If you are not going to read any parenting book and decided to solely rely on your instincts or listen to your mom, I still advise you to skim and scan What every parent needs to know by Margot Sunderland. It is a practical guide that enables new parents to make informed decisions on child-rearing, using the most up-to-date scientific research in neuroscience and psychology.
Scientific studies show that childhood experience with parents dramatically affects children’s developing brain and has long-term consequences on their physical and mental health.
Margot Sunderland is a psychotherapist and Director of Education and Training in the Centre for Child Mental Health based in London but also a mother who can relate to the everyday struggles that parents face. She collaborates with Jaak Panksepp, an American expert in neuroscience for the second and most recent edition of the book (2016).
Parents will find evidence-based recommendations across eleven chapters covering different angles of child-rearing, including sleep, play and discipline. These recommendations aim at optimizing neural-chemistries in children’s brain and widely contrast with the commonly accepted practices you will hear from older generations.
Although a lot of scientific information is present in the book, arguments remain accessible to a wide audience. Plenty of images and case studies support the explanatory text, which allow for a pleasant reading pace.
Margot Sunderland challenges us to ask ourselves how our parenting choices affect our children’s affective and cognitive abilities which will in turn impact their long-term wellbeing.
At the end of the book, there is a 22-page-long section on physically and emotionally looking after yourself, which I initially regarded as far less important than the other chapters. But motherhood taught me it is key to regulate my own emotions, sleep enough and have breaks that invigorate my mind, so do not make the same mistake of overlooking this final chapter!