February 21, 2020
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The Ideal Parents

You know what’s best for your children. Possibly, you don’t. Most are constantly ridden by guilt that they don’t do enough for them. Here’s how to get it right

The Ideal Parents
Photograph by Getty Images
The Ideal Parents

Lost of us are aware of how the brain of a child develops in the first 10 years. According to researchers, the just-born’s brain has 100 billion neurons. In the first three years, the the brain builds, and the neurons begin to connect with each other. Between 3 and 11, a dense network of connections and languages emerge, even as vision, emotions, and other motor skills develop. After 11, the brain takes a break — it begins to discard or “retire” neural pathways that are in disuse. The biological saying is that “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.  

This process shows that a human brain develops the most during the first three years, i.e. even before a child goes to a play school. This has forced parents to act and intervene in a serious manner in these formative years because the child largely interacts and learns from the father, mother, and other family members. What the latter do can impact the brain of a child for the rest of her life. As a book, The Struggle Is Real: Parenting In The 21st Century, says, “While the brain continues to develop way into early adulthood, what has stuck with many of us is that the brain begins to wane by the time children begin kindergarten. This is because the brain’s plasticity declines with age.”

Photograph by Getty Images

Hence, parents tend to focus on the first few years, and try to squeeze sufficient stimulation and information. We wish to raise intelligent and brainy children, and cram their days with books, videos, puzzles, music and sports classes, and other arts and languages.

But in this process of intelligence cramming, we forget about, what Sharon K. Hall, a psychologist, dubs as the concept of psychological health (Ph). According to her, “building healthy relationships with the children in our lives helps them become healthy people psychologically”. Ph is essentially a balance between personal responsibility and healthy relationship. More importantly, we forget, or dilute, the links between healthy children and healthy societies.

In such an interaction between the brain and heart (or soul), parents in this century need to inculcate both stimuli. But first, they have to be aware of this fact. Given the choices we make, as fathers and mothers, four forms of parenting have emerged. They are largely based on twin factors of demands we make on our children, and the manner in which we respond to them.

The first kind of parents are authoritative, i.e. they score high on both these counts. They are strict and, yet, they look after the needs that the child seeks. This cannot be confused with authoritarian parents, who demand a lot, but respond less. They control the actions and reactions of the children based on their individual perspectives of values and ethics.

The neglectful parents are, obviously, those who score extremely low on both demandingness and responsiveness. According to them, if they can give their child the basic needs of food, a roof over their head, and clothes, the child will sort herself out. Between the authoritarian and neglectful parents, lie the permissive ones, who make low demands on children, but score high in terms of responsiveness.  

There are four forms of parenting — authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful. There are positives and negatives attached to each one of them. Which one are you?

According to a study, Parenting: Challenges, Practices and Cultural Influences, the children of authoritative parents “do better at school, and have less adjustment problems”. Since the authoritarians use prohibitive and punitive strategies, their children have “high levels of behavior problems”. Childhood agression and bullying tactics are common among such kids. One researcher agrees, and maintains that “a young boy who gets too little love and interest from his mother and too much freedom and lack of clear limits with regard to aggressive behavior is particularly likely to develop into an aggressive adolescent”.

Photograph by Getty Images

The children of permissive parents do believe that there are “no limits or parental controls” in their lives, which is a positive sign. Sadly, such children also related with “victimization problems” at schools. The permissive fathers and mothers can create “psychological barriers”, which results in an inability to overcome aggressive behaviors from their peers. As is logical and obvious, the children of neglectful parents have “lower levels of psychological development, lower school schievement, and higher levels of internalized disstress and behavior problems”.

Clearly, the art and science of parenting is complex. This is because modern parents wish to give the “best” to their children, and are not satisfied with just “good”. The kids too are demanding, especially since they want to compete with their peers, even if they hail from wealthier families, and have access to what’s available in the global marketplace. You, as a parent, may know the rules, but you still need to make your own rules.

  • In America, 64% of children live with parents, who are married
  • Children with biological parents, are 20-25% more healthy
  • When parents monitor, kids are 20% less likely to have illegal drugs
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