Parenting is both a science and an art, known even to the earliest Stone Age man. If there had been no parenting, there would be no surviving offspring. We would not have been here had not a continuing line of earlier generations nurtured their young.
Through the process of evolution, we have learnt to harness our instincts intelligently. In the process, parenting has become enriched. Parenting today is more than keeping the child safe, feeding and taking care of its immediate needs. It is a case of investing parental affection unreservedly, and with intelligence, to help children grow up to become caring, sensitive, independent and mature individuals. A mutually joyful reciprocal relationship between the parent and child is central to the child’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
The core of BMRF’s parenting philosophy is the psychosocial relationship between the ‘parent’ and the child, and the enhancement of the child’s sense of self.
We have broadened the term ‘parent’ to include all those who play a part in caring for the child, in various contexts. At the household level, while the biological / adoptive / surrogate parents or guardians clearly play the main role, extended family members, elders, neighbours, or helpers/nannies all have an influence on the child’s development. In crèches and nurseries, childcare workers take on the parenting role for a number of children. At school, teachers often play a dual role of parent and educator.
Parenting means to nourish body and spirit of ALL children, play with them and bring out the best in them, support and guide them through the formative years, excite their minds with new knowledge, help them chart their lives, and let them explore the rainbow!
The infant comes into our midst seeking experience for holistic and full development. Parenting, at its best, is to let development happen, in all its variety and diversity. There is value for excellence, but this excellence is not flaunted. Children are not unfavourably compared to each other, but allowed to choose, within limits, what to do and how. Firmness and consistency in daily interactions are of the essence, but the growing child can be treated as a friend, rather than only as a minor ward.
And there is fun and joy in the process. A sense of humour seems essential to parenting; mistakes may be made, but the parents’ ability to laugh at themselves, and make corrections along the way, is important. Compassion and understanding of how others feel is the invisible thread linking all the activities.
In this approach to parenting, the child’s selfhood blooms, and the child’s happiness is more relevant than any measurable achievement.
Welcome to joyful parenting!
Stages & Domains of Development
Stages of Development
Every child is unique in patterns of development, and this should be recognised and respected.
All children develop in their own unique manner – but there are common stages that all children pass through, and in the same order.
Each stage of development is like a step on a ladder. Children must pass through each step to reach the next. For instance, children must first learn to sit up and crawl, before they are finally able to walk. They must learn to first hold a pencil, scribble, and refine their scribbles into a picture, before they are eventually able to form letters of the alphabet.
Whilst almost all children will eventually learn these individual tasks, they will do so at their own pace. In our site, we have specified broad, standard age ranges at which these skills will be achieved. Some children just take longer to achieve these developmental tasks. It is perfectly normal for a child to attain a particular skill in the next age range.
Our aim is to help parents understand that children should achieve tasks within their abilities, and not to push them beyond their own capability, or that of their age level.
Being aware of how and when children develop certain skills also helps not only in identifying difficulties, deficit and delays, and in turn getting the appropriate help and support, but also in creating the right environment for the child to flourish.
Domains of Development
Child development is an interrelated and holistic engagement of mental, physical, emotional, cognitive, and social domains. Each domain is equally important, and each is interwoven with the other.
In their book Good Beginnings: Parenting in the Early Years, authors Judith Evans and Ellen Ilfeld have identified the five developmental domains as SPRUC: Sense of Self, Physical, Relationships, Understanding, and Communication.
We, at Bala Mandir Research Foundation (BMRF), have added a sixth domain, E, for Environment.
SPRUCE gives one the ‘wisdom’ to move away from ‘un-wisdom’ in parenting, and to focus on the unique human endowment, the Sense of SELF. All other domains of development are in its service. Physical growth and the development of mobility and speech are the most easily identified and observed by the adults in the setting. The development of intelligence and cognitive functioning seem to come next in the hierarchy, for the majority of families.
“Emotional development and the mutually reinforcing relationships, which are the very foundation for a happy lifetime, sometimes get less emphasis in the currently dominant value for achievement, success and money.”
Every interaction in the child’s environment contributes to his emotional intelligence and social skills. And whether from a philosophical perspective or a psychological one, self-knowledge and a robust sense of self is central. SPRUCE resonates with us all and makes us listen to the child’s voice.
Our site gives you a comprehensive guide for each stage of child development, in terms of WHAT (What children do in this stage), WHY (Why they do it, focusing on brain development) and HOW (How parents can create the right ‘environment’ for children to flourish) based on SPRUC.
The sense of self is the understanding children have of themselves, their feelings, emotions, and strengths and weaknesses, in short, an understanding of who they are as individuals.
Self-confidence develops when they feel valued and loved.
Self-esteem is a way by which individuals measure their worth in relation to the people around them, and their personal talents and skills.
This indicates the development of physical skills that help the movement of the body.
- ♦ Gross motor skills – that help the movement of the body – the child’s ability to walk, run, climb, hop, skip, etc.
- ♦ Fine motor skills – that help to manipulate objects – the use of hands and fingers for drawing, feeding, picking up small objects, writing and doing other fine actions.
This indicates how they interact with others in the environment, i.e., bonding with parents, siblings, and others.
It guides the child to build relationships with family members and others through the expression and control of emotions. The experience of receiving affection and encouragement from parents and siblings is a major constituent of robust emotional development, just as a lack of it has a traumatic effect.
