The Intuitive Parent
What is intuitive parenting?
Posted Aug 11, 2015
Becoming a parent is one of the most wondrous and amazing adventures any human can undertake. Speaking from experience—my wife and I have raised seven children (three girls and four boys)—there is truly nothing more rewarding.
Sadly, parenting today has become practically a competitive sport, so it’s easy to fall victim to the contradictory advice of innumerable “experts” exhorting a particular product, device or parenting scheme such as “helicopter,” “tiger,” or “free range” styles. Worse, an army of marketers is all too happy to cash in on this angst; using scare tactics and scientific-sounding jargon that make it seem like parents are in constant danger of making unintended mistakes that short change—and short circuit—optimal learning and brain development. Who would want to risk irrevocably hard-wiring their precious child’s brain for a lifetime of failure!
These factors not only produce needless anxiety and guilt that rob parents of the natural joy—and fun—they should experience while raising children, but also undermines parents’ confidence in their own powerful intuitive ability to properly nurture and enjoy their babies. The truth is that parenting is not—and never could be—a “one size fits all” enterprise. No product or uni-dimensional parenting style could possibly match your child’s unique learning ability and temperament—or your own parenting “comfort zone.” How could either highly controlled “helicopter” parenting, or at the other extreme, “free range” parenting possibly fit every child—or every parent?
What is needed is a readily adaptable and flexible approach to lifelong learning that fits you and your child. Intuitive Parenting is not an “old fashioned,” laissez faire style that essentially leaves the fate of your child in the hands of a cold hearted Darwinian “survival of the fittest” outside world. Nor is it designed to put your child into an intellectual straightjacket to micromanage and spoon-feed every bit of data into her developing brain while stunting original thinking, creativity, and self-confidence.
Instead, Intuitive Parenting aims to arm parents with the confidence and knowledge they need to quit worrying and maximize the beneficial impact of the time they have with their children—by paying attention to—and interacting with them. Moreover, nature has empowered parents to provide everything their children—and their developing brains—need to become smart, confident, well-adjusted adults. Because all children naturally signal what they know and what they need to learn next, intuitive parents recognize—and respond to these cues. Intuitive parenting thus automatically taps into their child’s “sweet spot” for learning while activating and harnessing their child’s unique brain architecture and plasticity.
When my oldest son reads a book to my (very cute!) 18 month old granddaughter, names the pictures she points to, repeats what she says, and talks with her, he is automatically wiring her developing brain to pay attention to and process phonics (speech sounds in the words). He is also setting the stage for later language development while simultaneously teaching her to read and comprehend the story. And he is laying the foundation for her to have a positive attitude towards reading—now and for the rest of her life.
“Downloading” letters into her brain via the latest “app” or “Baby Genius” DVD will teach letter recognition, but these technologies do not and cannot teach the real world meaning of words, nor do they properly wire her brain to understand what she hears or reads.Perhaps even more importantly, no computer or screen can provide the emotional attachment or contentment that these moments with her parents provide.
Parents should never treat their baby’s developing brain as a memory “hard drive” to download rote information, such as letters and numbers. Rather, parents should be learning guides and partners who nurture their baby’s developing brain to think, reason and problem solve. Similarly, technology should be harnessed and incorporated into intuitive parenting. Not as a “stand alone” mechanical instructor, but as a tool to support learning, the same as any other toy, book, or game.
My son could read a story to my (very cute!) granddaughter on a tablet and interact with her as naturally (and intuitively) as he does while reading a book. This will ensure her brain is properly wired to seamlessly acquire and use the new information, new discoveries, and new technology she will encounter in the future.
My advice is to put aside the flashcards and “Baby Genius” DVDs and tune in to your baby, toddler or young child and tune out fads, marketing schemes, and peer pressure. Trust your own common sense and inner parenting voice to be the absolute finest mom or dad you can be. When you use your parenting intuition, Mother Nature—and the latest brain science— will directly support you.
Dr. Stephen Camarata is the author of the forthcoming book, THE INTUITIVE PARENT: Why the Best Thing for Your Child Is You (Current/Penguin) available August 18, 2015