When a baby is born, it usually brings a lot of joy and happiness to its parents and family members. As the child grows up, the family members dream of a lot of things centering their offspring. As they take care of the child, it appears that they are nurturing their dreams and hopes. Parents usually tend to hope that their children will fulfill the unfulfilled dreams of their life when they are grown-ups. However, surely all children cannot be equally successful when they are adults. Some become highly successful while others lag behind. And what happens when a child fails to live up to his parents’ expectations in his later years? Well, it is common that the parents, family members and relatives often look down upon him or they may put blame on their fate.
However, it is generally accepted by today’s scientists that whether a child will become successful in the later parts of his life or not largely depends on how and in what type of environment he is brought up in the early years of his life. If it is true, then a child can hardly be blamed for his failure. Rather the child’s family has a bigger role to play in shaping up his future. But unfortunately, very few families consider their children’s failures as their own. Many parents are yet to understand this factor. In our country, most families put emphasis only on the physical development of their children whereas they scarcely perceive the high importance of their children’s cognitive, emotional and social developments. Although many parents make sincere efforts to take care of their children, there remains significant gap in their understanding about childcare. Children's development consists of several developmental areas such as sensory-motor, cognitive, social-emotional development etc. Cognitive development is the most important one, which has a great significance in a child’s later years.
For example, when we see that a boy does better in the examination and extra-curricular activities than the other boys, many of us will consider that the boy has god-gifted intelligence. There is another common assumption that children are merely less competent thinkers than adults. But, according to Jean Piaget, the first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive development, children are born with a very basic mental structure on which all subsequent learning and knowledge are based. For Piaget, children construct an understanding of the world around them and experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment. So, developing brains’ high plasticity during early life is like a double-edged sword. If the brain does not receive the inputs it needs, its wiring is altered. This is why adverse environments, deprivations, malnutrition, neglect and toxic stress during a child’s early life may disrupt his normal biology and developmental trajectories, physical and mental well-being, learning and behavior in the later years. And the impact of adversity on the key developmental domains is worse during the times of a child’s rapid development and high plasticity. Reversing these effects later in his life is very hard.
Scientific research indicates that the most important stage of human brain starts developing in the womb and then the first year of a newborn’s life. By the age of three, a child’s brain reaches almost 90% of its adult size. So, the experiences a baby receives from her caregivers play a crucial role in this early wiring and pruning and enable millions and millions of new connections in the brain to be made. Repeated interactions lead to pathways being laid down for the development of memories, relationships, learning and logic. This means a human child’s brain is both complicated and vulnerable. So, during this time highly special care is necessary for the infant. According to a research published in the Child Development journal (July 12, 2017), teaching children to recognize and understand their emotions can reduce their anxiety and behavioral problems while it can improve their educational outcomes.
Unfortunately, people in our society are still quick to dismiss psychological or emotional issues amongst adults, let alone children. People often tend to label such problems like depression as a “rich man’s disease”. Parents are still largely unaware of how to behave with their young children. They often rebuke and tell negative things to their children in hope of a positive outcome. However, such behaviors may greatly affect their children’s mental health and cost them dearly instead. Constant emotional pressure in the developmental years of a child’s life can leave a heavy mark on his psyche and impede his growth in future.
In Bangladesh, almost half of the mothers are unaware of the importance of fostering curiosity and self-confidence in a child. It is an unpleasant truth that in many cases parents themselves are the greatest obstacle to their child’s success. The typical attitude ‘parents are always right’, in which parents dictate every move a child makes and have unreasonably high expectations from the child is a very common form of emotional abuse. This not only puts additional pressure on the child but also leads to depressive disorders once they (children) fail to meet their parents’ expectations. Setting strict rules (like what a child cannot see, do, play, eat and so on) can stunt their natural emotional growth. Moreover, it can cause an overwhelming anxiety to the tender children. Alarmingly, these children could even grow up with a feeling of intense hostility towards their parents and be unable to think or act independently. Well, some children may be able to cope with this form of emotional abuse as some are born mentally stronger. But for most others, such emotional abuse can make them completely dependent on their parent or lead them to mix with wrong circles, start bad habits like drug addiction, or get into a detrimental relationship in order to escape their unhealthy family environment.
The most commonly-mentioned maternal behaviors for promoting mental development in children who are less than three years are giving nutritious food, teaching a child to talk, providing them with opportunities to play etc. But, many children, particularly those whose family dwell in the urban areas, have to spend long hours alone and cannot go outside to play as their parents remain busy with their jobs. Meanwhile, nuclear families are increasing in our society, so the children get a very limited opportunity to interact with other members of the family.
Although policymakers recognize the fact that poverty and malnutrition are responsible for poor health and increased mortality in the country, it is hardly recognized that these things are also detrimental to the children’s development. Besides, an animal research shows that early under-nutrition, iron-deficiency, environmental toxins, stress, and poor stimulation and social interaction can affect brain structure and function of a child. In our country, a good many children fall victims to all these things, which hinder their growth. With a large proportion of such children, our national development is likely to be widely affected.
Finally, it can be said that if parents want their children to be successful in their later years, the former should take good care of the latter at the latter’s early years. Parents should encourage their children to express themselves, allow them to play with other children and enjoy a carefree life. A child’s emotional well-being should never be underestimated in any way at the same time, as it will shape up their future personality. As many parents are still unaware of the importance of their children’s early years, substantial efforts should be made to create awareness in this regard. Negligence, however, can fail many children who are the future of the families, and the country in a broader sense.