First, I just want to say there is no “right” way to parent. This is not a blog about how to parent or what I think you should do for your child. That said, research shows that how you parent can directly affect the way your child’s brain develops.
I think this concept is pretty common knowledge, but it is important to point out specific ways you can improve your parenting choices to create optimal brain development.
When a parent does not create a loving, supportive environment, a child’s brain can develop in an altered form. According to a study performed by Washington University School of Medicine, children of nurturing mothers have much larger, healthier brains. In this same study, they found that the hippocampus measured 10 percent smaller in neglected children. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, stress control, learning, and other cognitive functions.
The way you choose to parent your child in their early years of life, will have long lasting effects. For example, research shows that children who have parents that practice corporal punishment (including spanking) have lower IQ test scores versus those children who have parents that do not use corporal punishment. This is not to say that children do not need boundaries and limits, in fact they actually thrive on routine and knowing what to expect and what is right and wrong. It is up to us as the parents on how we want to teach these things to our children.
Like I said there is no “right” way, and no one is perfect, but if you can consistently show patience and understanding your child will thrive. When parenting, I try to think of how I would want to be treated in the same situation. If I was watching a show and someone turned it off and demanded I come to the table for dinner, without any warning or anything I would be frustrated and annoyed. So how can I expect my toddler to not be frustrated and annoyed if I do the same thing to her. Instead, I try to prepare her for what is going to happen by sticking to a similar routine daily, and giving lots of warnings before moving on to something new. I would say something like, “In 5 minutes mommy is going to turn off the TV and it will be time for dinner,” then I would give her 1-2 more warnings as it gets closer to time for dinner. If my child does something she shouldn’t, I try to find a way to use it as a teaching opportunity. This takes practice, patience, and persistence to be effective but in general trying a more gentle approach to parenting makes everyone happier, and promotes healthy brain development, as well as forming good social and behavioral skills.