In four weeks, I expect to arrive home, baby, in hand. At that moment, my role as a parent begins. No longer will this blog merely be a prelude to the main event. I will be a dad, and all the problems of being a parent will be mine.
The purpose of this blog was to help me understand my thoughts about being a parent. Weirdly, my parenting blog also a way for me to communicate with my partner about what we are both going through, without being interrupted. Only I get to post my thoughts here, feel the power in my hands.
Learning how to be a good parent
Being a bit of a geek, I like to try and understand things to get better at them. The more I learn about the importance of parenting, the higher the chances I can work out what matters when I finally become one.
Nothing makes up for the experience you gain from your mistakes. As a dad, I am going to make loads of them. I am not in that space yet; my baby is still on-route.
I can, however, spot pieces of research, speeches and other stuff that might make a difference and share them. If one person gets value from it, then this post is worth writing.
Lessons in human development
I recently found a TED talk which talks scientifically about why some of us grow up to be happy, healthy and prosperous and others have a more difficult path.
In this talk, Helen Pearson candidly talks about a study of 70,000 British children across five generations across their lives, exploring the correlations behind us having a happy and healthy life.
The most important lesson to take from this talk is to understand how important the first few years of a child’s life are. Those initial years have a profound effect on how the rest of our lives are going to play out, more than we realise.
While being from a disadvantaged background is a significant predictor of a child’s future, this study also highlights the importance of parenting in helping our children overcome these odds.
Parents who are actively engaged and take leading roles in their children’s lives are more likely to ensure that their children have a better standard of living in later life.
The importance of parenting
It might sound obvious, but the more time you spend actively engaged with your children, the more likely they are to do well at school. Communicating with your children, reading to them, helping them with their letters and going on trips all help children to do well.
As a dad-to-be, I need to understand that my role will be vital in the upbringing of our children. I need to be as involved as possible and not heed to distant male stereotypes that previous generations might have had.
Let the data do the talking
Some of the findings from the research were startling:
‘Individuals who are poor at age 30 are significantly more likely to have not been read to at a young age than those who escape poverty. Also, they are more likely to have parents who are reported by the teacher to be less interested in their education.’
The data showed that those children who were going to bed at different times were more likely to have behavioral problems, and then those that switched to having regular bedtimes often showed an improvement in behavior, and that was really crucial, because it suggested it was the bedtime routines that were really helping things get better for those kids.
The importance of parenting
In summary, all of those individual pieces of attention and effort we put into our children at a young age increases their chances of success. We have the opportunity to help them do well, but the ball is in our court.
Of course, there are many other factors which influence our children’s lives. The notion of just giving our children attention and putting them to bed at certain times for them to be successful is ridiculous.
But this data does realise that it is often the smaller things that matter, the everyday pieces of effort that can add up. Parenthood is about quality time over the long term. The importance of parenting isn’t felt until our children are much older. Hopefully, at that age, they can appreciate quite how much effort goes into getting them where they are