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Parenthood During The Early Years: Key Issues & Parenting Forms

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  • 0:02 The Early Years
  • 1:12 Key Issues
  • 4:42 Parenting Styles
  • 7:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Parenting can be stressful! There are specific challenges that parents face when they have young children. In this lesson, we'll look at some of the issues inherent in the early years of parenting, including the four major parenting styles.

The Early Years

Sadie's three, and she's growing like a weed! Her dad, Jeff, loves to watch the way she's developing a sense of who she is and what the world is like. But Jeff's also worried about whether he's a good parent or not. Should he let Sadie watch television or keep her from it altogether? Should he be strict, or loving with her? How can he know if he's doing a good job?

Parenting is a tricky thing. Children in infancy, which lasts from birth to about age two, and early childhood, which lasts from toddlerhood to about age seven or eight, are starting to figure out who they are and what the world is like. At the same time, most parents of children in those developmental stages are in the stage of early adulthood, which lasts from approximately age 20 to approximately age 40, and comes with its own challenges. During this time, parents are building their careers and still trying to figure out where they belong in the adult world. Let's look closer at some of the key issues facing parents and children and four common parenting styles.

Key Issues

Remember Sadie? She's three, right on the cusp between infancy and early childhood. Her dad, Jeff, is amazed at how quickly she learns new things. It seems like every day Sadie has a new skill or word or piece of information that she's acquired!

During the early years of childhood, children are developing a sense of self and of the world. As a newborn, Sadie didn't really know who she was or what the world was about. She didn't really understand anything around her. But now, she is learning things about herself, like that she loves broccoli and hates having to sit still. She's also learning about the world, like that she'll burn her hand if she touches the stove and that her daddy makes funny faces and sings her to sleep at night.

Sadie and children like her are learning about themselves and the world through a series of exploration via the senses. She is using her five senses to figure out who she is and how she fits into the world around her. Her sense of taste may have her realizing that she loves broccoli, while her sense of touch helps her learn not to touch the stove.

There are some issues with exploration and growth, though. Children are naturally curious, which is what motivates them to explore and learn about the world. But a child's natural curiosity may be encouraged or suppressed. If Jeff discourages Sadie from exploring, she could end up not learning about herself and others and end up with an incomplete view of the world. On the other hand, if Jeff encourages her curiosity and exploration, while still making sure that she's safe, Sadie could learn a lot about herself and the world and end up with a large base of knowledge from which to draw as she grows.

Another issue that comes up often involves parental needs versus children's needs. As we saw before, many children, like Sadie, are being raised by people in early adulthood, like Jeff. And Jeff has his own needs: he needs to work to make a living, and he needs to adjust to the changes in his life. After all, less than a decade ago, he was a teenager living with his parents. Now he's the parent. That's a big adjustment!

Jeff will have to learn how to balance his own changing conceptions of self and the world, and his own needs, with Sadie's. He can do this by recognizing that he doesn't know everything and focusing on giving her all of the things she needs (food, clothing, shelter, and love). But he also must allow himself to acknowledge his own needs and the changes going on in his life.

Finally, Jeff is wondering about television. The impact of technology on development is an issue that many parents wonder about. Should he let Sadie watch TV or play on his computer or tablet? The American Medical Association recommends no screen time before age two; that is, before the age of two, children should not be watching television or playing on the computer, tablet, or phone. However, after age two, limited exposure to technology is beneficial for development. Studies have shown, for example, that children's television shows help kids develop emotionally and cognitively. The trick is to limit the exposure to technology to one or two hours per day.

Parenting Styles

Another thing that Jeff struggles with is how strict he should be. He doesn't want Sadie to be hurt, but he also doesn't want her to hate him because he was too mean. He wants her to know that she's loved, but he also needs to make rules to keep her safe. What should he do?

There are four general parenting styles, and most parents fit into one more than the others. You can think of these four types as fitting into a grid. On one side is how many limits and demands they place on their children, and on the other is how attentive and responsive they are to their children.

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