One of the things that I love about being a parent is watching my child’s development unfold, moment by moment and day by day. It is an incredible thing. The awe that I feel watching her developmental dance, in turn, inspires my parenting. Think about your child when you first met them, as a newborn. A newborn human baby is such a helpless and vulnerable thing. Compared to other mammals, in terms of brain development, a human newborn is more like a foetus than a newborn baby. Yet, a newborn baby can do exactly what a newborn baby needs to do at that moment. A newborn baby:
- Can see well about 20-30cms from her face which is about the distance to the face of the person holding her
- Has an innate preference for looking at faces
- Has already learnt, from her time in the womb, to recognise and prefer her mother’s voice
- Will learn, within days, to recognise and prefer her mother’s smell
Biological development and her life experience so far position a newborn baby so that she is exactly where she needs to be to focus on the single most important task at that time: establishing a relationship with her parents. *wow* Isn’t that awesome? I believe that this incredible developmental dance between biological development and learning continues all the way through to adulthood. It is a constant source of wonderment to me to discover all the things my child learns, when she is ready, just by being in the world with us. Parenting is so much easier when we recognise just how awesome development is. We can let go of the pressure to mould an adult, today, out of our unwilling toddler. We can learn to parent within the ebbs and flows of their developmental trajectory, recognising what our child is developmentally ready for and parenting to that. Something that may have taken months of consistent, structured parenting may take merely days if we are in tune with our child’s developmental needs. How much more relaxed our lives can be!
Apply it to your life: What is your child developmentally ready for? How are you parenting to that?
References for the research on newborn babies:
Cernack, J.M. & Porter, R.H. (1985). Recognition of maternal anxillary odors by infants. Child Development, 56, 1593-1598.
DeCasper, A. J., & Fifer, W. P. (1980). Of human bonding: newborns prefer their mothers’ voices. Science, 208, 1174-1176.
Field, T. (1990). Infancy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Goren, G. C., Sarty, M., & Wu, P. Y. K. (1975). Visual following and pattern discrimintation of face-like stimuli by newborn infants. Pediatrics, 56, 544-549.