Be worried about boys, especially baby boys

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We often hear that boys need to be toughened up so as not to be sissies. Parent toughness toward babies is celebrated as “not spoiling the baby.” Wrong! These ideas are based on a misunderstanding of how babies develop. Instead, babies rely on tender, responsive care to grow well—with self-control, social skills and concern for others.

A review of empirical research just came out by Allan N. Schore, called “All our sons: The developmental neurobiology and neuroendocrinology of boys at risk.”

This thorough review shows why we should be worried about how we treat boys early in their lives. Here are a few highlights:

Why does early life experience influence boys significantly more than girls?

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Caveman parenting and adult health

AparentingbookAffection, touch, play—did you have them in  childhood? As an adult, your health and social skills may depend on them.

A paper in press suggests that so-called “caveman” parenting (aka primal or evolved parenting) is related to adult health, wellbeing, sociality and morality.

In a class that just finished, students read The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland which explained

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Bullying starts early — with parents and babies

Abully2Adults seem to have an easier time pointing fingers at child bullies than at adult bullies. There’s a notion that children are bullies by nature. Wrong. Adults often don’t realize that child bullying is learned from adults. Bullying attitudes are built into mainstream ideas about parenting. Don’t fall for them.

Bullies are paranoid and think that others are out to get them and so act aggressively to prevent harm to themselves. It’s like  “prevent defense” in football, where players use aggression to prevent aggression.

Some parents bring the same kind of distrustful attitude to their parenting: Paranoia about being manipulated. When parents think their baby is out to get them, to manipulate them, to control them, they adopt the mindset of a bully. They ignore the baby’s communications about needs (for touch, movement, conversation, breast milk) because they attribute intentional power-plays to the baby. They view parenting as a power struggle — between the poor helpless parent and the all-powerful manipulating baby. Huh?! Yes, crazy thinking! But such distorted thinking is encouraged by other baby-paranoids and experts who encourage parent-against-baby attitudes.

Bullying is typically defined as unwanted aggressive behavior “that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” (from stopbullying.gov). Usually bullying is seen as an act of commission (taking action towards another person).

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