1G The first 1000 days
Why a theory of parenting matters in the first 1,000 days of infancy
By adopting a theory of parenting, parents of young children can help their child to develop self-regulation. Part of the journey for forming secure attachments is determined by the way that parents interact and soothe their child and by the use of appropriate containment strategies.
Parents are the arbiters of social behaviour and they can be helped if they know what their role is in helping young children to grow and develop along a pathway to maturity.
By providing parents with a theory of parenting to use at tricky parenting moments, we can help them to stay calm. When parents follow a procedure for managing children’s emotional distress, they can hold on to a procedure to enable them to respond appropriately.
From a developmental point of view, there is much information available to parents, to assist them to understand why a child will react a certain way. This understanding can be multiplied if parents also know the important role that they can play in teaching children self-regulation. By helping children to become more attuned to their emotional selves, parents can be ‘the brain’ that calms down the ‘child’s brain’. Stuart Shanker calls this the ‘interbrain’.
It’s in the repetitive use of arousal reduction techniques by a parent (easily learnt) that will result in children eventually becoming more proficient ‘self’ soothers. To build up a skill base for self-soothing, parents need to know what to do at incisive moments and they need to stick to a process that works. This is what pilots do, they follow a process that has been shown to work and, by doing so, they’re able to keep a lid on their own emotions while an emergency is taking place.
If parents subscribe to a theory of parenting across the first 1000 days of a young child’s life, they can establish a reliable foundation for their children’s later emotional development.
Michael Hawton, MAPS, is a registered psychologist, former teacher and the author of two books on parenting. Michael’s books have sold over 60,000 copies globally and his parenting programs have been taught to over 125,000 Australian parents and professionals since 2006. Michael works as a consultant to the NSW Children’s Court Clinic and to The Family Court of Australia where his reports are used by the Courts to assess parent’s capacity to care for their children. Michael has recently consulted to the UNFPA in Vietnam to assist with a large-scale intervention project aimed at reducing the use of corporal punishment used in disciplining children in Vietnam. Michael has over 30 years’ experience in bringing about change in the area of family relationships.