Everything You Think You Know About Parenting Is Wrong!
By Dr Faye Snyder
f you are like more than half of American parents, this article is likely to tick you off. We are going to shake your beliefs, and more than likely, you are going to find what you read here to be completely contrary to what you’ve been told, and maybe even how you were brought up. It’s not your fault, there are a lot of pervasively held beliefs in our society that just plain don’t hold up to the facts. Please resist your inclinations to reject what you read here without further thought. Dr. Faye, the creator of the products and information on Raising Amazing Kids is a proponent of the truth. She doesn’t support not “feel good” messaging just to make parents more comfortable, or to make the job of parenting appear easier. So, without further pre-amble, here is a list of three of the important things about parenting that Dr. Faye believes our society has gotten wrong, dreadfully wrong.
Genes Control Behavior
Mistaken Belief #1. Genetics are a key determinant in how each child develops. It’s true of hair color, skin color, facial features, height, and body type, so it must also be true of personality and disposition, intelligence, athletic ability, artistic abilities and many other things. You see, children are a bit like tulips. They don’t really need much tending. They have inborn instructions, so how they turn out is largely predetermined. Even if the final result is not entirely specified by genetics, then at least genetics define the maximum possibilities for each child. Support and encouragement from parents merely affects how much of that potential each child actually achieves.
The Truth #1: Each of us are born with mirror neurons that “store” the way we are treated and those stored experiences become the drive for us to treat others in the same way. We also all are born with a drive to attach to our primary caregiver, which fades away after three years.
Our genetic design does not provide language, culture or personality. Genes could not possibly provide enough variables to dictate how our personalities and abilities develop. We are all born with some genetic instructions, but they are universal and fade away within six months of birth. These are reflexes.
The only genetic instructions for behavior are not specific to any single individual. That is why we human beings are so intelligent and adaptable. We are not bound by our biology for our thoughts or choices. With the exception of a few genetic drives, common to all of us, we are bound primarily by our unique experiences, and we are at our best when we are creatively responsive to our environment.
Behaviors are a synthesis of experiences (actually a kind of pattern recognition) and of their resulting memories, lessons and thoughts. What we experience is normal to us and determines our outlook and choices. We are driven to treat others as we have been treated. We learn to assume the beliefs around us. For us to do otherwise, and to act contrary to our experiences, involves a great deal of work. Read on… because all this means that parenting is a CRUCIAL component in the development of each child.
We are prewired to learn as we grow and to recognize patterns. Dr. Faye calls these experiences “inevitable lessons.” We will inevitably learn a myriad of basic things, like how to crawl, walk, stand, assess the properties of things, guess distance and develop hand-eye coordination, as challenges present themselves. Further, we all are physically provided emotions and senses, some of which are pleasurable and some not. We tend to organize our drives and expectations around these sensations. We learn from our experiences and the modeling of our parents how to face pain philosophically or not.
When it comes to inborn personality and behaviors, there are no replicated (the gold standard) scientific studies that have demonstrated that personality traits (non-reflexive behaviors) or abilities are dictated by genes. Instead, all the replicated studies appear to stack up demonstrating that the origins of behavior are grounded in experience. What you need to understand now is this: Human behaviors are complex. The more complex the behavior, the less likely it could result from genetic instruction and the more it is determined by experience.
Corollary and Additional Thoughts: Parents attuned to the cause and effect principles that guide the development of their children (The Causal Theory) intuitively know how profound the relationship is between themselves and their children. They parent as if everything they do matters and watch their child digest lessons with fascination. They witness evidence of how well they are doing and whether they need to adjust their parenting. They do not let theories of genetic instruction allow them to “take a break”, based on the false assumption that it won’t matter anyway. Neither do they set low standards for their children, accepting that their child is experiencing a “phase” or has some inborn genetic limitation.
These parents tune into the results of their parenting and how their child is responding. They are more observant and perceptive. They are more self-reflecting about the results of their parenting. They also demonstrate more attunement and empathy for their child. Some of these parents move heaven and earth to help their child achieve the special place they were born to occupy on this earth. These parents will be rewarded with children who make them proud.
