Parenting • May 03, 2013

April Showers and Good Parenting

Parenting is hard work. Do you ever pick the kids up at the end of the day and think, “I don’t think I can do this tonight?”

It’s been raining a great deal these last couple weeks. Driving the kids to school one day, I was admiring the deep green grass and proliferation of flowering trees, almost Technicolor in intensity thanks to the rain. As I drove, I would quiz the kids. “What kind of tree is that?” “Dogwood,” came the somewhat sleepy answer from behind me.  “How about that one?” “Redbud!” came the answer from the far back seat. As the traffic slowed and I took it all in, it hit me; the parallel between all this Spring beauty and parenting.

The sweat and tears that come with being a good parent, even when it isn’t easy or you just don’t feel like it, are what makes your children bloom. Like the flowers outside, you can watch it happen overnight before your eyes. The extra effort, the rain, truly matters.

On NPR’s Fresh Air, Dr. Raine (I’m not kidding, that’s his real name, kind of cool for my title, huh?) spoke this week about his research and his book, The Anatomy of the Criminal.  He studies criminals, the serial killers and sociopaths. More importantly, he studies their brains from a structural standpoint, using MRIs. One of his many discoveries, criminals have smaller amygdalas than non-criminals, twenty percent smaller. I’ve blogged before about the amygdala. It is an area of the brain becoming more and more the focus of research. Dr. Joan Luby at Washington University in St. Louis published a paper showing that the amygdala was larger in children who were observed to repeatedly parent in a positive way than in children whose parents did not parent as well.

Let’s do the math.  Amydalas are smaller in criminals than non-criminals. And, amygdalas grow bigger when we parent in a positive way. 1 + 1 =?

When asked what made the difference between a person who had biological markers for becoming a criminal actually becoming a criminal or becoming a hero, Dr. Raine’s answer? “Some love.” Like Dr. Luby, Dr. Raine’s research shows the environment where children grow is the huge modifier to who they become as adults. Dr. Raine, thanks for reminding us once again, “April showers bring May flowers.”

Deep breath, shake off the stresses of the day. I’m off to water my little garden.


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