Why do some babies grow up to be a Mother Theresa and others a Ted Bundy?
What happens to each of us from the first moment of birth that influences the kind of adults we become? Following the birth of my first child, more than twenty-five years ago, my search for answers to questions like these grew into my passion to understand human behavior, and finally, to my recent discovery of “nature’s plan for parenting.” I began reading about and studying child development. As a parent and a child care provider, learning about how children grow and develop served me personally and professionally. I read the works of Maria Montessori, Piaget, and Rudolf Steiner.
Excited by the things I was learning, I started sharing the information with other parents. I thought, if all parents would just make it a priority to learn more about child development, we would all be better parents.
Yet, even with all this information, I struggled to put into practice the things I had learned. Why is it, that even when we know what to do, it so difficult to do? My frustration led me into reading all the self help and recovery books. I read the works of Virginia Satir, Alice Miller and John Bradshaw. It was here that I found a big piece of the puzzle. I learned that most of us grew up in “dysfunctional” families and the way that we parent our children is influenced much more strongly by what we subconsciously learned from our own experiences in childhood, than by what we now consciously learn from books. I concluded that, not only do we have to learn how children grow and develop, we have to discover where our own growth and development were wounded and do recovery work to heal ourselves so we can put into practice the things that we learn about child development. However, I soon learned that this is easier said than done. Often our childhood “stuff” doesn’t surface until we have our children and once we have them we are so busy trying to meet their needs that it’s very hard to take the time to focus on our recovery work.
About this time I read a book on home schooling by John Holt. In the John Holt catalogue, I found many treasures, including, The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff. Jean’s book transformed my whole concept of human development. I learned that parenting practices are cultural. The way we care for infants in our culture is not the same as much of the rest of the world. This discovery led me to study some sociology. I learned that in many other cultures babies are, and always have been, kept in constant human contact by being carried “in arms” or in a sling until they can crawl. They are breastfed and they sleep with their parents. I learned that many of the child behaviors we identify and accept as “normal” in our culture, are unheard of in these other cultures. When I learned that these parenting practices, that sound so radical to us in Western society, are the parenting practices that have insured the survival of the human species for millions of years, I was then compelled to study biological anthropology. I read everything I could get my hands on by Ashley Montagu. His work further convinced me that Jean Liedloff is absolutely right; our Western culture’s treatment of infants is a radical departure from nature’s plan and does not meet our biologically programmed human needs.
When we stopped keeping infants in constant close physical contact, by no longer carrying them on our bodies, we unknowingly derailed nature’s elegant plan to simultaneously provide the security that meets the human emotional need to feel welcome, wanted and loved, and the necessary sensory stimulation (touch and movement) for optimal brain growth and development. When we stopped breastfeeding our infants, we lost more than being fed the food that is perfectly designed by nature to meet our physical needs. We lost some of nature’s perfect design for bonding and building the foundation for all future relationships. These changes in parenting practices, brought about by Western culture’s “advanced” technology, are responsible for us un-suspectingly undermining our own well being.
One of the best analogies I’ve found for how our technological interference with nature’s plan for human development has affected us, is John Holt’s comparison of human beings to Bonsai trees. When you Bonsai a tree seedling, by limiting its supply of water, air and sun and doing all kinds of technical things to it, you can dwarf it into a miniature of its natural size. If you were to take that same seedling that you intended to Bonsai and put it back out into its natural environment, that seedling would grow to its natural size. Human beings, too, can be dwarfed into miniatures of their innate potential by doing all kinds of technical things to them as infants and limiting the supply of their species’ specific needs. It is not a coincidence that we are the most technologically advanced country in the world and that we also have the highest rate of crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse and child suicide in the world.
We human beings have incredible ability to adapt to just about any kind of treatment that allows us to physically survive. Ironically, one of our greatest abilities is also one of our greatest liabilities. We are so adaptable that you can do all kinds of harmful things to us and we find ways to survive. However, when we are forced to adapt to conditions that do not meet the needs of our biological design for growth and development we do not thrive. The crime, violence, and addiction we are experiencing in today’s society are the human attempt to adapt to an environment that has limited our supply of what our biological programming expects and needs. Just as we are realizing that we cannot mess with “mother nature” without experiencing repercussions like global warming, we are beginning to realize that we cannot tamper with nature’s plan for human development and not create chaos. Every day we are experiencing more and more of the repercussions of our Western culture’s technological tampering with nature’s plan for parenting.
Having learned these facts of human development, I thought, if we learn about child development, and recover from our own childhood wounds and return to breastfeeding our babies and keeping them in arms and sleeping with us, we can surely parent children who will have a better life than we have. This information became the basis of my “Meeting the Needs of Children” parenting series. While parents have been happy about learning things they can do differently to make life better for their children and themselves, they have also felt frustrated and guilty (as did I) that they didn’t have this information before they had their children. Since some especially enlightened, expectant parents had begun enrolling in my classes, I decided it made sense to offer a class specifically for expectant parents, so they could have this information “before” they had their children. This decision of course meant now I needed to learn all I could about pregnancy and birth.
Just when I thought I had this whole human development thing pretty well figured out, I discovered the work of Joseph Chilton Pearce and found the biggest piece of the parenting puzzle yet. I learned that our birth experience profoundly affects us developmentally as well as emotionally. We cannot disregard nature’s plan for mother/infant bonding, at the moment of birth, without jeopardizing the very foundation of our humanness, and compromising every other area of our human potential.
For over twenty five years, Joseph Chilton Pearce has been writing and lecturing all over the world about the damaging effects much of our modern childbirth technology has had and is having on mother/infant bonding. The information and research in his most famous book, Magical Child, written more than twenty years ago, has, until fairly recently, been largely ignored by most of Western culture. I guess either we weren’t ready to hear it or things hadn’t gotten bad enough for us to listen. His information is as true today as it was when he wrote it and has been even further well documented by our latest brain research. If we are really sincere about making the changes necessary to save our children, ourselves and our planet, we now need to hear what he has to say. Based on my years of human development research, twenty five years of experience working with children and parents, and the serious social problems we are facing, I consider Joseph Chilton Pearce’s work to be the most important information we could possibly seek out.
Joseph Chilton Pearce, father of five and grandfather of eleven, now in his eighties, has devoted the past thirty five years of his life to putting together and sharing the best research on human development, from the most brilliant minds from all over the world. Visit Joe’s page here and his work in the bookstore. Joe’s message will inspire as well as teach us how to reclaim and develop our human potential.