Daycare Does Not Affect How Children Develop
Mistaken Belief #2: Daycare provides an important learning and socializing environment for children. Daycare providers can do the same parenting that parents can do, and perhaps better – after all, they are professionals. It’s a comfortable premise to believe that a parent’s need to leave their child in the care of others will have no effect on how the child will turn out. And, when mom works, many feel that she is modeling personal responsibility and self-worth for her children, especially her little girl. Anyone who believes otherwise doesn’t understand how difficult it is to raise a child these days.
The Truth #2: The challenges of modern life do not change the fact that early childhood is a critical development stage born of thousands of years of evolution, requiring an omnipresent primary caregiver during a child’s first three years. Without this primary, attuned and continuous parent, significant problems will develop. Advocates for parents’ needs over children’s needs obviously have never seen the data about how crucial bonding and attachment is. This attachment is critical to a child’s development, and when babies are denied secure attachments, there is core damage. Their personalities are altered for life, if there is no later intervention and healing that can completely reverse that damage.
Many parents and most of society conclude incorrectly that the consequences children suffer from early placement in daycare, such as Attention Deficit Attachment Disorder are actually evidence of genetic issues. What they don’t understand is that these behavioral issues arose suddenly with the advent of daycare, and that evolution doesn’t work quickly that way. Evolution diminishes dysfunctional traits over time. Epidemics explode symptoms quickly. Parents of children with ADHD generally assume that this condition has nothing do with environment and nothing to do with the fact that their children went to daycare. And even if they don’t make this assumption, their child’s teachers, their pediatrician, pharmacist and society as a whole will promote the view that ADHD has always been around. We just haven’t noticed. The truth, instead, is that many of us are ignoring the obvious fact that children are not what they used to be. Behavioral problems used to be chewing gum and cutting in line. Now the issues are inattention, disobedience and violence in grammar school; drugs in middle school; and weapons, pregnancies and courtship violence in high school.
It’s a comfortable premise to believe that a parents’ needs to leave the child with others has nothing to do with how the child will turn out and that the resulting problems can be treated by pills. According to early childhood attachment experts, the only person a child needs is whoever holds the primary attachment in the first three years. That person should not change or rotate. That person should be the hands-on parent if at all possible. All children need the same, continuous caregiver in the first years of life. Even a consistent nanny, who plays the role of Mom, whatever her title, creates attachment breaks by taking her weekends off and taking annual vacations.
A Corollary and Additional Comments: Infants and young children can also suffer damage from being left with a grandparent or caregiver while parents go away on extended vacations. As much as parents may need a break to recapture their sanity and get some rest, the data show that breaks of more than a day have measurable, long-term impact on infants, and there will be no break that is worth the change in personality you will have to deal with later.
If you are struggling to see how to raise your child without putting them in the care of someone else, and without leaving them for extended periods, here are some things to try. Live with another adult and rotate work and parenting shifts so the child has two continuous and consistent primary caregivers. If you are a single parent, maybe you can move in with your own parent or perhaps you can share a home with a compatible friend or another single mom and work different shifts. If you have no other options, then try to mitigate the injury by going out of your way to make it up to your child, creating your very best quality time when you are with them without lowering your bar. Set high standards and coach your child to meet those standards.
If your child has been left for significant periods, whether for trips away or chronic use of daycare, be sure to read Healing Your RAD Child and ADD/ADHD A Diagnosis In Denial, two small but important books by Dr. Snyder. For more ideas about how to raise your child while having to work, read her FREE report (add link to Daycare paper in resources) on the subject on this site.
Children Learn by Experience
Mistaken Belief #3: Children can get into trouble so easily that one of a parent’s primary jobs is to keep them safe. Moreover, until children can show that they are trustworthy and “know the rules”, they need to be kept close at hand and given more rope only as they show they understand what behaviors and actions are acceptable. An obedient child must earn the respect of their parent, and this needs to be instilled at an early age. Finally, many parents believe that children (and perhaps all people) are inclined to be “bad” and have to be guided if not disciplined into being “good.”
Truth #3: Children are naturally curious and sponge-like. They learn best through exploration and experimentation. They have a natural, universal drive to learn from experiences, especially from their own mistakes. Children learn naturally from their own mistakes and self-correct, so long as they are not severely embarrassed or shamed over their mistakes, as they do not learn well through forced obedience or in a state of defensiveness or embarrassment.
