28 Jul Positive Parenting – Happiness and children
by Jeremy McCarthy for Positive Psychology News Daily
As a new parent, I can tell you that there seems to be a surprising lack of guidance from science about how to have (and raise) a child. Since Catherine and I first learned we were expecting, the biggest piece of advice we have received from friends has been, _ã–don_ã_t listen to advice,_ã referencing the fact that every child is different and opinions vary wildly about what does (or doesn_ã_t) help a tiny infant grow into a flourishing and successful adult.
From a scientific perspective the problems are threefold. First, there is the age-old debate of nature vs. nurture. It is difficult to know how much of whom we become is due to our upbringing versus how much is due to our genetic makeup. Traditionally, we like to take credit for all of our good qualities, and blame our parents for all the ways we are screwed up. In reality, the credit and the blame are not so easy to distribute. Second, once we accept that the environment plays an important role in human development, the number of environmental factors that bring us from infancy to adulthood is so great that it is difficult to determine the impact of any one of them in isolation. And finally, for ethical reasons, it is difficult to do a placebo controlled experiment since we don_ã_t want to deny children anything that could help them with their positive growth.
So like millions of parents before us, my wife and I had to muddle our way through the miracle of childbirth on our own. Most of the books that are out there on pregnancy and childbirth (and I read many preparing for the birth of our son) seem to concern themselves with two things: either reassuring you that everything is going to be OK and that everything you are experiencing is normal; or providing you a list of all of the things that could possibly go wrong and what needs to be done to insure that they don_ã_t. What is missing from the literature is the positive side of the equation: What should we do when everything is going OK to make it even better? There are books on preventing marital discord, coping with complications, and care and feeding of infants. But how do you grow closer as a couple when you_ã_re already close, have a great birthing experience when the complications are few, and set your newborn on the pathway to a lifetime of flourishing?
Having just had my first child, I am far from an expert on the subject, but since no one has written the book on _ã–positive psychology for new parents_ã (yet), I_ã_ll simply share with you the things from my own experience and my own studies of positive psychology that we found useful as we went through our pregnancy…
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