Parenting Skills II – Formative Years

Parenting is an experience that turns adult children, called parents, into adults. As soon as a child is added to the life of a couple, everything changes. Suddenly, the baby becomes the center of their lives. Everything revolves around the needs of the baby. The early formative years, from birth to age five, lay the foundation for a child’s entire life. Mistakes made in parenting during this time can sometimes be irreversible.

One of the fundamental principles of parenting is appreciating a baby’s needs. If the needs are misunderstood, the parents’ responses will lead to a damaged bond between the baby and the mother. One of the baby’s first needs is to eat, sleep, be clean and have a sense of security. Once these needs are met, the baby is a happy baby. The first three needs are physical, but the need to feel safe is where there is a difference of opinion among the experts. In cultures where babies are free to sleep with their parents and where the mother is available to cling to at any time of the day, the baby feels secure. In cultures where babies are forced to sleep in separate rooms and most of their lives are spent in nurseries, there is a change in the baby’s perception of safe relationships.

Spending time in day care centers has the advantage of bonding with different people besides the mother, which can be seen as the beginning of the individual’s independence. But the frequent change of caregivers gives mixed messages to the subconscious. The more changes in the number of caregivers imply less contact, the more the nervous system feels unstimulated. At the end of the day, baby’s safety needs are paramount after the feeding and cleaning has been done. Touch plays an important role in providing the baby with a sense of security. The more tender touch is available, the more secure the baby will feel. Sensory satisfaction is what makes a child grow up to be a stable individual.

When a baby does not get sensory satisfaction, he begins to develop various problems, one of which is hyperactivity. In my own observations, a child who has had the kind of contact available to a child raised full-time by a mother in India or Nigeria is likely to be more emotionally stable. In this case, the behavior can be easily controlled because the nervous system has absorbed the feeling of safety into the subconscious. Hyperactivity happens because the nervous system has not reached its level of satisfaction. Children in India weigh less than a baby born in Western Europe. However, they develop motor skills such as crawling, walking and talking earlier than children in Western countries. My conclusion is that the feeling of safety from the mother’s touch is the key to this difference. In India, in families where the baby receives tactile experiences throughout the day from family members, even if the mother may be working, motor skills are learned earlier.

As the baby grows to understand language, the next step is to teach him ways of life. A normal baby who feels well loved will behave well and will not show any behavior problems. Any reprimand from parents, from a well-attached child, is taken seriously and obeyed. The more the child feels loved, the less chance there is for misbehavior. Love is the best basis for discipline.

When a child is going to be scolded, it should be done immediately after an event and not ten minutes later. A child has a short memory span. So the correction has to be immediate. In this way the child can learn to associate the event with the consequences. It is important to let a child know what the expected behavior should be rather than giving in to undesirable behavior.

No spanking or hitting is needed to correct a child. They are counterproductive. If you want a behavior stopped, inform the child of its consequences. For example, if you don’t want a young child to come near a lit candle, you should hold the child’s hand and bring it a safe distance from the flame so that the child can feel the heat. Once a child knows that fire can burn, he will not go near the flame. Such experiences demand hard work and vigilance on the part of parents. But it’s worth it if you want a healthy, well-adjusted happy adult like a child.

Experience teaches a child. Words don’t mean much until they are associated with experience. For a child to learn, each mistake and its consequences must be explained in simple language without going into too much detail. And everything has to be based on truth. If a child observes that parents are not honest in any area of ‚Äč‚Äčlife, no matter what you tell him about the truth, he will learn not to be honest.

Copyright Pradeep K Chadha 2006

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