What makes some par­ents bet­ter than oth­ers? Why are some babies and young chil­dren so ‘togeth­er’? Just exact­ly what makes the dif­fer­ence in one child over anoth­er, regard­less of socio-eco­nom­ic sta­tus? May I tell you? It is impor­tant to note that what social sci­en­tists have long referred to as ‘socio-eco­nom­ic fac­tors’ (in oth­er words, you come from a poor or impov­er­ished house­hold) no longer applies to a high per­cent­age of cas­es of fail­ure to thrive or devel­op­men­tal delays.

In my dai­ly work in a school with the babies and young chil­dren from very afflu­ent house­holds an extreme­ly high per­cent­age of chil­dren suf­fer from some form of fail­ure to thrive. Phys­i­cal­ly, emo­tion­al­ly, lin­guis­ti­cal­ly or any of the oth­er vari­ants of devel­op­men­tal delays.

I expect you are aston­ished. How­ev­er, what now aston­ish­es me is meet­ing a par­ent who ‘gets it’ as far as their child’s devel­op­ment is con­cerned. A par­ent like that is such a rare com­mod­i­ty that I am now refer­ring to them as a ‘ther­a­peu­tic parent’.

They under­stand their child and their oblig­a­tions to their child. This baby or tod­dler isn’t just an accou­trement to their suc­cess­ful sta­tus; their baby is a human part of their family.

The ther­a­peu­tic par­ent is con­tent­ed to be at home with their baby after a hard day’s work. They don’t need babysit­ters every week to have ‘me’ time. 

Con­trast that form of care with the baby or old­er child with mul­ti­ple nan­nies (often sup­pos­ed­ly bilin­gual but usu­al­ly mono­lin­gual and not in the lan­guage of their child’s day­care) and a litany of babysitters. 

Imag­ine a new par­ent putting their child into day­care and their first ques­tion is: “Does any­one babysit?” What exact­ly do they mean by ‘any­one’? They mean whichev­er liv­ing body is will­ing to come to their house, almost no mat­ter what it costs!

The ther­a­peu­tic par­ent seems hap­pi­er with their new found fam­i­ly life. The baby is a nat­ur­al part of their non-work­ing hours and in no way a nui­sance or an intrusion.

A non-ther­a­peu­tic par­ent might also prop their child in a baby­seat, a playpen sur­round­ed with soft toys — allows for a soft land­fall when a baby who can’t sit up is propped up BUT also hand­i­caps the baby at the very time he should be squirm­ing around and find­ing out how to move! We have one of those in our care right now – jel­ly legs, flop­py head, over­weight, debat­able eye con­tact, bor­der­line ‘easy-to-man­age’ – all ter­ri­ble devel­op­men­tal signs at 7 months of age!

This does­n’t make his par­ents ter­ri­ble peo­ple. I know they love him very much (although the father loves his cat more, says the moth­er!). My sur­mise is that this moth­er was the one in the mar­riage who decid­ed she want­ed a baby and that’s what she got!

I don’t believe many fathers are in on the ‘deci­sion mak­ing’ of hav­ing a baby, they just think they’re hav­ing sex as usual!

Such babies aren’t born to ther­a­peu­tic house­holds and as a result they ALWAYS show devel­op­men­tal delays. ALWAYS, ALWAYS!

I would love to make more par­ents aware of the need for being ther­a­peu­tic towards their babies and young chil­dren. It isn’t enough to love them – every­one says they love their chil­dren. It’s just that some forms of lov­ing are so devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate and afford such a fine tra­jec­to­ry of devel­op­ment I find it dis­turb­ing to find the oppo­site more often than not!