Nicer Moms Have Smarter Kids

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mom hugging sonMy daughter has this adorable thing she does where she stops what she is doing, gives me a huge hug, and says 'I love you' with her sweet 2-year-old voice. I melt like ice cream, and she smiles when I tell her I love her too, eating it all up like the little ham and cheese she is. I could do this hugging all day, I think. But could there be a downside to too much of that? Will that make my kids grow up to be arrogant? These are things I worry about, along with the big things, the small things. But taking away from my worry is this new study that says our love for our kids, and the affection we show them, helps build up the part of the brain that deals with stress, learning, and memory.

Excuse me while I go hug on my kids for a moment.

We all want smart kids who aren't stressed out, right? So here's what we have to do ...

Dote on them. Be nicer. Be happier. Yes, it seems to be that simple. But it's not always. How many times have you had to rush out of the house for something and you didn't have time to really appreciate your child's latest artistic creation? Oh gosh, this happens! How often have you missed a dance recital because you had to work late? Of course that's happened to everyone, too. But it's often unavoidable because sometimes responsibilities get in the way of us nurturing the family. The key is to not let it happen too much. (Let's hope bosses everywhere are reading this and allowing moms and dads to leave the office early so they can get to the recital on time!)

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This research came from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. It says that school-age children whose mothers, fathers, and caretakers "nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus," which is the part of the brain that aids in learning, memory, and your response to stress.

The author of the study, Joan L. Luby, M.D., says it best:

I think the public health implications suggest that we should pay more attention to parents’ nurturing, and we should do what we can as a society to foster these skills because clearly nurturing has a very, very big impact on later development.

What can we do as a society? Oh I can think of a lot of things. Let's start with better maternity leave, then add on paternity leave for fathers, then tack on some better work/life practices and balance. It's no easy feat, that's for sure. But I do think that by reducing a parent's stress levels, that parent could be more nurturing to their child. It's like giving us the tools to sort of "stop and smell the roses" kind of thing -- stop rushing around, take time for those little hugs even in the middle of doing something else, like my daughter gives. Of course we can't just wait for everyone else to help us reduce our parental stresses, we have to do it ourselves. Maybe try some yoga, meditation, breathing in and out to the count of 10 really slowly -- don't laugh, that works! It's what I do.

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Any changes we can do on our end to make the time to ... well, be nicer, to make time for more hugs, more kisses, more positive reinforcement, more praise for that art project. It will not only make our kids brains bigger and allow them to have better memories, less stress, and learn more, but make us as parents happier, too.

What positive changes will you make to help your child's brain grow?


Image via Pink Sherbert Photography/Flickr

learning, toddler development


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jayboff jayboff

Yay Wash U!

Mama2... Mama2MonkeyBoys

My husband and I recently made a commitment to making sure we spend our down time with the kids. By the time I get home from work, I always feel like it's a mad dash to get dinner ready, get everyone fed, and get the kids to bed at a reasonable time. If I have 10 minutes to sit down, I typically don't spend it playing with the boys.
But, I can sit down when they're in bed. And in order to reduce MY stress - the stress I feel because I don't get enough time with my babies during the week - I am making sure that I spend that down time WITH my boys. And my husband does the same, now, from when the boys get up until he takes them to day care. We've both noticed that not only are WE happier, the boys are so much happier and more well behaved. It's a combination of them feeling less stress coming off of us and getting that special Mommy or Daddy time.
It's definitely been a change for the better.

nonmember avatar K

I moved from working full time to part time 25 hours/week. It has given me a great balance between working and home life. Less income, but more quality time with my toddler. Totally worth it.

rache... rachelrothchild

Better maternity leave?  How about working PT or being a homemaker?  I do agree on the paternity/sick time thing.  I notice companies like to give people tons of leave but then tell them when they can use it.  That isn't flexible when you have kids.

lateb... latebloomerw4

I chose to pick a business I can handle from home. I'm a single parent so trying to juggle work and the kids left very few hours at the end of the day actually WITH my kids. I wanted more than dinner and tucking them in for the night, Daycare had the majority of their day and that felt like I was paying someone else to play "mom" for me because I was too busy...... I feel that I chose to have them, I should raise them. I now work from home most of the time and have started my own business. I am TRULY a full time mom now!,... I LOVE it!

nonmember avatar Melanie

Loved this article!

RanaA... RanaAurora

Not everyone can stop working, Rachel.

Love this. I know EVERYONE in my house does better, is nicer, works better, is less stressed when we take the time to be calm and loving.

mamaj... mamajey610

My stepkids are the same with me... they'll be doing something--playing, watching TV, running around the park or play place in McDonald's, and they'll stop what they're doing, come to me, give me a big ol' bear hug, kiss on the cheek, then they'll tell me that they love me. How can that not melt my heart? For me being a stepmom, that should count for something ;) 

erina... erinanne86

Love this article, and the research that backs it. Its one of those things you already know inside but it is nice to have it reinforced in my mind that what I am doing is best. There is always room for improvement: will try to be less frustrated by the daily grind ...and my PT job so that my daughter has more quality time with me.

leomo... leomommy1325

Just so you know, you can be a SAHM and STILL have a stressed out kid.  I'm a divorcee of 4.5 years and a SAHM, but my daughter's stressed out especially when it's Daddy's time to be with her and she's smart.  I try to be nice, but it's not easy when you're doing it alone.

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