This article contains many of the tenets of neuroparenting.

  1. The presumption that parents are getting it badly wrong:

Many new parents still think that babies should develop at their own pace, and that they shouldn’t be challenged to do things that they’re not yet ready for.

2. An argument against the folly of genetic determinism:

According to neuroscientist Audrey van der Meer, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) this mindset can be traced back to the early 1900s, when professionals were convinced that our genes determine who we are, and that child development occurred independently of the stimulation that a baby is exposed to.

3. The wisdom of ‘the other’ and of science is counterposed to meanings and practices of the present and recent past:

Early stimulation in the form of baby gym activities and early potty training play a central role in Asia and Africa. The old development theory also contrasts with modern brain research that shows that early stimulation contributes to brain development gains even in the wee ones among us.

4. Infant brain development is talked of in awe and wonder:

The results show that the neurons in the brains of young children quickly increase in both number and specialization as the baby learns new skills and becomes more mobile. Neurons in very young children form up to a thousand new connections per second.

5. But this plasticity is short-lived and threatened by environmental influences (i.e. under-stimulating family life):

She adds that the brains of young children are very malleable, and can therefore adapt to what is happening around them. If the new synapses that are formed in the brain are not being used, they disappear as the child grows up and the brain loses some of its plasticity.

6. Animal studies are misreported to instruct humans in the need for stimulating care-giving:

Many people believe that children up to three years old only need cuddles and nappy changes, but studies show that rats raised in cages have less dendritic branching in the brain than rats raised in an environment with climbing and hiding places and tunnels.

7. All this serves the argument that we must do more, and do it earlier, because early intervention is the only social action that works:

The term “early intervention” keeps popping up in discussions of kindergartens and schools, teaching and learning. Early intervention is about helping children as early as possible to ensure that as many children as possible succeed in their education and on into adulthood – precisely because the brain has the greatest ability to change under the influence of the ambient conditions early in life.

In chapter 2 of my book, ‘Neuroparenting and the Quest for Natural Authority’, I discuss how:

‘The view is often expressed that modern life estranges parents, mothers in particular, from more ‘natural’ practices of care…’ however, ‘it seems that whereas in the Anglo-US domain, neuroparenting plays to the anti-modern aspects of parenting culture, in the global south, it may be designed to appeal to a modernising aspiration amongst parents. We can see therefore, that babies’ brains can simultaneously hold the promise of a return to a better society through the natural and of advancement to a better society through the scientific.’