If you don’t share the family bed, your kids won’t be attached. If you let them share your bed, they won’t be independent. Television rots kids’ minds. The right shows will improve their IQs. Every child should be writing by age 5. If you play Mozart for your children, they’ll have a better chance of getting into Harvard one day.
Thus runs conventional wisdom for today’s parents, making what therapist Michael Gurian calls “social trends parenting” stressful for kids and parents alike.
Relax, parents: there's a better way. In Nurture the Nature: Understanding and Supporting Your Child’s Unique Core Personality, Gurian urges parents to step off the modern treadmill that views every child as a blank slate ready to be molded and shaped into Ivy League material. Using the latest research on brain development, gender differences, and genetics, he urges parents to discover their children’s innate temperaments. “It’s wonderful to feel confident as a parent, to tailor parenting techniques to fit the unique needs of your child’s nature,” he writes.
Many parents have never stopped to consider what makes their child unique. Some qualities and interests are passing, while others are innate. If you’d like to learn more about your child, try:
- Observing your child and keeping a journal to track his or her true nature over time. Does he seem reserved, physically active, extroverted or shy?
- Ask your child how he would describe himself. Ask friends, family members, and teachers too. The answers may surprise you.
- Consider your child’s genetic legacy. If you come from a family of artists and your 6 year old seems extremely creative, that may be an inherited trait.
- Accept that while every human is unique, boys and girls do learn and develop differently. What role does gender play in your child’s personality?
Once you have some insight into your child’s core personality, you’ll want to protect it. Gurian suggests:
- Don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. Everybody learns at his or her own pace. Tune out the voices suggesting that every 8-year-old should be doing the same thing.
- Limit your child’s screen time. Too much television and computer time limits the real-world interactions kids need to develop socially and affects brain development.
- Be a parent, not a friend. Kids need role models who accept their own core natures and set guidelines. Share your hobbies and let them see you’re happy with who you are.
- Even kids who crave activity need daily downtime. Time to “do nothing” helps children build healthy brain synapses, or connections.
- Don’t be afraid to hop off the over-scheduling bandwagon. Studies have shown that positive relationships are the most important factor in raising high-achieving kids.
- Most of all, trust your instincts. You, not the school board or the media, know your child best.