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Parenting Guide Sheets
2. Starting from Scratch

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Introduction to this Page

If you are expecting a baby and are waiting to become a parent, you may be wondering what you can do to prepare yourself for what is coming – and going through these pages will hopefully create a good foundation for you. But if you think you are on a major learning curve, just think for a moment what sort of learning curve your baby is going to be on.

This page helps you think a little about your baby’s learning to live and what you can do to help it. Now note that we didn’t just say “your baby’s learning” because when we say that most people start thinking about reading and going to school and things like that, but this is much bigger than that – this includes everything. This is an exciting page. Are you ready?

1. Starting from a Blank Slate?
2. Writing on the Slate
3. Experiences of the Foetus
4. Working this out
5. And so….

1. Starting from a Blank Slate?

I want you to imagine your baby’s mind before it is born. I want you to imagine its mind as a slate, a blackboard, or even simply just a sheet of paper – and it is blank.  If it was a computer hard drive it doesn’t have anything on it. Onto this ‘slate’ is information which the baby will learn to process and this process is what we call ‘learning’.

But actually it isn’t just blank; there are three things it already has on this slate or hard-drive.

First, it has some invisible writing on it because this little baby is carrying the genes of its parents and the best we can say in simple terms is that this little baby is going to have some of the tendencies of its two parents. As a child grows, listen to the conversations that go on: “Isn’t she like her Mum” or “Isn’t he like his Dad,” and they don’t just mean in looks. No, your child is going to carry some of the tendencies that each of you has, but that is all they are, tendencies. They will have a propensity or tendency to follow in your mould. Even if they had been separated from you at birth, they would exhibit some things seen in you both.  

Second, they have what we call natural instincts which appear in your baby in the form of natural responses, so it (a) cries when it senses fear or discomfort and it will (b) suckle when presented with a milk-bearing nipple. It will also (c) respond positively to warmth, security and anything that feels good to it. Now I’ve just mentioned three things that are going to help you understand and help your baby.

We said it cries when everything is not wonderful for it – it senses fear, discomfort, and hunger. This crying tells you that it has a need that it wants you to meet and you’ll do it in days to come by cuddling it (creating warmth and security), feeding it (satisfying its need for food) and changing its nappies (making it more comfortable). By using soothing and repetitive words it will learn that this is comforting, encouraging and secure. Those were your responses to its natural responses. You will not need to teach your child to respond in those ways; it will do it naturally.

Third, already the senses of the growing foetus in your womb will have communicated something to this new little life which will surface in it later, and we’ll consider this after the next paragraph. We’ll go on to suggest in a while that this growing child in the womb feels some of your emotions.  So we’ve equated senses with feelings here.

But when we usually speak about the five senses we mean sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. Now these are all there in your infant when it is born but completely undeveloped. All your child will know is that as hours and days pass some experiences seem pleasurable and some not so pleasurable - but the senses are there, getting ready to operate and teach your child things.

2. Writing on the Slate

So, we’ve suggested, apart from the three things above, your baby’s mind is like a blank slate. Thus when it sees you for the first time, it doesn’t think, “Human being” or “mother”. It has no vocabulary and no reference point for shapes, colours and sounds. EVERYTHING is going to be learnt.  

All it knows in those opening moments of its life out in the world, is movement and senses. Gradually it will realise that some things are pleasurable (the warmth and closeness of its mother) and some are not. Colic pain, for instance is discomfort caused by indigestion and your child will probably respond to that discomfort with crying.  “Help me mummy, help this pain go away,” is one of its earliest communications without words.

Every experience is something to be written on this slate of your child’s mind – and it is your child that is ‘writing’ on the slate, not you. You may contribute to what it ‘writes’ and that is really what this page is all about.  

From now on your interaction with your baby will enable your child to write something more on the slate of its mind. When you hold it, sing to it, talk to it, rock it gently, play with it, eat with it and so on as it grows up, you will be enabling your child to learn so that learning gets added to the slate. After a while the concept of a slate becomes inadequate and the picture of a hard drive which can hold infinitely more information may be more appropriate.

We will, in subsequent pages refer back to this concept so make sure you have it clear in your mind. Let’s move on to what your child may be picking up while still in the womb as a starting place for how you can influence your child for good.

For the moment though, let’s see how this works, even from the time when your baby is still in the womb
Continuing Part 2 of this Page

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