Sunday, 04 November 2012 11:00

How to Change the World

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image of How to Change the World

I was out shopping recently when I witnessed two very different scenarios:

In the first, a little girl was out with her family. She was about 4, I’d say. Other siblings and her mother were exploring a shop and she was bored. So she had taken hold of the baby buggy and she was idly pushing it back and forth. Not very far. Not doing any harm. Then I noticed a man I hadn’t realised was connected to the family. He called something to the mother and indicated the little girl. The mother rushed from the shop, grabbed the little girl’s arm and yanked her away from the baby buggy. Then she snarled something into the child’s ear and stalked off back into the shop. That little girl didn’t even cry, just turned away and scuffed the floor with her shoe.

Later I passed a mother and her little boy. It was a sunny day but not as warm as it looked. The little boy, again about 4, complained of the cold. I heard his mother apologise for not realising that it wasn’t as warm as she had expected and for not having brought a jacket he could put on. “Come over here,” she said. “Let’s walk in the sun.” And when he had done so, taking her hand, “Are you warmer now?” He was and he skipped off beside her.

Those children were halfway through the most important learning period of their lives. What different worlds they lived in, would always live in. The little girl was learning that you get attention by doing something that makes your mother, your most important person, angry. The little boy was learning that he can be attended to by asking for what he needs, and that the response, bringing comfort, comes with respect for his small self. These are the messages about relationship that they will carry forward into their adult lives.

Here are some books you might find useful or might wish to buy for someone else. There’s a quote from each to give you a flavour:

Suggested Titles for Those Who Want to Know More

A General Theory of Love

Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon

Vintage Books

New York 2000

Emotional experience begins as a derivative; a child gets his first taste of his feelings secondhand. Only through limbic [brain to brain] resonance with another can he begin to apprehend his inner world. The first few years of resonance prepare this instrument for a lifetime’s use. One of a parent’s most important jobs is to remain in tune with her child, because she will focus the eyes he turns towards inner and outer worlds. He faithfully receives whatever deficiencies her own vision contains. A parent who is a poor resonator cannot impart clarity. Her inexactness smears his developing precision in reading the emotional world. If she does not or cannot teach him, in adulthood he will be unable to sense the inner states of others or himself. Deprived of the limbic compass that orients a person to his internal landscape, he will slip through his life without understanding it. (p.156)

Why Love Matters: how affection shapes a baby’s brain

Sue Gerhardt


London 2004

The baby is…like a seedling in his psychological simplicity. Feelings start at a very basic level. A baby experiences global feelings of distress or contentment, of discomfort or comfort, but there is little nuance or complexity involved in his processing of these feelings. He doesn’t yet have the mental capacity to do complex information processing. But whilst he relies on adults to manage these states – to reduce discomfort and distress and increase comfort and contentment – he is gradually grasping more and more of the world. As people come and go around him, smells and sounds and sights constantly changing through the day and night, patterns begin to emerge. Slowly, the baby begins to recognise the most regular features and to store them as images…These images will become expectations about the emotional world in which he is living that help the baby to predict what will happen next and how best to respond.(pp19-20)

The No-Cry Sleep Solution

Elizabeth Pantley

Contemporary Books

Chicago 2002

Absolutely everyone has an opinion about how you should raise your baby. Remembering back to when my first child was born, I was amazed at how many people felt compelled to share their advice….

So, your best defence is knowledge. It really is power, as they say. It’s the light that illuminates the dark halls (or cribs, in this case) of ignorance. The more you know, the more easily you will develop your own philosophies about child rearing. When you have your facts straight, and when you have a parenting plan, you will be able to respond with confidence to those who are well-meaning but offering contrary or incorrect advice (pp 65-66)

Sleeping with your Baby: A parent’s guide to cosleeping

James J. McKenna

Platypus Media

Washington 2007

When you look at the prevalence of cosleeping in the mammal world, and among different cultures and in different eras of human history, it is clear that cosleeping is universal through time, and is practiced far and wide and in many different ways. My own intuition told me that something this common had to be beneficial, but it has only been through extensive and rigorous scientific study that we have determined this to be the case. Cosleeping is not only normal, common and instinctive, but it can be in the best interest of the family when it is elected for purposes of protecting and nurturing infants, when safety is given a priority, and when the right kind of cosleeping is chosen by each unique family.

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