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About Michael Gurian

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An interview with Nurture the Nature author Michael Gurian

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:

Gender roles and the importance of fathers

There is rigorous debate in our culture about gender roles,
including the appropriate roles of the mother and father in raising children. We are all now aware
that mothers can do a lot of what fathers used to do, and fathers can do a lot of what was
historically “mother’s work.”  There is a new flexibility to gender roles. It is essential to
celebrate each of these advances.

At the same time, mothers and fathers are also “naturally
different” and are thus “naturally needed”? in a child’s life. Remove one parent’s core strengths,
and problems can occur. For instance, when scientists study what happens to children whose fathers
are not active in their lives, they find a higher probability of mental, emotional, and social
problems.

Boys without the substantial presence of a father are 70 percent more likely to
commit violent crimes, and each year spent without a dad in the home increases the odds of future
incarceration by 5 percent.

Girls without the substantial presence of a father are 150
percent more likely to become pregnant during the teen years and will experience 92 percent more
marriage breakups than girls raised with two parents.

Both girls and boys raised without
fathers are substantially more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in two-parent
homes.

This doesn’t mean that every father (or mother) is good for a child, nor that there is
fault in being a single parent. Many children are being raised wonderfully by single mothers (and
single fathers), people who are adapting heroically to circumstances in their lives.

               
                    
                    
            – Michael Gurian

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. from NURTURE THE NATURE.  Copyright (c) 2007 by Michael Gurian.  This book is available at all bookstores, online booksellers and from the Wiley website at www.wiley.com, or call 1-800-225-5945.

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, workplace sand 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 another excerpt from Nurture the
Nature:

You can also catch Michael on an interview with
GreatDad.