Public Demanding Answers to Schoolground Shootings Parent's Early Choices May Help Prevent Cycles of Rage
by Olive M. Pemberton, Ph.D.

  It is the desire of all society to find answers to the seriousness of the violence that is rampant in our children's lives today. The answers are not simple, and it may be years before we will have more complete answers. One of our immediate challenges is to learn and understand the new knowledge there is available to us concerning the growth and development of the brain and emotions and how this process affects our behavior as individuals and society as a whole.

Working as a psychotherapist for the past 24 years has clearly shown me that when the emotional needs of the fetus and infants are knowingly or unknowingly neglected or ignored, these babies grow up to be very angry adolescents and adults. It is my desire to help parents of all ages‹and grandparents, health-care workers, educators, child-care providers, and everyone else who has anything to do with the care of children‹to understand that it is easier to prevent emotional ills in infancy than to pay the extremely high price we are incurring, after they become teenagers and adults, by trying to put "band-aids" on this serious problem.

Need for Emotional Education
(Current Headlines Are Urging)

Scientist Joseph LeDoux of New York University discovered the short circuit in the brain that lets un-controlled(sic) emotions drive action before the intellect gets a chance to intervene. Author of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, says, "When street gangs substitute for families and schoolyard insults end in stabbings, when more than half of marriages end in divorce, when the majority of children murdered in this country are killed by parents and stepparents, many of whom say they were trying to discipline the child for behavior like blocking the TV or crying too much, it suggests a demand for . . . emotional education."

Our emotions influence all aspects of our lives throughout our lifetime, including learning skills, memories, perceptions and thoughts, thus making it imperative that we become aware of this new information.

Society is now taking a closer look at itself and its commitment to parenthood, realizing perhaps for the first time the seriousness of generational teachings. This is when one generation after another passes down their emotional seeds of beliefs and models of behavior to their children that affect emotional development and the early overall growth patterns of the brain.

New research demonstrates how parents can influence their child's emotional intelligence and emotional maturity. In the 1970s, experiments done by Torsten Wiesel and David Hubel produced scientific evidence indicating that there is an important "window of opportunity" during pregnancy and the first eighteen months after birth when the emotional circuits of the brain are most sensitive to programming. It is during this time that parents can lay down foundations of self-esteem and emotional security by literally setting the stage for the brain's emotional development. This building of the neural structure in the brain does not merely encompass health, it creates the trust and security that are essential for bonding the child with the world so he or she can actually learn more easily. They imply, too, that if the "window" is missed parents are playing with a handicap.

Society's challenge is to raise children who are both mentally AND emotionally intelligent.

Hope Appears As Society Gets More Involved
The good news is that as parents, by learning what you can do during pregnancy and the first eighteen months of your child's life, you have a chance to become the most successful parents in history. The recognition and understanding of the development of the brain and emotions of all infants and children, beginning with conception and through the first three years of life, is perhaps the most important job that parents and potential parents have today.

As a society we no longer can afford to perpetuate the raising of generation after generation of future citizens (children) who fall into the category of stressed, fearful and angry because their emotional growth has been ignored through the most critical period of their lives. Too many mentally and emotionally-troubled young children and adults are proof to us that the outdated methods of relating to our infants and small children in these areas is not working.

The Rewards of Responsible Choices
To honor the gift of parenthood let it be a personal internal committed choice. At the moment of conception, both of you involved in the intercourse become parents of a precious new life.

A personal and socially responsible choice ‹ which includes commitment to caring, dedication to the required hours of time and energy, and the desire to guide and nurture your wanted new family member for as long as needed ‹ can result in a healthier child and easier parenting. To the detriment of the family and society, the choice for parenthood can be to behave irresponsibly from uncontrolled hormones or emotions, or the choice based on the concept of "saving our marriage."

We are all challenged again and again to educate toward responsible choices. Learning up-to-date information from scientific research on the growth and development of the brain and emotions can change the attitudes and/or choices of persons contemplating having a child.

My next article will present some of the specifics about the new scientific information, and stories that support these findings. In the meantime, I hope you will share with me your answers to the questions in this article. You can e-mail  or mail to Awareness Publishing Group, Inc., 5011 Argosy Ave. #3, Huntington Beach, CA 92649.

For more information, call Dr. Olive M. Pemberton, Licensed Psychotherapist in Laguna Hills, CA at (714) 951-7473.

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