The smart brain parenting challenge

Parenting the smart brain way means playing the long game.  Sure, it’s fine to throw in a few quick wins and we’ve all used snacks and screens to maintain our parental sanity but when it comes to the things that really matter it’s time to limber up and consciously grab hold of the bigger picture.

Because doing this makes the small daily decisions easier – we just keep in line with our values.

It couldn’t be simpler. 

Step 1

Think about the skills and qualities you would wish for your child to develop as they grow. The choices are endless – mine might look like..

Confident, empathetic, hardworking, caring, creative

This helps me plan my approach - if I want my child to be confident I’m going to have to allow her to make mistakes, let her try by herself, support her to step outside of her comfort zone.

If I want her to be empathetic I’ll have to teach her to interpret feelings. I’ll talk about how people look when they’re sad and happy, what anger feels like, and I’ll be empathetic to her feelings even when I’m not giving her what she wants.

It might take a little longer to help her understand that she’s sad rather than just giving her a snack to cheer her up. Or we’ll be ten minutes late because I’ve waited for her to do her shoes by herself.

That’s smart brain parenting using the long game.

Because we talk about brains being use dependant but what does that really mean?

It means that these skills don’t just develop on their own by a predetermined biological timeframe, it’s a reciprocal process of learning from our experiences and the world around us. Our children need many opportunities to cultivate these skills and it won’t always be a smooth ride.

Step 2

Think about how you want your child to feel about your relationship.

Mine might be..

Warm, fun, supportive, unconditional, honest

So that means that I’ll have to take steps to make those feelings happen. We know that little brains need lots and lots of repetition for the neural connections to be formed. That means during the early years I’ll have to answer her cries hundreds and hundreds of times, day and night. But I’ll know that I’m laying a strong foundation of trust where she knows implicitly that I’m there no matter what.

If I want her to think I’m fun – I’ll have to be fun and take time out to mess around and be silly with no particular purpose.

We know that having a brain that works in an integrated way is key for many aspects of success in later life (check out a video we made on that here). Different parts of our brains are activated in response to different stimuli so I’ll make sure that our fun is varied. We’ll sing and dance, climb outside, play make believe, play games with rules, tidy games and messy games – you get the picture I’ll be helping her to develop in a holistic way and enjoying myself.

Step 3

Finally I’ll hold the really long game in mind. I’ll remind myself that a day will come when she won’t need me so much or even live with me.

Think about what you want your child to remember about growing up.

I’d love my daughter to remember..

Days out, big family meals, hugs and kisses, bedtime stories, football in the park, baking.

Some of those will happen everyday and others won’t.

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of modern life, sleepwalking through working, cooking, cleaning and bedtime but when you play the long game the horizon expands and the washing up recedes. It doesn’t mean that the tasks disappear or that we need to constantly be doing our best Mary Poppins impression but having an idea of where we’re headed makes the little steps easier.


That’s smart brain parenting the long game. Consciously.