A child’s brain is not a miniature adult brain. It is a brain born under construction that wires itself to the world. And it’s up to parents to create a world — both physical and social — that is rich with wiring instructions.
Based on years of research in neuroscience and psychology, here are seven parenting rules to help your kid build a brain that is flexible and therefore resilient.
1. Be a gardener, not a carpenter.
Carpenters carve wood into the shape they want. Gardeners help things to grow on their own by cultivating a fertile landscape.
Likewise, parents can sculpt their child into something specific, say, a concert violinist. Or they can provide an environment that encourages healthy growth in whatever direction the child takes.
You might want your kid to play violin in Symphony Hall someday, but forcing them to take lessons (the carpenter approach) might build a virtuoso, or a kid who views music as an unpleasant chore.
The gardener approach would be to sprinkle a variety of musical opportunities around the home and see which ones spark your child’s interest. Do they love to bang on pots and pans? Maybe your child is a budding heavy metal drummer.
Once you understand what kind of plant you’re growing, you can “adjust the soil” for it to take root and flourish.