Dr. Krystal Richardson, ND
Parenting philosophies are often a subject doctors who treat pediatric patients are asked about. It is a sticky conversation to have because emotions are so high. Everyone wants to be a good parent and nobody likes the notion that they are doing it wrong. Well the good news is there are many styles and probably not just one “right” answer. Though I tend to stay away from giving parenting advice, there are some general rules that I often give parents that are based on their child’s psychological milestones and age.
The reality is that the limbic system, the area of our brain that controls our emotions, starts developing at 15 months. However, we do not start expressing words until closer to 2 years of age. This creates quite a dilemma for kids when their emotions are developing, but there is no clear way of communicating those emotions (cue the temper tantrum).
There are 3 things that neuroscience tells us we need to do in order to support good social and behavioral development:
- Having supportive relationships
- Participating in stimulating experiences
- Being in a health-promoting environment
The one that we will focus on in this article is supportive relationships (look for future articles to elaborate on the other two).
Support and Guidance
It is so important for parents to provide support and guidance for their children. Many parents find it surprising that part of building a supportive relationship with their child is saying the word no. Saying no creates positive stress for a child. Positive stress is an episode of stress that is brief, relatively infrequent, and mild to moderate in intensity. When we experience stress our bodies response is to release stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine/norepinephrine. In a supportive relationship parents exhibit a calming and loving response to this stress by either redirecting attention in order to end a temper tantrum or letting their little one work through their emotions. A supportive adult is the buffer in a strong emotional reaction and this allows the child to come back down and those stress hormones to dissipate. A child’s brain requires this elevation in those stress hormones to build resiliency. Being a positive adult and redirecting their attention and letting them come back down on their own after overcoming the adversity is an experience that is setting them up for dealing with stressors later in life. It is important to note that positive stress is not the absence of stress and it is positive stress that helps build lasting coping mechanisms to stress.
In addition, the word ‘no’ is how we learn right from wrong and what sets us up to make good decisions as adults. Without that supportive relationship kids do not learn boundaries in a nurturing and safe environment. By parents creating healthy boundaries and teaching kids how to cope with not getting what they want they are setting them up to overcome adversity in their future.
‘No’ is not just that awful word that always spark a temper tantrum in a 2 year old. It is also what is setting that child up to overcome adversity in their life. It is teaching them to be resilient and it is allowing them to learn how to manage stress. These are skills that will ultimately help them adopt healthy behaviors that will prevent disease and disability later in their lives.
Dr. Krystal Richardson is a naturopathic doctor who is an expert in integrative medicine. She is passionate about family medicine and enjoys working with all ages. She believes in creating a relationship with her patients that focuses on a partnership where patient and doctor can work together towards achievable goals.
While pursuing a medical degree at Bastyr University, Dr. Richardson pursued advanced training and education in women’s health, pediatrics, cardiovascular wellness and diabetes care. Dr. Richardson’s greatest joy comes from working with the pediatric population and encouraging healthy habits early, but also believes that achieving a better place of health is possible at any age.
Dr. Richardson has been used as an expert for care.com and has had articles published in the Naturopathic Doctor News & Review. In addition to writing she enjoys being an active member of her community and has participated in many fundraising and community events.
Dr. Colleen Kraft, MD F.A.A.P. The First 1000 Days: The Importance of Early Brain and Child Development[Video]. Seattle, WA. Seattle Children’s Hospital. March 18, 2014.