Parents should only add advice or commentary when absolutely necessary or when the issue is one of ethics. Believe it or not, if your child falls and you say, “See, you ran too fast so you fell down,” your child will probably not wire in the lesson as firmly as if you had not introduced self-consciousness into the experience. Dr. Faye calls the process of letting your child learn with minimum guidance and intervention on your part, “Faith Parenting.” This is a way to prepare your child for greatness.
So, your child puts his hand in between the elevator doors, and shrieks when the doors close. You say nothing. You do nothing. If the child speaks to you about it, you answer kindly. “Yes, I saw that. It looks like you just discovered the way elevator doors work.”
A Corollary and Additional Comments: Faith Parenting is not neglect. You remain aware of your child’s actions, without hovering. You don’t allow them to run around a pool or on a marble floor. You don’t allow them to go out in public looking unkempt or to play naked in the front yard.
Further, we don’t let our children experiment with bad ethics. You don’t allow them to be rude to others or destroy anything, not even crush a flower more than once to see what it feels like. Instead, you have the eyes and ears of a coach, seeing what lessons they learn and have yet to learn. Later you can dialogue with them about their experiences and choices.
Children need to crawl, climb, draw, jump, run, ride, touch, taste, and wire-in the properties of things. They need to unroll the toilet paper, climb up the down-side of a slide, taste dirt, play in the toilet (clean it and add a drop of bleach) and try out the button on the water cooler (hold the glass for them and tell them “three times and no more. OK, that’s two. That’s three.” So, if you don’t have paper for the crayons, they will write on the wall. Maybe they will write on the wall anyway, and you can sternly say, “No writing on the wall. Use the paper.” Your child brings you a book, and you read together. Your child unrolls the toilet paper, and you put a wicker basket in the bathroom to keep the tissue. If you don’t have something for her to jump on, then designate something that can be jumped on.
Dr. Faye’s child, born in 1984, had his own television and video games at age three, a VCR with acceptable videos at age four, a phone in his room at age five and an answering machine at age six. At age eight, he was able to order a pizza for delivery, something that baffled his friends. At a restaurant, his parents let him sit at a separate booth and order for himself, with a twenty-dollar bill and instructions to leave a 25% tip (and they would slip the waitress a note that they were with him).
You can also establish a Three-Times Rule or a Ten-Times Rule, which will also teach the child to count. “You may drop that food off your highchair ten times. Mommy will pick it up ten times. Then, no more. OK, that’s one. See how everything falls down, not up. See how Mommy cleans up messes. You can clean them too.” Your child is learning cause and effect. You can mediate their experience by giving them words for what they do, increasing their vocabulary. See through their eyes as they experiment and as they develop insights into the world.
Learning “Right” Parenting
These three things we have shared with you about parenting are evidence of how far off track we have gone, as a society, in our parenting. Our children are being raised under such radically different conditions than ever in the course of human history. More babies and toddlers are in Daycare or Other Care (raised by others) than ever before. We are more mobile and more disconnected. We don’t have the connections with our children that parents used to have. We have children acting out more than ever. We have parents who are not clear about their roles anymore. Children are not what they used to be.
We all have blind spots, and many of us have different blind spots. Many parents compensate for not being available to with their children by refraining from discipline. Others don’t like the independence their children are exhibiting and resort to stronger discipline.
Ironically, today provides an opportunity for parents to raise children who will have a leg up. The more you practice good parenting, based on the cause and effect nature that guides how children develop, the more successful your children will be. Good parenting is not complicated. It’s not hard. It’s actually fun, but it must be correctly done in accord with our evolutionary design. You need to know what experiences matter most and what is almost irrelevant.
Most parents have so many things backwards today. Learn about the human design. Prevent serious mistakes. Learn what those mistakes are. Learn how to correct mistakes you have already made. Learn more about your own personality and traits that get in your way, traits you can reverse or modify. Make choices that will cause your child to become successful socially and professionally. Now is the time to begin raising your child for greatness. This website is dedicated to showing you how.
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