague, but some recall is common: were you bossy, shy or a crier?  Did you jump and run, moving constantly or sitting shyly in a corner, an observer, were you quiet at school but talkative and energetic at home? 

Whether you are eager to try new things, love or hate certain foods or are stubborn or persistent in your behavior, you are the same person you were in those ages and stages growing up. Out of infancy and childhood, each adult emerges with the same personality style, carving out a style of his own .

As a five-year-old were you aggressive, passive or quiet? How did you react to unexpected or strange experiences?  Did you prefer familiar activities or enjoy new games or new classroom routines?  You are 95% like that child today!   If you fall back on prior memory and knowledge, you are empowering yourself to experience the stages of your own childhood.  This will enable you to be a great parent and a good observer, the two most important child-rearing qualities.

Understanding children, as human beings, not property or possessions.   While parenting classes are popular, instructors rarely show parents how to use childhood memories and history to help their children develop into competent adults!   Parents are looking for simple behavioral solutions. This e-chapter book helps adults to rely on their childhood memories and observation of their offspring!      

Professionals make the case that “Parents are children’s” best teachers.   They try to convince parents that children incorporate the values and beliefs of their parents so early that by age three, older toddlers mimic their parent’s behaviors accurately!  

Studies of how children learn from birth demonstrate that infants are born with oral swallowing, throat clearing and tongue reactions to food, as well as sensory motor abilities, physical and mental that exercises the body and brain’s central core. Infants are in a constant state of movement and adaptation to their surroundings.

These results are why researchers contend that children do come with a set of instructions and you, as parents, are the designers!

Newborns are movers and shakers, right from birth.  Looking at a newborn, observers are startled by the expressiveness in the baby’s body.  Facial muscles shift and rearrange themselves as frowns, smiles, the infant shudders, dramatic tears come, then quietness, a jerky startle loud sound, squeaky cries, hiccups, gurgles and coughs. 

Each infant conveys a set of instructions to caring onlookers; soft blurry looks, clutched fists, sharp piercing stares, shy looks on a red face, feeble whimpers, a smile, sad grimaces, a beet red scream, then, sleep light at first, deeper and relaxed.   

Neurophysiologists and psychologists are fascinated by the sheer numbers of combinations of neurons firing, elevating alert states, and sudden drop offs and endless repetitions of sleep and wake cycles, jumping over nearby connections, pole vaulters in action!  . 

The infant actions of moving and feeling attracted to what is seen, heard, and touched, make the surface layers of the brain increasingly thick and dense, as more and more strands of cellular material called dendrites are produced.  Where there is more density, there is more potential for thought and language.

At the age of four weeks, older neonates hug and snuggle differently than newborns; at eight week, they lift and separate in more organized ways than before, and at three months, infants have already have made up their minds about who to love and who is worthy of their special personal style of attachment. 

These tootsie rolls (Serena Weider’s knowledgeable term for infants and children under three) give the impression of bonding, as they search before they fix in on a person’s face.  Their gaze and smile radiates with a look of love; it appears as familiar people come closer, activating the infant’s legs and arms vigorously.  

It is a remarkable achievement of will and desire to attach and get attention that human infants use all their resources to make themselves known. The idea that 3-4 week newborns show preferences for comfort objects, such as breast, warm bottle,  shoulder to lean into,   blanket or object to suck is more and more persistent, so that at this postnatal three week stage, babies present their own personalities;             

All babies engage in early imitation, an expression of infant intelligence, ability to form relationships and effects of early experiences on brain development and language learning.   

What is your parenting goal?  Let me know!  Better parenting is nothing more complicated than exposure to better information and better decision making; there is no best way to match this set of instructions exactly to your family- you decide!  There is no one-way, no one “right” way, or only one way to do anything, including raising children. 

Today there is less of a generation gap as everyone wants to work and be home more all at the same time.  The normal age and background for entering the domain of parenthood has widened so far that the personalities and background traits of each of us becomes blurry. 

The work of parenting is easier if parents know how talented they are already- given unique capacities and common traits. You are a less stressful parent if the bonds are secure from the past generation to the present, and if you have an interest in developing it.

