Mindful Parenting: Three Simple Ways to Raise The Smartest Baby By Seedlingsgroup
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As I have shared with you in my recent post for Mother's Day, I have been on a personal quest to learn more about and start practicing mindfulness and mindful parenting. The word 'mindfulness' has been thrown around a lot lately but I have been wondering about what it really means, how it can help me and how I can adopt it into my everyday lives (so not to get 'stressed' about adding yet another thing on my to-do list)? So, I jumped on the opportunity to have a chat and learn directly from two mindful parenting experts, Bronwyn Becker Charlton, Ph.D. and Aliza Pressman, M.A., Ph.D., and co-founders of SeedlingsGroup, a team of child development educators and psychologists that help parents navigate the challenges of raising a happy, healthy, smart and well-adjusted child. That is what we all want as parents but is it a tall order given that we live in the crazy, fast-paced, over-scheduled modern world?
Well, here they share the 3 simple ways to raise the smartest, most well-adjusted and accomplished baby! * Spoiler alert: it is not the hottest education toy that you just bought...
Mindfulness in parenting is not just about being present, in the moment, and without agenda, but being responsive and aware in relation to your child. Mindful parenting, or responsive parenting refers to a caregiver’s ability to watch, understand and respond to her child's communication whether verbally, physically or cognitively. There is significant evidence that this type of sensitive and non-reactive parenting, back and forth communication, and affection between parent and child is fundamental to a baby’s brain development, emotional and physical health.
Being responsive means focusing your efforts on experiencing interactions with your infant as two way exchanges. With young babies, it is often difficult to decipher what exactly they want because they are not able to use words, so being mindful, or observant and present in the moment helps you get to know your baby by observing her unique cues, mirroring her actions, and noticing and reacting to where her gaze lies or what her emotional state is. She’s paying attention to a colorful picture, next to her bouncy seat? Describe to her what she is seeing, mention the colors or the action; stick with the picture until she looks away, instead of directing her to your agenda in that particular moment. When you tune in to your child’s physical, verbal and emotional bids for attention and support, you build a long lasting connection that fosters a kind of dyadic dance and bond that will promote trust and attachment as well as leave room for intellectual growth and development.
You don’t need toys or materials, you just need to watch, wait, and respond with your words and body language. Being present means not worrying about accomplishing a “lesson,” which makes time together more child driven and nurturing, and parenting a lot more relaxing.
Three ways to engage your baby and promote sensitive caregiving while doing the most for her brain are:
Think about how you talk to your child
Moms can promote the skill of communicating with their infants by using “infant directed” speech, or “motherese.” This means using a sing-song voice with big facial expressions, while you speak to your child using words that are sophisticated and grammatically correct. This voice has been shown to be preferred by babies and most of us use it automatically when we see them.
Two Way Sports Casting
A great way to make sure you talk to your baby is through two-way “sports casting,” which means giving a play-by-play of what you are doing during routine activities, such as changing a diaper or getting dressed. When your baby responds with even a gurgle, respond to him, pretend you understand, and acknowledge his attempt to communicate.
Comment on your child’s actions/reactions to what is happening around him. For example, when he is crying say something like, “I know you’re feeling sad and crying and I am sorry.” Follow what your baby is interested in and label it (e.g., “I see you looking at the light, it is very bright!”). Most importantly, take your baby’s lead, and be present in the moment to notice it.
Sometimes the race to raise the smartest, fastest, most accomplished baby can make well-meaning parents feel pressure to sign up for tons of classes, buy lots of toys and even turn to the iPad to educate. How relaxing it is to find out that the better way to build a baby’s brain is to engage in the practice of responsive and sensitive parenting through everyday interactions!
Bronwyn Becker Charlton, Ph.D. and Aliza Pressman, M.A., Ph.D., are two co-founders of Seedlings Group, a child development center in NYC comprised of educators and psychologists that help parents navigate the challenges of raising a happy, healthy child.
After receiving her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University, Dr. Charlton was a research scientist at New York University’s Center for Research on Culture, Development and Education and has published her studies in journals and books, and lectured at conferences, schools, and workshops. She is also certified in parent management training from the Yale Parenting Center. Dr. Charlton provides parenting support and developmental information to low-income mothers at Room To Grow; a direct-service program in New York City. She is on the executive advisory board of the not for profit Mount Sinai Parenting Center and is on the faculty at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Department of Pediatrics. She is also the mother of three young children, Olivia, Graydon and Helena. Dr. Pressman received her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, her MA in Risk, Resilience and Prevention from the Department of Human Development at Teacher's College and earned her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with a fellowship at the National Center for Children and Families. She is also certified in parent management training from the Yale Parenting Center and an assistant clinical professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Department of Pediatrics.