Families are the foundation of all human life.
It is very possible to have children who are polite, motivated, and a joy to be with.
But, it takes the right kind of effort. Please read on….
The natural history of human beings is that no single parent or couple has ever been expected to supply all the needs which children have. That expectation was only changed during the industrial revolution (beginning in the late 1700s) and human beings have suffered because of it.
Human beings lived simpler lives. All human beings lived in groups, such as villages or tribes. Every person in the group (with few exceptions) was a valued member of the group. Both children and elders were valued - children because they held the future of the group, and elders because they held both the history and the wisdom of the group.
All chores and responsibilities were shared by many members of the group. Child-care was built into the group. No single parent or couple was responsible for child-care “around the clock.” When parents needed help it was plentiful - supplied by grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. Everyone in the group expected that they would help with child-care. Everyone one in the group knew that when they needed a break from their children, it would be easy to find, and it would be high quality. It didn’t matter whether or not a group member had children. It was expected that at some point each member would have children, and at that point they would benefit from the “built-in” child-care which the group provided. Everyone gave what they knew they would receive, or had already received from others.
How wonderful that was - to have built-in, no cost child-care, from care-givers who were known by everyone - who were fully trustworthy, with a similar approach as the parents to child-care and to discipline. These care providers also held very similar religious and moral beliefs as the parents.
Welcome to a strange new world!
In the last 200-300 years, we have created new expectations for families which fly in the face of human history, and which also fly in the face of modern science.
Radical advances in modern technology over the last 15 years have led to profound new research about the human brain.
We now know that the human brain is the most complex system yet identified in the universe. We know that the vast majority of brain development occurs during childhood. We know that it is the experiences which children have are the primary “tool” that shapes how their brains will grow. We know that these experiences are largely created by children’s adult care-givers, and the adults around them. We know that all healthy children have a deep, deep hunger to interact with and to experiment with their environment - and that this can be dangerous to them if they don’t have good adult guidance and supervision. We also know that children’s interactions and experiments with their environment are their own primary “tool” for building their own brains. If they are not given opportunities to interact with their environment, experiment, and “make messes,” then their brains will be limited in growth, and so will their potential.
We know that these are the reasons that human children are so demanding of the adults who care for them.
Anyone who believes that good care-giving of human children is an easy or unimportant task, has not worked with children much and is not yet up to date with modern medical findings.
It is almost impossible for one adult (or even one couple) to fully and healthfully meet the needs of the growing human being, and the developing child’s brain.
It’s difficult in the modern world to benefit from the “wise counsel” of our elders. There are several reasons for this:
Perhaps our elders have passed away, or are geographically removed. Perhaps our elders do not possess the “wisdom” that goes with age (which used to be a human birthright). One reason why our elders may no longer have this wisdom is because our human child-care systems have become disrupted. If our elders did not benefit from excellent child-care themselves (as children), then it is much more of a challenge for them to achieve wisdom with age. In addition, if our elders were not raised around models of excellent child-care, how would they ever gain that knowledge, and how could they pass it along?
Fortunately, today we have collected a tremendous amount of good knowledge about child-development, and it’s impact on adult behaviors and responses. This wonderful, new information is the result of advances in physiology, psychology, and education.
It is very possible to have children who are polite, motivated, and fun to be around.
It does not ever just “work itself out.“ For this to occur requires the child’s physical health, and it also requires intensive work offered by committed, creative, informed, and emotionally mature care-givers (who may or may not be the child’s parents).
Parenting should be “the toughest job you’ll ever love!”
But, for must of us, that is not automatically or naturally the case . As children ourselves, most of us did not get the benefit of being exposed to this kind of “optimal” parenting, so we do not have models of how to make such parenting work. Fortunately, as adults, we can still learn and benefit from such information, after we have identified teachers and coaches who “know what works.”
A good family counselor can help you to enjoy your children.
When you are enjoying your children more, you will enjoy your own life more. If you are a member of a couple, you will probably enjoy that relationship more too. Just as importantly, when you provide your children with “optimal” parenting, you are helping them to reach their own fullest potential, and you help them to become their own best, human self.
For more information about the joys and benefits of “optimal” parenting, feel free to call Marc Leibson, M.Ed., LMFT at the Human Process and Development Group. You can reach Marc there at: