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Jean Piaget's Stance on Parenting in the Documentary Babies

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Many people have different opinions on what it takes to be a good parent. Possessing good qualities, skills and attitudes, along with making lifestyle adjustments are necessary, in order to receive the rewards and face the ongoing challenges of parenthood. A person’s natural instinct, from the heart, is usually the best guideline for child development. Hence, hands-on learning is the most suitable teaching method for a child to grasp, along with communication. With that being said, the movie Babies is a documentary that accompanies four newborns from diverse international countries with their corresponding cultures around the globe. Specifically, this documentary focuses on these countries being Namibia, Tokyo, Mongolia and San Francisco with the babies Ponijao, Mari, Bayar and Hattie, respectively. More importantly, each baby grows in various family customs, which reveals how the distinct traditions influence a child’s physical and mental growth. The film called Babies highlights the children’s cognitive, physical and social learning skills through their natural environment. Two babies are influenced quickly and the other two at a slower pace because of the cultural differences. Nevertheless, each baby learns at their own pace and comfort level. No to mention, there are theorists and theories that validate these essential developmental stages. To begin with, Jean Piaget’s (1896-1980) cognitive-developmental theory emphasized that children steadily create their individual learning and discovery as they shape and examine their environment (Barbara Ptyka, 2019). Moreover, a child’s cognitive growth takes place in sequential order with four stages being sensorimotor (birth-2 years old), preoperational (2-7 years old), concrete operations (7-11 years old) and formal operations stage (12+).

Thus, Jean Piaget concluded that children were not less knowledgeable than grownups. In other words, children are individually unique in their own way of thinking (Barbara Ptyka, 2019). Additionally, Erik Erickson introduced eight maturing stages from birth to death being trust versus mistrust (infancy to 18 months), autonomy versus shame and doubt (2-3 years old), initiative and guilt (3-5 years old), industry versus inferiority (6-11 years old), identity versus role confusion (12-18 years old), intimacy versus isolation, (19-40 years old), generativity versus self-absorption (40-65 years old) and integrity versus despair (65 years old to death). Each monumental interval determines their level of achievement through a distinct developmental obstacle that is fundamental to that distinct phase and must be settled (Barbara Ptyka, 2019). Specifically, during Piaget’s sensorimotor stage, a newborn’s understanding of their environment is restricted to their sensory judgments and motor skills. Children make use of their power to achieve the capabilities they naturally inherited, such as observing, gripping, sucking and hearing to gain more knowledge about their surroundings (Barbara Pytka, 2019). With regards to the movie Babies, this aforementioned theory of the sensorimotor stage is evident. In particular, when the babies were being breastfed, they all used their sensorimotor movement of sucking by using their mouth muscles and lips. Their natural-born instinct to latch on to their mother’s nipple is important because breast milk contains the essential vitamins and protein needed, which is ideal for their good health and growth. Another behaviour which these babies demonstrated during this stage is the aspect of their form of emotional communication. Generally, a baby will cry as an indicator to their mother that they are in distress, whether they are hungry, need a diaper change or want to be burped because of their discomfort.

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Once content, they will stop crying and will give a sigh of relief. As a matter of fact, baby Hattie from San Francisco was crying when she was hungry and immediately stopped when her mother bottle-fed her. Also, Mari from Tokyo was being burped right after being breastfed. Additionally, the mothers were directly talking to their babies in a high-frequency vocal tone because “the vowels are elongated and it’s quite musical in quality” (SECD,2019). Thus, the babies are encouraged to react and respond through their own form of acquiring language such as babbling, a hiccup, a smile, a grin and/or an eye blink. For example, baby Bayar from Mongolia smiled as soon as his mother communicated with him in a soft tone with direct eye contact. As a direct result, every baby in this documentary had an individual way of communicating, which is their approach in order to convey their emotions and not be ignored. Furthermore, during the trust versus mistrust stage of Erik Erikson, babies learn to believe that their parents will provide their essential requirements, including food, shelter and appropriate clothing. “For those infants whose feelings of discomfort or fear and apprehension outweigh their sense of trust that the world is a good and safe place, the outcome of the “crisis” will be negative and mistrust or lack of confidence in the care of others develops” (SECD, 2019). In other words, a child requires to be loved and taken care of and not neglected of their needs in order to attain the bond between a mother and her child. Otherwise, mistrust equates to unattachment and there is no true human bond, which may negatively affect a child’s physical and social interaction with others in their future. Attachment is “a deep and enduring affectionate bond that connects one person to another” (Barbara Pytka, 2019).

A display of non-attachment was evident from the Mongolian baby, Bayar, who rejected his mother’s nipple when she tried to feed him because he was isolated from human interaction for a long period of time. Hence, this was a result of him being neglected by his mother. On the other hand, a child’s genetics can be a contributing factor to their behaviour, with respect to trusting others because of their inherent DNA. This connects to the theory of nature versus nurture, whereas a child is not always impacted by their environments, family or culture since genetics also play a key role in one’s behaviour and or acceptance of interaction (Verywellmind, 2017). Ultimately, a child’s identity is regularly altering because of new knowledge and life skills acquired in ongoing social relationships within the family and others.

Last but not least, the strength of the sensorimotor theory is that a child will express their emotions immediately, which translates to their own language indicating all forms of emotions through their eyes and mind. Thus, attaining critical thinking. The weakness of Piaget’s stages is that they are strictly a guideline in order for a parent to assess their child’s progress and for them not to overreact when a child does not attain a particular function (ie object permanence where a child realizes that an item still exists even though they cannot see it) (SECD,2019). Not to mention, the strengths of Erik Erikson’s philosophy is ideal because it concentrates on a child’s milestone in each of his stages with a coinciding age range. Specifically, during infancy to eighteen months, feeding is an important milestone while from two to three years old, toilet training is a crucial event (Carmichael, 2019). However, Erikson’s developmental stages is also a guideline for a parent to follow and not consider it to be the absolute foundation of a child’s development. As a result, parents may worry that there is an issue with their child if a stage is not met and may add undue stress to the child because they are not accomplishing a specific milestone. Nevertheless, since each child is unique, some may attain a level prior to their expected stage while others may be delayed. Besides, early intervention is available, if needed.

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