5 ways science has shaped how we raise our children

You know how they say you know everything about parenting until you become a parent? That’s how I felt in the early years of our son’s life. I had spent years studying about child development and yet I often found myself doubting whether we were doing things right.

I stopped counting how many times “we should have handled things differently”: they do say a cobbler has the worst shoes. Still, it’s one thing to know about the science behind child development, quite another to apply it.

So we trudged on. Trying. Doubting. Changing. Half the time we wondered whether we were really meeting his psychological and developmental needs. Were there things we were doing that we shouldn’t have been doing? Were we harming him for life? What “sins of the father would be visited down upon the son”?

Granted, it’s easy to lose one’s way in all the information available. Amidst the doubts, we found and have continued to rely on these 5 evidence-backed tips to inform our parenting:

The Pygmalion effect

Children tend to behave according to what they believe is expected of them. Lady Bird Johnson was no doubt aware of this when she said “Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.”

The Pygmalion effect has helped us change how we view our son and the daughters who came after him. We have learnt to judge the behaviour, not the child. Knowing about the Pygmalion effect has helped us focus on “catching our children being good”. It has taught us about the power of “great” expectations.


Children can only express themselves appropriately if they know how to differentiate between emotions and react appropriately to them.

Sometimes whining and tantrums are a sign of hunger, fatigue, frustration or anger; they can also just be “children behaving badly”. Knowing about self-regulation has taught us that emotions aren’t always just about “acting-out”. It has taught us to parent less “in-the-heat-of-the-moment”. It has taught us to defuse strong emotions before they explode.

Constructive boredom

Unstructured stimulating environments spur children’s creativity and can help their imagination explode.

Knowing the benefits of constructive boredom have helped us teach our children to pursue sources of satisfaction that are not associated with material things. It has taught us to give them the toys they need – neither too many nor too few. It has taught us to insist on unstructured play every day.


Children’s ability to persist dictates their social and educational outcomes in the childhood years and beyond. We have learnt to stop being too quick to rescue our children. We have learnt to encourage them when they fail. We strive to teach them to view themselves as successful and competent human beings.

Autonomy granting

“Handing-down power” by transferring decision-making to children helps them gain self-confidence and teaches them about being independent.

We have learnt to integrate “what do you think?”, “what would you suggest?” and “how can we solve this?” in our communication. We’re learning to give our children freedom in order to teach them that choices have consequences.

What informs your parenting? Do leave a comment below and share.

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