Anxious and stressful families are finding, as a result of having to consider alternatives for jobs and career training, that they can be parents in a different way- returning to the importance of home, but not returning to the isolation of depending only on family members for child care, after school supervision, other neighborhood concepts and family changes and new sources of employment and education. 

This helps parents to think altruistically about their children and their children’s talents at much younger ages.  Parents are in need of reconnection with past lives, contacts, resources and other people’s lives from their personal histories.

Today’s idea of parenthood does not mean giving up cultural and educational interests, or abandoning home life for a life of driving trucks, cars, and vans from one event to another.  

Does parenthood mean you can only use family members as baby sitters and child minders and day care providers?  Is this a good way for children to learn other adults’ ideas and learn from a variety of adults? 

Gather together and learn from each other, enjoying work and home activities, as if they were part of a bigger picture of a more whole life.  Urban and suburban parents depending on their older parents are relatively scarce.  

21st Century contemporary culture, according to anthropological research, now suggests that media is making Western and Middle Eastern cultures think differently.  Advertising powerfully seduces not one, but several generations into believing that the younger people are more knowledgeable than older people- that they are the only generation or two that understands how the world works.     

Intelligence and rigorous thought require billions of direct experiences with other people, not machines.  To learn that one is loved, watched over and protected are acquired feelings that seem distant form the lonely techno-geeks who are sitting at computers in empty rooms, or accepted by nameless and faceless internet chat buddies. 

In fact, youth need peers and neighbors, friends, and families require social contact and friendships mutually derived.  Dr. James Garbarino accurately has a finger on the pulse of both parenthood and childhood; he is a leading authority on violence and child abuse in local communities, has become a leading figure in the debate about what children really know; more importantly, what are they and their families telling parents and society by their actions?

Children tell about feeling that there is no parent who can help them most of the week-they run their own lives entirely at their own discretion.  They control their own lives and, more disturbing, they feel they are in control of the households in which they live. 

90’s and 00’s parents interviewed about their style of raising children, describe protective and distance types of lives they and their children lead.  They can offer no examples of home as a place to work and play together or hang out- only media connections and telephoning friends. 

There offer no social affiliations, no intergenerational activity from year to year, and no contact with other adult role models or peers who interact with their children. 

Adolescence, teens and young adulthood:  More than one father has looked at his teenage daughter and said, “I have no idea where you came from.”  There is an insurmountable tension between attachment and separateness that we are, like the state of New Hampshire, born free.  Freedom and bondage are logical and make sense to children, as they shift from states of dependency to independence and beyond. 

The younger the youth and adolescents are, the more they feel watched and supervised by parents, but as adolescence begins, the rate with which teens express parental disapproval, climbs.  Peers are popular role models, not adults or parents.  Not even in sports.

There is a pattern that emerges how these families live together. What parents reveal is that their children are alone while they work, that there is time unaccounted for, time spent with friends unknown to the parents, that there are large blocks of time they are unsupervised.  There are moments when the families know their children are lonely.

Garbarino counsels families whose children are perpetrators in incidences of school violence.   He describes a preponderance of cultural events associated with violence and the anger that drives youth to commit acts of murder and suicide.  Often abuse accompanies a trend toward loss of parental authority in all areas of America.

There is loving and caring but overprotective descriptions of how teachers are not doing the right things, how administrators are negligent, how someone else is to blame for school’s performance.  Their children are not to blame.

The reality about the lives and talents of youth is in stark contrast to the words of anger and resentment that are part of the parents’ dialogues. The average mental and social developmental stage of the parent is far below the level expected by newspaper publishers- 6th grade level. 

They seem as concrete and literal in their thinking as many sixth to eighth graders. Many parents embrace the youth culture that other adults find so difficult to control.  The ever constant generation gap is not constant any more it overlaps and there is no great separation between generations for the 00’s to now.

The secret lives of teens are only revealed to them as they reach preadolescence. Until then, they believe their parents have eyes in the back of their heads- a truth that encourages decision making and basic moral development.  Early ego and conscience comes from this knowledge of dominion and authority that adults have over their children.  The development of a conscience prevents children from forming disrespectful habits and incorporating their parent’s beliefs and traditions and ethnic habits.

             

Ask Dr. Susan