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The Science of Successful Parenting . . . . .regardless of what country you live in

     So, whom are you going to listen to for parenting advice?  Will you follow Amy Chua’s disciplined approach that we all witnessed through her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?” Will you follow Pamela Druckerman’s approach on how a child fits into the parent’s life from her book “Bringing Up Bebe?”  Will you absorb the global practices (including the academic success of Indians) described in Mei-Ling Hopgood’s “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm?” 
    I have lived in Asia and in Europe with my young children and have personally witnessed the Asian and European approach to parenting. Both are interesting and have benefits.   Why do we look to culture to give us parenting tips?  We all share a common human nature and we are, in general, social beings. Culture gives us the framework of how to be a good member of a group.  Culture is an important aspect of each an every one of us. Is the way one culture raises a child superior to another culture?  I don’t believe so.  Having had the global experience as well as being a first generation Asian brought up in the United States, I feel that the best approach for parenting advice may be turning to brain science.  Science allows us to form a solid foundation while culture adds a beautiful layer that allows us to feel connected to others and the reality we each live in.
    There is so much research in regards to brain development and growing children.  How can we disregard how science plays into the role of raising children?

       Science tells us that the brain’s number one function is survival.  In order for our children to learn and grow, we must surround them with safe environments. Ask yourself, are we doing this? Are our homes, schools, parks and other environments safe?  Are our children exposed to yelling, unsafe conditions where they may get hurt, domestic violence, or worse?  The first thing we must do in raising children is to ensure their environments are safe so that the brain can let go of its preoccupation for survival.
    Once we do this, we can create an optimal environment for learning.  This includes allowing our children to explore indoors and also in nature, allowing for creativity, as well as teaching and modeling good verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

      Teaching self-regulation is also important and may be the greatest predictor of academic and social success for your child.  Self-regulation is a person’s ability to regulate one’s thinking, emotions, and behavior.

       How do you regulate your own thinking?

    1.     Allow children down time so they can reflect and listen to their self-talk. Are you always hovering around your children or do you allow them time and space to be on their own, focus, and think?

    2.     Allow our children to make choices, within a safe environment?

    3.     No two brains develop at the same rate.  We must be careful that we do not put extreme expectations on our children.  Extreme will be different for each child depending on development and age.  The concern is not to put ‘stress’ on the brain so that it goes back to focusing only on survival.

    4.     Depending on the age and development of your child, you can create a balance of self-directed time and parent-guided time.

     How do you regulate your own emotions?

    1.     Well, first, we need to model it ourselves.  What emotions are we comfortable with having and expressing? What emotions are we not comfortable with and may cause us stress?  Let’s acknowledge where we are and then determine what we want to change so that we can model intentionally for our children.

    2.     How familiar are you with your child’s emotional landscape? According to science, there is a 1 in 5 chance you will have a child that is anxious or irritable. If you observe what is happening with your children, you may find an opportunity to step in before the emotion becomes overwhelming to the child.

    3.     Let’s acknowledge the importance of face time, not screen time.  Children are trying to read the emotion behind your facial expression.  The brain wants to make sense of what it sees.  Thus allowing it to recognize the emotion in others and at other times. Screens do not allow for this interaction. Children need interaction with adults to be able to improve non-verbal communication.

    4.     Furthermore, let’s acknowledge that emotions are what make us human. There are no good emotions or bad emotions.  Emotions do not make us weak or strong.  We cannot control the emotion we feel, but we can control the behavior.

     How do you regulate behavior?

    1.     We need to be firm in our discipline.  Involving a child in rule making is empowering to the child and he or she will more likely follow the rule.

    2.     We should make sure rules are delivered in a warm, safe environment.  The child should know that the parent loves the child and the child’s behavior is what needs to be changed.

    3.     Let us also offer praise for following the rules and also the absence of undesirable behavior.  If your child was quiet in a restaurant and did not yell, let them know that was appreciated.

     How do we do this?  Well, first, we as parents must take care of ourselves so that we can parent well.  Have you reflected upon your own life?  Are there aspects of your life that energize you?  Do you need to incorporate more of these energizing qualities into your life?  Are there aspects of your life that drain you?  What can you do about changing them? If you want to parent well, take care of yourself.  Not only will you be happy, you will enjoy your parenting journey.

      To be happy and to enjoy my children, that is a dream come true.

       Regardless of what culture you grew up in and regardless of what culture you are raising your children in, creating an environment of safety and then creating an optimal environment for learning can happen anywhere. Thus, we build a strong foundation that can flourish in any culture.

     If you consider parenting tips from the lens of brain development, what will be your next step along the parenting journey?

The Science of Successful Parenting . . . . .regardless of what country you live in

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