As parents we are always wondering if what we are doing is right? Positive parent-child relationships provide the foundation for children’s learning. With parents’ sensitive, responsive, and predictable care, young children develop the skills they need to succeed in life. Early parent-child relationships have powerful effects on children’s emotional well-being, their basic coping and problem-solving abilities, and future capacity for relationships. To help parents create a stronger and healthier bond with their children, we spoke to Parenting Coach Prabhat Mandal to help dispel the ‘mis-parenting’ fears.
Prabhat Mandal heads “Perfect Misparenting”. He conducts workshops for Parents, Expecting Parents and Teachers to help them engage with children better and to make a lasting impact on them. He has trained 1400+ couples in Hyderabad in last 11 years and is a proud father of twin boys.
Q1. Why is parent child bonding important?
Prabhat: While building a house, bricks are put together and cement is used for bonding. The stronger the bonding, stronger the building. Likewise, parent and child stay connected with an emotional bonding. This bonding governs the health of relationship as well as flow of love, care, guidance and education. If bonding is weak, it impacts the development of the child, in all aspects. It will not be wrong if we say, this bonding is the lifeline for a child.
Q2. If a parent, (especially a mother), is not sure whether they are bonding with their newborn baby. How are they supposed to do to deal with the situation? Isn’t this something that’s supposed to happen automatically?
Prabhat: Nature provides a physical bond with parents (especially mother) while baby is in the womb. Once baby comes out, nature blesses this bond again by means of mother feeding the baby. As the baby grows, this bond needs extra nutrition. This bond remains more of emotional bond as baby grows and parents spending quality time is an amazing food for it. In short, parent-child bond is made available naturally, but growth of it is left in the hands of parents.
Q3. Is it true that a parent could spoil their baby by picking him up every time he cries?
Prabhat: A kangaroo keeps the baby in a pouch as it is needed for the baby. At the same time, a giraffe kicks its baby soon after birth for it to get up and move. Every animal knows to act as per baby’s needs for good health and growth. Likewise, humans also need to pick up the baby when he/she cries expressing discomfort and seeks help. But it is also said that too much of anything makes it unhealthy. As the baby grows, need to be picked up should come down, though not linearly and not even same way for every child.
Q4. What steps should be kept in mind to keep the father more involved in caring for a child from new born stage to when the child becomes older, as especially in Indian households only women are seen as the primary care taker of a child of any age
Prabhat: When nature has mandatory role for both mother and father to give birth to a child, it is nothing but obvious that both of them have mandatory roles while this child is growing up too. And I agree, in Indian households only women are seen as the primary caretaker for a child and fathers are presented as ‘Gabbar’. E.g. eat quickly else I will call papa. Fathers must take part in daily chores with the baby too. I feel very happy to see fathers taking very active roles in today’s generation, as compared to what I hear from past.
Q5. Are attachment and bonding the same thing?
Prabhat: Bonding is a choice and attachment is a compulsion. Bonding always is for making the relationship healthier. Attachment may cause irritation and strain in long run.
Q6. When children move from infancy into toddler-hood, the parent-child relationship begins to change. How does it affect the bonding between a parent and child?
Prabhat: During infancy, baby has a dependency on parents (especially mother). As baby grows into toddler-hood, this dependency comes down. It becomes more emotional need and less physical. If parents provide the needed love and care along with quality time, bonding stays strong. However, if this comes from someone else, no prize for guessing which bonding is getting stronger. So, parents need to make a conscious choice.
Q7. During the elementary school years, the child becomes increasingly interested in peers. This is usually taken as a sign of disinterest in the parent-child relationship. How should one cope with this?
Prabhat: Child grows and it is nothing but natural that he/she will interact with more people in society. As friends walk into life, time will get shared and parents’ share comes down. Many parents read this as dis-interest. In my mind, this is not a healthy interpretation and is coming from attachment. If this bond is nourished greatly in early years, it stays healthy with minimal attention too. So, first thing is to invest early with quality time. Secondly, this bond requires a new element that is space and freedom. If not given, it may cause strain in the relationship. So, as the child grows, parents need to be aware of changing needs too.
Q8. As the child enters adolescence, biological, cognitive, and emotional changes transform the parent-child relationship. The child’s urges for independence may challenge parents’ authority the parent-child relationship has a more important influence on the child’s psychological development. What kind of parenting style works best at this stage?
Prabhat: A gardener sows a seed, waters it and takes care of it. It sprouts, grows into small plant and needs little more care, support and guidance. Eventually it grows as a tree and doesn’t need much help of the gardener and wants to grow in its own glory.
Baby in the womb grows to survive on its own and one day mother has to let go off the baby from the womb. Adolescence is another phase where child is getting ready to be independent and these urges are very natural and healthy. So, parents’ authority has to tone down. Also, parents should note that child is learning how he/she should be in his/her life. A great transition to independent life sets a great example for the child to follow, and this enhances the parent-child bonding further.
Q9. What kind of parent child bonding relationship should be adopted by parents who are separated or divorced?
Prabhat: This phenomenon called separation is traumatic for both the partners, but no less traumatic for the child too. It also depends on, what stage of life this child is in. In early years, there is a greater need of both fatherly and motherly nourishment. Parents need to ensure these ingredients for the child for a balanced development.