What better time to reflect a bit on the journey of parenthood than on Mother’s Day? My wife and I are 2.5 years into raising a wonderful little person, and are due to welcome our second into the world in September. It’s quite the trip, this parenthood thing, especially considering that between my wife (an elementary teacher) and myself (someone who works with youth with addictions), we’ve got some pretty strong ideas about parenthood and rearing little people. Combine that with a relatively keen interest in brain development and neuroscience, and you get a perfect storm of theory meets practice, laboratory meets the real world.
Did you know that a newborn’s brain is 25% of of it’s adult weight? And by the age of 3 it will have produced billions of new cells and hundreds of trillions of connections? The growth of young people’s brains is absolutely incredible, and fundamental to developing so many important life skills…from counting to 10 and singing the ABC’s, to learning how to regulate emotions and share toys. And how does this learning happen? We teach them, of course.
Every single moment, we’re teaching our children something. We’re teaching them to love…or hate. We’re teaching them to judge or accept. We’re teaching them to laugh or cry.
Every single moment, our children learn how to handle frustration or get overwhelmed. How to comfort someone who’s sad, or ignore them. How to use their imagination or play angry birds.
Our children learn from us whether they can trust people, or whether they need to fear them.
We teach them whether the world is full of possibility and wonder, or disappointment and scepticism.
Sometimes I hear people lamenting the “coming generation”. They’re lazy. Entitled. Disrespectful. They lack work ethic and social skills. And so I ask, “who taught them to be this way?”. Or perhaps, “who didn’t teach them something better?”.
If you interact with children, be it through your job or as a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or neighbour… the single best thing that I can think of for you to do is become familiar with even the basics of brain development. From “serve and return” to the effects of “toxic stress”, knowing how young brains develop, and what they need to develop effectively, might just be the most important and powerful gift that you can give to the young people in your life.
Take 4 minutes and watch this great video, compliments of the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative. And remember…children will become what we are. So let’s be what we want them to be.