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There is no right or wrong way of parenting. There are also no set rules on how to raise a child. Science has recognized some patterns of parenting that might fit some caps or might not. Terms like authoritarian, authoritative and permissive parenting have gained currency in the last few years. With these patterns being identified, researchers are trying to understand the science behind parenting. Many experts believe that though parenting is an emotional and subjective journey, it can also become something backed with scientific knowledge and awareness.
Unlike adults, a child's body and brain are in a state of transition from one level to another. While adults are recognized as developed beings, children are still developing. As a child crosses various developmental stages, their requirements, self-expression and relationship dynamic with the primary caretaker change. All these changes might mirror the physiological, psychological and emotional changes a child might be going through.
Prasanna Vasanadu, a certified parenting coach with a non-profit organization (in Chennai) and founder of Tikitoro believes that the parent-child bond can be strengthened through scientific awareness. Working as a parenting guide and in close association with childcare experts, she realized that a growing child's skin is very different from that of a baby and of an adult and might need hygiene products that are age-appropriate.
The parenting expert has emphasized how a deep understanding of child development, including physical, psychological and emotional processes can make parenting a conscious process where a parent might share a connection with their child that is age-appropriate and can ensure a healthy connection where the child can feel safe and grow effortlessly.
Vasanadu explained that there is nothing like a good or bad parenting experience. According to her, parenting can be with and without awareness. For her adding strong adjectives to parenting can be extreme as every parent wants the best for their child.
She said: "By awareness, I mean how well do we know how our child's body and mind might be developing. There is a lot of scientific literature that talks in great depth about the physical, mental and emotional development of the child. As primary caretakers, it might be necessary for us to understand the developmental stage our child might be at and what kind of responses and functions we can expect them from."
The parenting coach explained that a child's brain is primitive and their executive functions might still be developing. By executive functions, the expert suggested the cognitive skills that help us to prioritize, focus and self-regulate our emotions and behaviours in a certain way. These skills are not fully developed in a young child. This might also explain the challenges a parent might face with their child having it hard-to-control impulses or managing tantrums.
She said: "When you know as a parent that your child's executive brain is still developing, you will automatically understand and empathize with their stubbornness on drinking water from only one particular- coloured glass or showing less emotional flexibility. You will understand the biology behind its behaviour."
Parenting has been a generational experience for many. Some parents might completely rely on the parenting knowledge that has been passed on to them by their forefathers. They might execute the same behaviour towards their child as their parent might have done with them. Some might not weigh the effectiveness of traditional methods in light of scientific knowledge that is readily available to them. For instance, a popular Indian celebrity once said in an interview that a "wall" must always exist between a parent and a child. They can see each other but the wall has to exist. The celebrity justified his belief by saying that his father did the same to him. However, the effectiveness of this theory might be when it comes to the emotional needs of a child can be questioned.
Responding to this concern, our parenting coach said: "As I said, no one is a bad parent. All are doing the best for their child but it doesn't mean that we can't aspire to become better. Parenting has no fixed rules to be followed but if we could collaborate our generational knowledge with the wealth of scientific information that is so easily available today, it might add objectivity to it and we can tweak the combination in a way that resonates with our family values and culture."
Vasanadu explained that the most important and primal function of the brain is survival. In other words, the parenting coach said that the brain would only jump to other functions when it feels safe. She said that for the child's brain to execute other skills, it must feel secure. This security can only come from a parent or primary caretaker.
She said: "It is very important for the primary caretakers to understand that their foremost role is to make the child feel safe. The connection must always come before correction. For this, parents have to learn to regulate their emotions before they expect that from a child who might not be biologically capable of doing that effectively at a certain age."
As toddler transitions into a child and then into a teenager, their behaviour mirrors the bodily processes that might be going on within them.
The Health site questioned the parenting coach on why some parents might exhibit emotional inertia when the child who was totally dependent on them might pull away physically and emotionally as they enter their teens.
She answered: "If you notice carefully, nothing happens overnight. As a parent, you have to have a keen eye. Their dependency on you was slowly decreasing all this while. A six or seven-year-old had started to think on its own, a nine or ten-year-old had started to talk back and the teenagers might pull away even more. They might show it as if they don't need you but in truth, this is the time they need you the most."
Vasanadu further elaborated on her expression. She said: "What you might be seeing on the outside is just a reflection of what might be happening physiologically within them. There is a sudden influx of hormones and suddenly these children might be feeling things that they might have never felt. They are transitioning into adults. They are learning to move away from the nest. Their biology is pushing them to be this way. It is very natural. There are many new studies or interesting books like 'Brainstorm' that can enlighten you on the teenage brain and this can further help you to modify your behaviour towards them accordingly."
As a generational belief, parents are always expected to be on their toes. There are many things that parents might be learning for the first time. Hence, self-care and self-awareness is a must for parents.
The expert said: "Being a parent in modern times can be tougher in an age where children might identify with certain ideologies and might have a mind of their own. However, one must know that as the parenting experience is getting more complex with time, we have many more resources than we ever had before. We have more help and understanding. Also, you can't give much if your cup is empty. Before parenting a kid, you have to parent yourself. If you wish your child takes good care of themselves, you must first take care of yourself. This awareness is very important."