Excelling as a Parent

Excelling in the early years of parenting

 Becoming a parent is one of the most enthralling experiences in life. Being a parent evokes extreme emotions such as: excitement and caution, confidence and insecurity, awe and humility, protectiveness and fear, control and doubt. All parents attempt to do their best in caring for their offspring with little or no training.  How can you excel as a parent and enable your child to reap the greatest benefits of parenting during his/her first six years of life?

The importance of good parenting has been known for years. The last forty-five years have enriched us with theories, research findings and technological advances that facilitated our current understanding of the physiological, psychological and neurological aspects of child development.

Dr. John Bowlby advanced the theory that attachment of babies to their mothers is an innate, evolutionary survival mechanism that secures the infant’s safety during the first two years concomitantly with evoking major neurological developments within the infant’s brain. The baby learns to regulate his/her emotions through contact with and responsiveness of his/her caregiver.

In “The Interpersonal World of the Infant” Dr. Daniel Stern defines the parent’s sensitivity to the verbal and nonverbal expressions of the child and the parent’s ability to put himself/herself in the mind of the child as “Attunement”.  Parents who are attuned to their babies and resonate with their pain or pleasure help their infants become securely attached to others throughout their lives.

Validating your toddler’s developmental mastery of tasks such as: crawling, walking, talking, helps your child establish his/her sense of wellbeing and pride about his/her task mastery. Expressing appropriate awe and delight and praising your child for each new physical, emotional or intellectual feat reinforces your toddler’s development and builds his/her self-esteem.

Provide your child with daily focused attention: read, play, entertain your child and expose him/her to the environment.  Your two-year-old enjoys and learns a great deal by being exposed to nature, animals, music, and physical activities as well as socializing with siblings and friends.

From age four your child can benefit from being taught values such as honesty and fairness and from social skills of group participation such as taking turns, sharing toys and considering other children’s needs and rights.

Learning basic moral principles and social conduct can be well absorbed by age five or six in preparation for attending school. Practicing expressing compassion, caring and empathy for peers helps youngsters develop good social and emotional-relational skills. Children who have been prepared for and practiced appropriate group conduct fare much better in school.

To excel as a parent:

  • Hold your infant close to you, look into his/her eyes. Match the baby’s emotions of joy or discomfort. This attunement will comfort your baby and enable your child’s future healthy attachment to others.
  • Show your enthusiastic delight in your toddler’s mastery of tasks.
  • Designate as much time and attention to your young child as possible.
  • Teach your pre-school child social rules of group interaction, compassion and concern for other.



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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