How a baby’s brain develops in the first two years of her life is directly related to how she is loved and cared for. The quality of the relationship between parents and baby helps shape the baby’s brain-nervous system with not need of brain pills.
Parents are Babies’ First Teachers in Child Emotional Development
Emotional experiences in infancy and early childhood impact on the development of a baby’s pre-frontal cortex. According to Sue Gerhardt in her book Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain (Brunner-Routledge), these early experiences play a large part in determining what form both the biochemistry and the structure of the baby’s brain will take.
Any parental figures that a baby comes in contact with on a frequent basis helps mold a baby’s neural pathways in how their emotions and ways of relating with others develops. Repeated experiences with close family members and carers, enable a baby to learn primarily what to expect when interacting with others. Through time and experience, a baby will learn if,
- Parents (and significant others) are likely to respond to her feelings, or if she needs to hide her feelings;
- Parents will help her to feel better, or hurt her or disappoint her.
How Babies Learn to Recover from Distress in their Development
Learning social behavior and whether parents are likely to respond positively with love and affection or not, is critical to a baby’s ability to recover from distress, and her continued ability to do so as she grows older. Believing with confidence that her parents will respond when she needs them, helps her learn how to manage and move through difficult situations.
A baby is happy and confident – and is likely to continue being happy and confident into the future – if she knows,
- How to distract herself from uncomfortable feelings, when she can’t do anything about them, and
- How to soothe herself, with the help of a parent, through words, music or other outlet.
What Happens if Babies Don’t Learn How to Regulate Their Emotions as Older Children & Adults?
A baby’s emotional well-being rests on her ability to regulate her emotions, to experience them and get through them, and to recover from them. If she hasn’t acquired the tools to do so, she will be easily upset and she may remain upset for long periods.
Her thoughts may aggravate her distress. As an older child or an adult she may then begin to,
- Make inappropriate demands, and not receive the support she needs
- Suppress her feelings and avoid talking about her distress
- Remain distressed for a time and, learn to internalize negative emotions and/or become less conscious of them.
Sound Parenting Leads to Good Development & Good Emotional Intelligence
Part of good parenting means helping a baby to regulate her emotions and behavior; it is the parent’s capacity to,
- Listen willingly
- Take the time to notice
- Help restore good feelings
- Provide physical and/or emotional contact
- Put feelings and/or thoughts into words
Taking the time and energy to practise good parenting does wonders for the baby. It goes a long way in assisting a maturing child to develop feelings of empathy and self-control, and to interact appropriately with others.
How to Raise Confident, Happy Children
Parents play an important role in helping to shape their baby’s pre-frontal cortex and guide their baby’s emotional development during infancy. How parents interact with their baby influences the development of their baby’s brain. Babies learn what to expect from their parents and other significant carers. They learn how to recover from distress. They learn about emotional intelligence and how to regulate their emotions during their growing and maturing years into adulthood.