Many people base their parenting style on doing things exactly the same way their parents did them. Others base it on doing everything entirely opposite from the way their parents worked. Any time we do something either to conform with parental expectations or to defy those expectations, we’re losing out on an opportunity to be true to our own self. The reality is that parenting has, for most of human history, been a function of “doing the best you can with what you’ve got.” But over the last 25 years, researchers have made amazing progress in understanding human development from infancy to adulthood, and in understanding the neuroscience that undergirds that development.
There Really Is a Science to Parenting
This research has radically altered the way human development experts think about children and their needs growing up. Unfortunately, much of this knowledge and understanding never makes it into the hands of parents because, seriously, who has time to read every parenting book and understand the theories behind them?
But, there really is a science to parenting that has been shown to be effective over and over again. And that science is based on two key things: 1) the fundamental need that all human beings have for developing a secure attachment with a parental figure, and 2) the fact that the human brain is wired for a certain sort of emotional connection with other humans that ensures this attachment actually occurs. We’ve known for a long time that when caregivers neglect their children bad things happen. But the past couple decades of research have shown why this is and how important human-to-human interaction is in the successful development of a baby into a toddler, then into a teenager, and ultimately into an adult. If we miss the human connection along the way, things can go terribly wrong – at any stage.
Every Child is Different
So we know a lot about what makes humans tick and how they grow up best, but that doesn’t mean the parenting process is a cookie cutter kind of thing. Every child has his or her own quirks, idiosyncracies, and hangups. No amount of perfect parenting is going to get rid of them, because so many aspects of our unique humanity, both good and bad, are driven by genetics. This is how we pass on so many generational challenges – the suffering of our ancestors is encoded and stored in our genes. The idea of the new-born baby as a “tabula rasa” has been dispelled in recent years. No baby is born free of the trappings of his or her heritage.
Of course, the good news is that this code can be altered. Some time ago, geneticists realized that our DNA was not just a fixed set of encoded information, but a complex series of computing gateways that can be open or closed by our actions and our experiences. This has led to the rich field of epigenetics, which is focused on understanding how the expression of different genetic markers is either activated or deactivated and what factors contribute to that change in activation. From this research, we’ve learned that humans are not driven only by a predetermined set of instructions; rather, we have a set of instructions in our DNA, and our environment and how we are treated growing up determines which instructions get activated.
Getting it Right isn’t the Same as Getting it Perfect
That’s why I’m passionate about family coaching. I know that we all have seasons of real difficulty with our kids. There are times when we think that there simply isn’t anything to do to help them. But it’s in those times that we really need help to believe not only in ourselves, but also in our children. To believe that they will figure out their path, and learn to walk it as they should without feeling desperate about our own limitations in the process.
My job as a family coach is not to tell you the “right” way to do things. Instead, I’m focused on helping you figure out the way you want to raise your children. Not the way you think you have to raise them because of what you were told growing up. Stop trying to be your parents and just be your own version of the best parent you can be. Stop trying to be everything your parents were not, and recognize that we all have blind spots. We all drop the ball at crucial points. Nobody raises perfect children. At best, we hope for incrementally better, more enlightened parenting with each generation. We then put the hard work of parenting out into the universe and ask for it to be honored and recognized by our children’s success, well-being, and growth.