During a baby’s first years, a loving and safe environment is the most important thing because it allows the baby to be herself, to have lots of time to play, and to enjoy and relax. That is the best approach, as the baby will learn the most – yes, just by having time to play.
Many geniuses stress the importance of having time to play and daydreaming in their childhood, and they continue to do so as adults.
As parents, we need to be highly alert when it comes to interacting with our babies. For example, if my baby is stressed and unhappy, I should check to see if I and/ or my partner are unhappy or stressed.
Give your baby time to play and daydream!
(“Play is the highest form of Research”, says the great genius Albert Einstein)
Please note that when the word partner is used, it is not suggested there is or has to be a partner. All situations described throughout the book are applicable to all forms of parenting, be it single parents, divorced couples, same-gender parents, extended new families, etcetera.
If we both relax, the baby will relax.
Of course, as parents, it is hard to relax because we are biologically programmed to be alert around babies. Almost every mother knows the nights of light and restless sleep because one ear is listening to every sound her baby is making.
Fathers are much less burdened with that instinct, though of course, they can be extra protective. With fathers, the difficulty in relaxing can manifest itself as wanting to take care of the family by protecting the nest financially through hard work.
But is all of the above enough when we are asked to be “highly alert” in our interaction with our children? Yes and no, though mostly no.
In many cases, most (if not all) of the educating or upbringing is quite straightforward. However, in far too many instances, many things go horribly wrong due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the parent, for example, leading to all kinds of problem behavior, violence at home, failure at school, drugs, alcohol, auto-mutilation, and suicide.
You understandably do not know what you should be alert about.
You are trained extensively for almost everything in life, yet for the most important task-Parenting- you are expected to get by. And, on the other hand, you are too busy to have enough energy left to be highly alert.
Modern life is, after all, unbelievably fast-paced and overwhelming. In fact, the pace of our modern culture is opposite to that of a new-born and preschooler. To begin with, they live in a world that is completely defined by food and sleep. Meanwhile, their minds are eager to the point of being anxious and are ready to develop when given time to play and daydream.
However, in order to develop effectively, a nurturing environment of love and peace are essential. In fact, this is more essential than the use of constant images and learning experiences that the salesmen of computers would have you believe are necessary.
An example from my practice illustrates the complexity of the early years as I have shared above. A wonderful, charming, and successful couple came to me for counseling. Their four-year-old daughter had the most violent temper tantrums. To the horror of the parents, she would bash her head often. When the mother served dinner, she had a habit of taking a plateful of hot food and hurling the food (as well as the plate) across the room. Imagine your favorite cream-colored new sofas and rugs covered in spaghetti sauce!
The parents understandably had no idea what to do, and as head bashing can be psychiatric in nature and they were terrified of seeing the school psychologist, I decided to work with the parents on their own issues: confidence, strength, loving authority, and so on. Do you notice I didn’t include time to play and dream?
A few weeks later, I had a sobbing mother on the line, joyfully exclaiming, ‘I have my sweet little girl back.’ It was very touching. No more head bashing, no more throwing around dinner plates! For more on this behavior you can go to my chapter 2 in Oops, The Parenting Handbook.
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