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An interview with Nurture the Nature author Michael Gurian

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We at GreatDad are obviously strong believers that moms and dads have different parenting styles. Both are important and play different roles in the emotional, moral, and intellectual development of the child. While we also believe that children thrive on love, positive parenting, and supportive environments, we can’t help but be more and more persuaded of how much is “hard-wired” in each individual.

We had an opportunity to talk with Michael Gurian about these subjects and his new book, Nurture the Nature. His thoughts are especially interesting to us since they underscore the crucial role dads play in the development of the child.

Are moms and dads interchangeable as parents?

Moms and dads create different types of bonds with their children -- you can’t measure the father bond through the lens of the mommy bond. While the mommy/infant bond is primary during the first two years of life, dads must bond with babies during the first five years to develop the trust, reliance and respect for their fathers that will become even more important to their development as they reach pre-adolescence. Additionally, dads that bond with their babies during this time are far more likely to stay with them through separation or divorce.

What critical elements do dads bring to parenting?

Moms and dads nurture children differently and both parenting abilities are very important for children. For example, we tend to over-emphasize “emotion talk,” a more feminine approach to communication due to a common misconception that words are the only or “superior” way to interact. If a child is sad, mom might react by wanting to talk through the problem. Dad, on the other hand, might respond by suggesting a game of catch. “Rough and tumble play,” as it’s called, usually instigated by dads, is key to developing young brains and is cited in many studies as a needed aspect of parenting that leads to stronger social skills later in life.

When are the most critical times for dad to spend time with children?

Late in life, a majority of dads will say that a big regret is that they didn’t spend more time with their children. One way to avoid this feeling is spend more time with their kids during the crucial pre-adolescence period, ages 9-15. While the years 0-2 are the most crucial for the mommy bond, these years are the most important for the dad/child relationship for two reasons:

  1. During this period, the child is naturally separating from the mother and the father will find it is easier and more natural for him to interact.
  2. The child at this age is hungry for mentoring, structure and presence of the father. At 16, when he or she makes a bigger break from the parents and takes larger risk, he or she will be able to make better choices if a father was actively present during this time.

Who gets credit or blame for the successes or problems we see in our kids?

Rather than placing blame or bestowing credit, we need to use all the resources we have to support the unique core nature of each child. Children naturally want to be raised in a three family system:

1st Family – the nuclear family of mom and dad
2nd family - extended family of relatives and very close and present friends
3rd Family – Social community including school, activities and religious groups.

It’s the nature of children to learn critical lessons like morality from their parents, but these other family members also play a major role by modeling how core personality can be used successfully and productively.

How about the child who plays video games and doesn't engage in the world?

I hear often about the child who plays video games three hours a day but does not like school. The video game playing tells us several things about the child: he or she is success-oriented, graphics-oriented, relatively less verbal, and likes to compete. But video games are un-natural, in that they are artificial and do not exist in nature. Now it’s up to parents and the rest of the family to identify these “natural” signals and re-orient the child toward more “natural” activities.

Michael Gurian is a social philosopher, family therapist, corporate consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books. A parenting and family expert, he is co-founder of The Gurian Institute, a training organization that provides schools, homes, workplaces and community agencies with crucial understanding of how boys and girls learn differently, and how women and men work and lead differently. Blending brain-based theory with practical application and cultural relevance, the Institute conducts research internationally, launches pilot and training programs, and trains professionals.
His groundbreaking books on child development and education that have sparked national debate include The Wonder of Boys, Boys and Girls Learn Differently!, The Wonder of Girls, and The Minds of Boys. He has pioneered efforts to bring neuro-biology and brain research into homes, workplaces, schools and public policy. A sought-after speaker and consultant, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Spokane, Washington.

Read excerpts from Micheal Gurian's Nurture the Nature:

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