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Parenting matters

The human development is amazing. How do small babies learn to walk, speak, behave, to control emotions, to think, and finally become adult social human beings able to love and work? (Read more)

Children learn from their experiences and model the behavior their feel, see and hear in their environment. The brain networks develop based on experience- according to Hebb’s law the nerve cells that fire together wire together. Once one network is fired, it fires more easily the next time, and still more easily the third time etc.  Further, experience alters the gene expressions during human development. Indeed, childhood experiences shape our brain’s structure and function and thus also shape our behavioral patterns, ability to control emotions and stress, cognitive functions such as memory, moral thinking.  

Research has pointed out that positive caretaker interaction with the child is of most importance for the child’s learning and normal development. For example, child’s disruptive (aggressive, defiant) behavior can be increased or decreased at the present moment in the interaction process between the child and caretaker. The caretaker can reinforce (usually unintendedly) the bad behaviors by attending it or modelling it. On the other hand, positive behavior can be diminished by not attending it, or not modelling it.  To promote positive behavior it needs to be noticed, reinforced, and modelled. By repeated, consistent attention for positive behavior, it increases. New synaptic connections in the brain are formed and the brain network for “positive behavior” is wired. 

Parents are the most important supporters of their child’s development. Parenting matters. Positive, warm, sensitive interaction series between the child and parent contribute strongly to healthy brain and mental development. Setting up every day routines (for example, eating and sleeping) and rules for the child teaches him/her the healthy habits and societal norms. In the treatment of children with child psychiatric disorders, especially disruptive disorders, the parents are the central agents of change in their challenging child’s behavior.  

Parenting is affected by the parents’ own childhood experiences, health, quality of relationship with the spouse, family situation, multiple stress factors, child’s qualities, knowledge of child development, etc. Parenting needs to be supported, especially when families are encountered by overt stress factors such as a challenging child, parental illnesses.

More research is needed about what is Finnish parenting like? How to best support parenting when it is encountered by hardships? What is good enough parenting?