Image by Menka Sanghvi, Covent Garden 2016

I’m about to be a first-time mother soon and have been reading about different parenting philosophies and techniques.

My favourite books so far are: “How to Talk so Kids with Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk” by Faber and Mazlish (a classic), and “Gentle Parenting” by Hockwell-Smith which I loved. Oh, and “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm” which challenges all kinds of assumptions and left me feeling relaxed in the safe knowledge that there is no one right way.

From a neuroscientific perspective, however, it still feels quite overwhelming to think about the extreme plasticity of a young child’s brain and how easy it is to influence!

But the more I think about it, the more I see parenting as simply teaching a child what to pay attention to and what to ignore. In a nutshell, the challenge is going to be about shaping priorities or, in other words, helping the child create a hierarchy for attention.

I’m not sure that takes away the pressure, but it certainly provides a clear problem statement for the creative endeavour ahead! And if there is one thing I’ve learnt from years of problem-solving, it is that it is really important to understand the nature of the problem before responding to it.

In which case I might phrase the parenting challenge as: “How will I teach my child what is worth paying attention to?”