Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why a happy marriage = a happy child = Great brain development

My Grandmother and I were recently having a chat about raising children and just how difficult it is to raise children no matter what generation you were living in. I confided in her how I felt about always feeling like the villain who had to dish out the discipline all the time and how envious I was of my husband when he walked in the door and it was nothing but love and wonderful behaviour from my dd1 after I have had a horrible day with her.

My Grandmother confided in me that she had felt the same way towards my grandfather he was the wonderful knight in shining armour and she had done all the work all day and he got all the reward. She remembers clearly after having her first daughter how she felt towards him even at times hostile about the changes she felt had all happened to her the sacrifice that she made and how his life went back to normal and hers was changed forever and how she felt she never got a break and was expected to keep going and going and going. I took some comfort that in 50years not really much had changed in child rearing and most of it was still up to the woman. (By the way I do not condone the notion that child rearing is the whole and sole responsibility of the woman I think men need to pick up the slack a little more)

I had forgotten about that conversation until I picked up the book Brain Rules for Baby and it had a whole chapter dedicated to relationships and the importance of a happy marriage in brain development of the newest member of the family. John Medina the Author of Brain Rules for Baby stated a statistic from a study done of marriages after the first child was born and 83% of couples stated that they had experienced mild to a major crisis in their marriage when they transitioned to parenthood so if you are reading this and you have just brought home your first child you are not alone.

This is something that is rarely talked about. Who would anticipate that in all the excitement leading up to the birth of your first child and the wonderful joyous occasion that it is that this precious little someone could bring such turbulence to a marriage. It is no wonder though it does. You are sleep deprived, your exhausted by the end of the day. You have 1/3 of the time for each other, its hard to go to the toilet or even shower when you want to and usually there is one parent left to do the majority of the caring as well as all the house work. This can quickly breed hostility towards one another and in some people's cases it can lead to divorce.

But how does this affect the baby's brain development 
Little babies are not the blank canvas we initially think they are. A little baby like all humans seeks safety above all, and numerous studies have shown that babies will do this. A baby in an environment where they feel unsafe they begin to feel stressed. A baby in an emotionally unstable home will not be able to respond to new stimuli, calm themselves or even learn to regulate their own emotions. While a baby/toddler might not understand what the argument is about they certainly understand that there is something wrong. I always liken it to this think back to when you were a small child and your parents were arguing. Think about how that made you feel. Did you feel safe that maybe the only world you have ever known might be coming to an end? Did you hide in some place? Did you want your parents to stop arguing? You can probably feel the emotions inside you rising up again. If you can feel that emotion again remember that your baby can to and it will do anything to make itself feel safe again. Once a baby has safety attained it can begin to develop its potential.

Relationships before Results 
This is the motto of the Right Brain Kids and while it generally relates to your bond with your child I think it can also relate to the relationship you have with your significant other. If your relationship with your significant other is not good or could be better look for ways to fix it and give your relationship the time it deserves. (Easier said than done, I know when you are exhausted in the evenings) I know how tired I am after a day with my two dd's. I have also learnt to speak up and ask for more help from my significant other and have tried very hard not to be a superwoman because I can't do it all and let's face I didn't create my two children on my own either. My husband and I also aim to dedicate one night a week to each other and as the kids get older hopefully we will have more time for each other and we always try but not necessarily succeed all the time by being on the same page with discipline with the dd1 especially which helps cause less arguments.

By reducing some of the stress factors that may be causing the relationship to be stressful, can help make you a better parent and therefore teacher for your child  and your child will be happier for it. I understand that conflict within our relationships is inevitable but finding a way to communicate will help towards a nice living environment for everyone and a baby far more willing to learn.



  1. good timing for your article.. i am having a bad time now. my daughter asked her daddy for some book reading time and he response 'let's play instead'... arrrggh.. i almost jump at him like a lioness.. is it solely my responsibility to take care of her learning to read/??

  2. Hi Reei,

    I don't believe it has to be your responsibility to teach your child to read. Have you asked your husband how he feels about doing early learning education with your dd. He might be frightened he might make a mistake or has some other fear. Unfortunately some people don't like reading at all. I know my brother doesn't. If your husband hates reading or teaching then I wouldn't let him do it but playing is just as much fun and she is still learning from the play as well. I totally understand your frustration. Try and find your happy medium with your hubby.