There is no magic bullet for parenting

Wednesday February 03 2021
By Business Daily Africa

“What is the best formula for tracking brain development in toddlers? I am first-time mother and on a learning curve”


A quick Google search will answer your question by taking you to numerous websites that rank apps that help mothers such as you track mental and physical development of their children. They have fancy names such as Cloudy baby monitor, BabyGogo, Tinybeans, among others. In some ways you sound like the new owner of the latest washing machine and forgot to get the instruction manual. Indeed, parenthood is like being given a new complex piece of equipment to look after for 20 or 30 years without any instructions or warranty.

It is a great wonder to many that since Adam and Eve, we have brought up generation after generation through the now perfected method of guesswork. Or is it pure guesswork?

Many years ago with Oxford University Press, we published a book meant to cover some of the issues that arise from your question. It was my response to the frequent question asked by parents and teachers about parenting. Under the title, What’s wrong with this child, a guide for teachers and parents, it attempted to anticipate some of the common issues raised by parents and was based on some of the questions raised by parents and teachers asked during the lectures I used to give at the time.

Time has moved on and now you would like to have not a book, but an app to track progress! My advice today is for you to research as much as you can and between you and others involved in the care of the baby, get on with it just as all the other billions of parents are doing today. Parenthood comes naturally to some.


One thing that young parents need to hear is that we all started in the same boat and that complex as the process seems to be at the beginning, it is worth noting that chickens, goats, cats and even elephants make for pretty good parents without any manuals or apps! How, you might ask is that possible? The answer is that nature has its own secrets that it passes on to succeeding generations in this cycle that we call life. Too simple I hear you say and your thirst for greater clarity in this matter is understandable.

Sadly for you and you will soon find out, no single formula will work for all parents and each mother will have to be prepared to utilise all the resources at her disposal and be prepared to get some things right the first time and to get others right a little later. To make your life a little more challenging, each pregnancy is different and unique as is the level of preparedness to the state of parenthood.

Some get to be parents by accident and at an early age while others get to be parents after many years of trying to achieve this most noble of human stations. Others choose not to be parents while others achieve this by adopting a child.

The permutations are very many and each parent has their own unique experience. The joys and challenges that come to all these mothers are coloured by their own backgrounds, experiences of childhood, absence or presence of a partner as well as the help say from the child’s grandparents that may of not be available or desired.

Other important variables that cover my field of work are the mental state of the new mother. Some 15 percent of all new mothers develop one form or other of postnatal depression which, if not recognised or treated can lead to serious challenges in parenting. In this condition, the new mother becomes overwhelmed by sadness, has no love for her baby and fears that she might harm or even kill her baby. Sadness and desperation is compounded by feelings of lack of self worth, lack of sleep and appetite as well as irritability and stands in the way of relationships ranging from spouse to house help to her baby.

Your question seeks a simple answer to how you can manage the toddler now in your arms; my answer does not provide the simple answer but is intended to tell you two seemingly contradictory things.

First that in all probability things will as they have done for billions of others turn out to be fine. The second is that you must allow yourself to continuously learn from those before you like your parents and aunts, on how best to confront this wonder of parenthood.

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