The Baby’s Mental Development: What Parents should know – Dr. Abamara

The Baby's Mental Development: What Parents should know - Dr. Abamara

Dr. Abamara Nnaemeka C.

Pervious studies have shown that it is easy for parents to overemphasize that physical care which a child deserves, and neglect his or her mental development. Most parents, especially, the millennium parents literary assume that what ever goes on in a child’s brain during the early months and years of life is automatic and that nothing they do can either speed up or retard the process. They are presumably wrong in this state of dilemma.

It is absolutely wrong for a child to be “pushed” in mental accomplishments beyond his or her natural desires to learn or beyond his or her abilities at each stage of development. “Pushing” no doubt makes a child nervous. At the long run the disadvantages he reaps in fatigue and growing disinterest offset the supposed advantages of the forced-draft method of learning. The above scenario is typical of our current private nursery and primary schools in the country. Our children after school hours are overburden with a lot of take home assignments that is beyond their capacities to comprehend.

It is not a hearsay that most primary schools in Nigeria dismisses their pupils at 4pm on daily basis. The only time they dismisses them at 2pm or 1pm are either during the beginning of the term or during examinations. These children usually go home stressed and fatigued. At home, most of them may not do the assignment themselves as a result of tiredness. The onus usually lies on the parents to do the assignments for them. By this routine exercise the aims and objectives of giving them such take home assignments have been defeated.

These private schools need to go back and embrace the stipulated educational guidelines in the Nigerian primary school curriculum.
Looking at the main focus of our discussion; permit me to say, unwise as it is to force a child to use his or her brain, it is just as unwise and even more so to permit circumstances that interfere with a child’s normal and natural mental progress. And many customs/cultures in the globe that are dealing with babies do just that to interfere with their learning about their surroundings and thus deprive them of the wherewithal to develop their delicate brains.

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Parents should know that a child’s only contact with the outside world, as far as his brain is concerned, is through his sense organs: by what he sees, hears, feels, tastes, and smells. A baby’s brain, then, develops only as his sense organs provide the experience out of which his or her brains establishes relationships and realities.

The baby who is kept in a quiet room that he or she cannot be disturbed, who is confined in a play tub, so that he or she will not get hurt, who is always prevented from crawling on the floor so that he or she will not get dirty, and who is restrained in a walker or jumper so that he or she will not disturb the mother when she is engaged with the house chores, is deprived of many of the opportunities to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell and thus to develop the baby’s brain. Babies are naturally inquisitive and they need opportunity to satisfy their curiosity, and their intellect will develop at the gradual pace normal for them, only if these developmental psychological opportunities are given to them. If the above developmental opportunities are not achieved, it will be a negation to the three important stages of human development in the Personality theory of Erik Erikson ( 1903 -1994).These vital Erik Erikson psychosocial developments are domiciled in stage two, three and four of the theory.

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Stage two, 1-3 years: Autonomy versus Shame and doubt. In stage two, children’s growing self control is expressed by climbing, touching, exploring, and a general desire to do things for themselves. Parents help to foster a sense of autonomy by encouraging children to try new skills. However, the child’s efforts often result in spilling, falling, wetting, and other “accidents.” Thus parents who ridicule their children, or overprotect them, may cause them to feel shame and to doubt their abilities.

Stage three, 3-5 Years: In stage three, the child moves from simple self-control to an ability to take initiative. Through play the child learns to plan, undertake and carry out a specific task. Parents reinforce initiative by given the children the freedom to play, to ask questions, to use imagination, and to choose activities. Children may be emotionally handicapped by parents who criticize them severely, prevent play, or discourage questions. In this case, children learn to feel guilty, about the activities they initiate. Pretend play during this period helps children practice more mature social skills and roles.
Stage Four, 6-12 Years: Industry versus Inferiority:
Erikson describes the elementary school years as the child’s “entrance in to life.” In school, children begin to learn skills valued by the society, and success or failure can have lasting effects on their feelings of adequacy. Children learn a sense of industry if they win praise for building, painting, cooking, reading, studying, and other productive activities. If a child’s efforts are regarded as messy, childish, or inadequate, feelings of inferiority result. For the first time, teachers, classmates, and adults outside the home become as important as parents in shaping attitudes toward oneself.
At this point, I will support that the parents should make their babies to be very close with their families. Let other children pay attention to him or her, and him or her to them. Let the baby feel their faces and hear their voices. Let him or her explore as much and as fast as his or her growing abilities permit. Forbid him or her to handle his mother’s keepsakes and keep him from breaking the breakable dishes and cups – yes. But let him or her live as normally as abundantly as a baby can. Let the mother, especially the baby mamas sing to their babies, talk to them, and play with them. It takes time, but it is good for the babies. Let the babies hear good music especially (lullaby). These various sensory experiences keep the babies alert, and provide materials for their brain to use. Let the babies rest when they are tired, but also let the babies be active in the ways they desire.
This does not mean that a child should be permitted to become willful and selfish. The child should be guided in his or her trait of behaviour and be disciplined when this becomes necessary. Finally, firmness should be blended with love and training mixed with tolerance. We as parents should not stifle the desires of our babies or children to learn what goes around them, but we should keep encouraging and directing their good efforts to learn.

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Abamara, N.C. Ph.D

  • Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

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