6 Ways Parenthood Boosts Your Brain

There have been a number of stories in the news lately about how the “latest research” shows that only stupid women want children (or something to that effect).  In the Culture Wars, this gets translated into the idea that the Church wants women to have as many babies as possible to keep them humble and subservient.

The assertion is as nonsensical as the “research” it is supposedly based on.   Studies in “evolutionary psychology” have about the same intellectual rigor as “womyn’s studies.”  Good-natured jokes about “mommy brain” aside, as this excellent article points out, other research argues that parenthood actually improves brain function in 6 distinct ways…

1. Constantly being exposed to new information. While learning everything about your child’s health and welfare, you’re also exposing yourself to new knowledge sources…. Throw on top of that the information you learn by helping older children with their homework and other assignments, and it’s clear that your brain benefits from this constant infusion of new stimulation.

2. Developing your softer side.  Your kids need very different forms of attention and understanding than even the most challenging adult. 

3. Staying on top of what’s new. Through your kids, you learn- for better or worse- about what’s going on the world that might otherwise have passed you by. How many midlife and older adults today are iPhone savvy because their children (or grandchildren) have taught them about the new technologies?

4. Developing your own abilities.  Perhaps you weren’t the most athletic kid in the world, but as the parent of a young soccer wannabee, you’ve got no choice but to become a little more coordinated with your feet. Or it could be the opposite, and you’re absolutely incapable of doing anything involving fine motor movement (painting, sewing, carpentry). Through practicing with your child, you can encourage the parts of your brain that handle these tasks to grow just a tiny bit.

5. Acquiring self-knowledge. A considerable amount of research on parenthood suggests that parents relive their own earlier stages through the experiences of their children. However, you relive these experiences with the brain of an adult, not a child or teenager. Therefore, by having the opportunity to look anew at the classic issues that children must face (establishing autonomy, dealing with bullies, to name just two), adults can gain new insights into their own development.

6. Staying healthier. Becoming responsible for the young can lead you to pay more attention to your health if for no other reason than that you would like to be around when they grow up. In addition, though, all that running around after the kids, having to provide them with decent nutrition, and learning about the factors affecting their health can help you improve your own.   READ MORE

If you want more tips on smart parenting and parenting smart, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids (2nd ed. revised and expanded)

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