This includes cognitive and intellectual development, including understanding concepts, recognition and analytical thinking.
It stirs the curiousity of the child to discover and learn how things work.
It indicates both the ability to use words to express needs, ideas or feelings and the ability to understand what is said and respond appropriately, i.e., both expressive and receptive aspects of language.
It enhances the listening ability of the child, and helps them to understand and express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
BMRF has added a sixth element to this, Environment (E).
Environment includes not only the natural environment, but also the child’s immediate physical, human and social environment, which is of tremendous significance to the child’s development.
Facilities like space and water, human contacts with the family and others in constant interaction, the classroom and the school, the personal experience of inclusion or exclusion, friends and playmates --- all these constitute the living, throbbing environment in which the children grow and learn to live.
Children and families from disadvantaged and marginalised sections of society need support and facilities, all the more to create a level playing field for all children to reach their full potential.
* We have been inspired by:
Brain Development in the Early Years
A human being’s brain architecture is shaped by several factors: the immediate environment, important relationships, and a variety of experiences in the early years, which provide the foundation for growth, learning, competence, inter-personal skills and mental health. And much of this happens very early in life.
In the first three years of a person’s life, the neuronal connections are faster and more complex than a diagram of the network of international flights around the globe. But this example is only to help you to visualise the immense activity in the brain. Actually, it is vastly more complex. More than one million new neural connections, called “synapses”, between individual neurons and across different areas of the brain are forming every second.
We know that genes provide the blueprint for the formation of every aspect of the child’s natural endowments, including brain circuits. But like any blueprint, which indicates the basic structure, the development of the brain also depends on how and when these circuits are reinforced through stimulation and use.
Our senses of sound, touch, sight, taste and smell are our foundational skills: they report to the brain about their experience. This input stimulates neural activity. For example, the singing of a lullaby by the mother stimulates activity in the language-related brain region of the infant. If the input increases and meaningful sounds are heard, synapses between neurons in that area are activated. Synapse strength, in turn, contributes to the connectivity and efficiency of the networks that transport word sounds and meanings and build up memory, knowledge of language and other cognitive abilities. Similar routing takes place with the other senses and they all work together to help the infant understand the world around them.
Compared to other mammals, human beings have a long infancy, an extended period of dependence on the mother or others. This provides the setting for thousands of interactions between parent and child, each of which conveys cognitive and emotional messages. Therefore, responsive interactions between children and their parents and other caregivers in the family, school and community play a critical role in the development process. When these responses are positive and affectionate, they contribute to the child’s well-being and self-worth.
In the absence of responsive caregiving—or if responses are inconsistent or inappropriate—the brain’s architecture does not form as strongly as expected, which can lead to deficiencies in learning in the later years of childhood or in “problem behaviour” which comes, essentially, from an inability to interpret experience.
How parents can support healthy brain development
"Every experience, touch, and relationship in the early years shapes the person and becomes the map by which the adult will navigate the world."
For infants, gentle, supportive touch from parents and caregivers can actually shape how their brains respond to and process touch – a sense necessary for the development of social-emotional connections. This is the foundation for life long relationships.
A loving touch from a parent is the first step to take, for infants to feel loved and comforted. Stroking the baby, giving a gentle massage and bath, playing games with the infant’s fingers and toes – all these activities convey several relevant messages to the child for feeling positive emotions and understanding relationships.
The primary function in the early years is to form secure attachments, preferably with the mother or with another affectionate, consistent and reliable caregiver. For most children, this happens naturally in the early months.
The quality of the child’s relationships with parents and caregivers, especially in the early years, is the foundation for all future relationships, as well as their sense of self.
Secure attachments help children to develop a sense of trust and grow into happy and well-adjusted adults.
The absence of a sense of security and of healthy attachments can have a negative impact on brain development, in particular of the child’s self-esteem, and capacity for empathy and compassion towards others.
A positive self-concept or self-esteem is fundamental to healthy development. Children learn at a very young age whether their environment expects them to succeed or fail, and this shapes their thoughts and actions accordingly as they grow.
A child’s thoughts about self are formed from the messages absorbed from those close to them, especially parents, grandparents and significant caregivers.
Children need to feel and believe that they have value. It is important that they learn to trust themselves, and be aware of their abilities and accomplishments. Self-acceptance or self-confidence helps children try new challenges, cope with failure, and try again.
Babies communicate long before they start talking, with sounds, looks and gestures. As soon as they are born, they can hear and recognise the sound of the mother’s voice. Her immediate and attuned responses tell the baby that his communications are important and effective. Infants continue to develop these skills with suitable parental responsiveness.
The first three years are the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills. Learning to understand, use and enjoy language is a critical first step in the basis for learning to read and write.
The best way to encourage a child’s speech and language development is to talk together every day, as well as listen and respond. Expose children to lots of different words in different contexts playfully; this helps them learn the meaning and function of words in their world.
When it comes to children’s brain development, time in the outdoors and the playground may be as important as time in the classroom.
In the early years, a child’s main method of learning and developing is through a variety of play activities. Having peers and playmates enhances the enjoyment and the learning potential of play.
The experience of play creates synapses in the prefrontal cortex during childhood, which helps wire up the brain's executive control centre. This has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems.
Play is also a great relationship builder, and one of the best ways for families to communicate and bond.