One of the biggest studies on parenting is the British Cohort studies which studied children born in one week in 1946 in the UK and did this over and over again for a few generations. The study tracked 70,000 children in terms of health, education and overall wellbeing over a 70 year period and gathered massive amounts of data on what makes a good parent (and in turn a happy healthy and successful child). The results are surprising in the fact that they seem so common-sense. It emphasises the fact that a basic standard of care is not provided for some children so all the more reason to reinforce what good parenting looks like.
The key actions that make a difference to the wellbeing of your children: • Communicating with your children – actively listening and talking to them. • Believing in their ability to succeed and making it clear you have ambitions for them. • Being warm and emotionally available. • Teaching them the alphabet and how to count. • Taking them on little trips e.g. to the museum or art gallery, having a picnic in the park. • Encouraging your children to read and reading to them as part of a daily routine. • Establish and maintain a regular bedtime that is age-appropriate.
Comparing children born in the same circumstances with the same economic factors affecting them, these are the factors that made the difference.
More recent studies on mind-minded parenting suggest that openly discussing the mind, and attributing meaning to your child’s early sounds and baby-ramblings, helps develop more socially savvy children who can empathise and predict emotional responses from others. These children are found to be more emotionally secure. Additionally, learning the language of mental states can help children exercise better self-control and delay gratification, which let’s face it, even some adults grapple with. But what about the whole nature vs nurture argument? Can science based parenting (nurture) override the innate 'nature’ of a child? No one likes to think that their baby is the difficult – in face I think we’d all like to believe our child is a clean slate and we as parents have that ultimate ability to shape its life, which is largely true. But a genetic pre-disposition to being an introvert or extrovert, the trauma of being born, and who knows what other personality traits are inherited – all affect a child’s ability to self-sooth, to adjust to routines, their response to stimulation and noise.
The only thing we can do as parents is adjust our parenting to the unique disposition of that tiny human we’ve brought into the world or have decided to raise as our own. But the great news is, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel - what better way to tailor our parenting, than to start with what science has found to be methods that have worked for countless others and have been associated with raising well-rounded, emotionally secure and physically healthy tiny humans.
Cover Image: Photo I took at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
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