Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to Raise a Moral and Compassionate Child

Do what our ancestors did: love, hug, kiss, cuddle, and be attentive to your child (especially when he/she is a baby).

From the story –
Darcia Narvaez is a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in moral and character development in children. She looked closely at how we're raising our children these days and found that we've stopped doing a lot of the things our ancestors in foraging hunter-gatherer societies did, and it's changing our kids for the worse.

According to Narvaez, our distant ancestors raised their babies with lots of positive touch (constant carrying, cuddling, and holding); breastfeeding for two to five years; and warm and prompt responses to cries and fussing, which “keeps the infant’s brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,” she says. They also raised their children among other adult caregivers and let their kids play more with other children. All of this, she says, resulted in children who had better mental health, greater empathy, and higher intelligence than kids do now. "The way we raise our children today in this country," she argues in a write-up of her research, "is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being and a moral sense."

For one thing, infants are spending more time in carriers, car seats, and strollers than they used to, she says, and by the time babies are a year old, only about 15 percent of mothers are still breastfeeding. Children are less likely to live with members of their extended family, and, of course, children play outdoors less than they did only a few decades ago. And many parents worry that they will "spoil" their baby if they're too responsive, she notes. But as Narvaez explains in a video interview:
We're finding that 3-year-olds who have mothers who are responsive are more cooperative, they're more self-regulated, and they have greater empathy. We're finding that kids, or 3-year-olds, with mothers who touch them a lot, who report picking them up, who report holding them, are more likely to be empathic; they have greater empathy than children who don't have mothers who touch them positively. These children who are touched a lot also have greater conscience development, they're more self-regulated, and they have more self-control.

This truly doesn’t surprise me. One of the things that my wife and I have done since day one is smother our kids with love and affection and it seems to have worked considering the number of compliments we get about our kids and their behavior. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we are perfect parents or that we have perfect kids because that is not the case. What I am saying is that we have done the things that this study says that people now tend not to do and we have seen extremely positive results from those practices. Then again I just can’t imagine not being a complete cuddle bug with my kids.

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