Did you know that infant brain development is not only very important it can also be very, very interesting!
If you are pregnant for the first time and are wondering what to do with while waiting for the birth, why not use your time wisely and learn about how your relationship with your new born infant will influence the way that their brain actually develops? Here are a five reasons that this will be time well-invested!
1. Your baby's brain will not be fully developed when he or she is born - there are really important things that your baby will only learn to do well if you provide the right sorts of opportunities. In fact the well-being of your baby across their whole life will be influenced by what happens in these important early infant years of life.
2. Becoming a parent is one of the most challenging role changes ever. The greater your understanding of infant brain development, the more you can enjoy the early years of their life because you are more likely to understand what you are seeing - you will understand why your child is behaving in certain ways.
3. There is lots of evidence that if a child is having difficulties it is best to get help as early as possible. If you understand about infant brain development and how it is affected by your relationship with your child, you will be more confident about knowing what to do to get your baby off to a good start and also about when to ask for help and more confident about knowing what actions you can take that will help.
4. If you really understand what your child is needing for you and why, it is easier to plan your time and approach in order to be helpful to your child. A lot of difficulties can arise when a baby does not get what is needed in their relationship with parents at the right times.
5. There is a very close relationship between adult well-being and child well-being. The good news about this is that anything you can do to improve your own confidence as a parent will help your child become more confident. Learning about what these links earlier rather than later can pay life long benefits.
If you would like to learn more click here
When a baby is small it would seem to be fairly obvious who is the Adult in charge, but one of the things that often happens in families of children with complex needs is that confusion sets in about this issue.
Children with complex needs are often more challenging to manage because they are developmentally younger. Their responses tend to be more intense and more difficult to make sense of. The level of supervision that is required is higher and goes on for longer and the adults are more prone to becoming exhausted.
All of these factors contribute to a very frequent disorientation of the adult. When the child is not easily settled by the common parental behaviours that would settle a typical child, the exasperated parent can move between becoming i) tougher, less tolerant and more authoritarian, and ii) softer, more laissez faire and generally more passive. Neither Authoritarian nor Passive are effective with complex children but exhausted parents or teachers will commonly find themselves offering one or both.
Fortunately, the 'direction of travel' as we say in I Matter is to increase the intensity of the firm supervision and boundaries AND the intensity of the love and nurture and compassion. Every complex child, however disagreeable and challenging in their overt behaviour, is a child who is struggling with a state of overwhelm in which they feel unsafe around the adult on whom they depend.
Of course, a child who does not trust adults is hard to care for, so the challenge is to find the right balance for this particular child of nurture and firmness, and the right sensitivity to their developmental as opposed to their chronolgical age. And then the challenges is to sustain that balance over time so that the respect and trusting relationship that is at the heart of a happier parent-child relationship can flower.
The thing I love about my work, is that it is never too late for that to happen, even if the relationship has gone very off track. It occurs however, if and only if, the adult is willing to learn to read the signs, learn the skills and be very very patient. Remembering that if the task is to help the child mature, one of the most important roles of the Adult is to be able to take a longer view.
So who is in charge in your home? Have you got the balance right?
If you would like to learn more about some of the starting points of the I Matter Framework, why not sign up for the free E-course Five Steps to Success with Complex Children
One of the most common responses I find when people begin I Matter Training and start thinking about a child's challenging behaviours is that they begin to become more aware of their own angry responses towards their own child. Then they find that they are not sure what to do with that anger..
"I know it is not very helpful to be angry with my complex child they tell me, but isn't it normal to feel angry if my child is hitting me or hurting their brother or sister?"
In I Matter practice I like to encourage people to begin to make a distinction between i) healthy controlled anger which can be channelled into asking clearly for what we want - I call this form of healthy anger "Outrage" - and ii) toxic anger which is the primitive often out of control anger we associate with red route. This red route anger may be expressed outwardly towards your child in your own uncontrolled way, or it may be more suppressed and emerge in the form of persistent and equally toxic resentment and quiet but intense dislike of your child.
Being in touch with the ability to feel outrage is vital to your own well-being and to the well-being of your often strong-willed egocentric complex child. The movement of outrage arises from a healthy and primitive part of you that works to keep you safe. You will know you are in touch with it, when you become aware of your own needs and your own healthy wish to be treated well by others - one of whom is your child.
One of the reasons that living and working with complex children is so challenging is that we have to be able to stay in touch with very conflicting emotions. We may for example feel deep empathy and a sense of understanding for a child who has experienced neglect and trauma or who struggles to get on with a peer group. We may feel pain and sadness for them. But in so doing we mustn't lose touch with our own healthy outrage when because of their own challenges they treat us disrespectfully.
In contrast to an emotion like sadness, outrage is a healthy, strong, determined movement of energy that allows you to stand up for yourself and set a strong boundary to others. Your child needs you to maintain your position in the hierarchy if they are to be able to mature. One of the reasons that this is so important is that many children with complex needs are developmentally younger and confused about their own boundaries - ie confused about where they start and stop in psychological space. They do not find it at all easy to remember that they are surrounded by other human beings who have thoughts and feelings of their own.
Setting the boundary about how you want to be treated, and being firm and vigilant in policing that boundary demands daily effort but allows your child to gain a much stronger sense of themselves. It is vital to their ability to mature and become able to manage and make sense of their own emotional responses to Not-wants.
I advise that the simplest place to assert and monitor the boundary in your relationship with a complex child is by monitoring the day to day way in which your child speaks to you and treats you and others. If you co-operate with a child who is abusive and aggressive to you, without finding a way to draw their attention respectfully to the fact that this attitude will not win your co-operation you are making their journey to greater maturity much more difficult.
So next time you feel that rush of emotion in response to something that your child has done, don't be afraid of it, but instead remember to create a gap so that you can think then trust it and channel it into asking yourself - how am I going to engage and coach my child into treating me and others the way I know I want? And how am I going to do this in a very determined way with myself as a role model? If your determination is fuelled by your understanding that what you are asking your child to do is even more difficult for them than it is for you, you will know that you will be travelling down green route.
If you want to learn more why not consider signing up for an I Matter Training course?
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
The I Matter Prof Blog:
How do we improve the educational and mental health outcomes of our children?
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