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A Few Words Before We Begin…
This book was born in 2005. Since then so much more has come to light—explaining ever more clearly why childhood is so formative for the rest of a human’s lifespan and for society as a whole. Furthermore, I am gratified to see that the most exciting and revolutionary advances in child-developmental science have escaped the confines of academia and begun filtering into the media. Today, it is commonplace to hear that key early childhood experiences can change the course of brain development, rewrite our genomic expression, and therefore alter the course of our character, relationships and societies. We live in a time of awakenings. The writing is boldly on the wall—calling for us to elevate the importance of parenting and education and to support these most vital functions accordingly.
Wherever models of parenting and education have kept evolving, there has been a measurable dividend in terms of increased democracy and reduced violence. This book proposes this formula: “better childhoods equal a more peaceful world.” The years since first publication have seen this formula well corroborated in many places around the world. Anyone who strives towards the betterment of children’s lives will be potently encouraged when reading some of the evidence I have added in this second edition. Every parent and every teacher has the power to send invisible yet transformative ripples around the community, society and world. It falls upon all policymakers to do the same, with each and every stroke of their pens. The new data in the Addenda in the back of the book embodies my intention to strengthen and update this manifesto for improving all our children’s wellbeing. Each section that has an addendum has its title marked with “addendum” after it.
I have lost no enthusiasm for the message within these pages. If anything, I have gained more urgency. For, as humanity learns to forego the relentless, internecine violence that stains our histories, a new brand of violence threatens to engulf us. We are, with each passing year, bleeding our Earth, infecting our atmosphere, and poisoning our water. We have become a terracidal species. Perhaps the locus of human empathy is beginning to extend beyond kin, tribe, race and even nation. But we are yet to discover an abiding empathy for the living earth that sustains and pleasures us. And unless we evolve quickly enough, this contempt for non-human living systems will destroy us.
I often find myself wondering whether social evolution will outpace our capacity to self-destruct by laying waste our biosphere— and I worry for our children and their children. Scientists warn us that the impact of anthropogenic climate change has entered into a new and more devastating phase. Thousands die and crops are lost as wild weather rages; and still our carbon emissions keep rising around the world. Some voices claim inevitability: “There are simply too many of us!” Scratch the surface of this trite rationale. “Overpopulation” and “progress” are the passive apologia that cement the status quo for the comfort of the powerful. We already have all of the capacity and know-how that we need for a switch to sustainable industry and development. What we need more of is the will, commitment and spirit to make the bold adaptations that will temporarily inconvenience the few, for the liberation of the whole; for the love of our children and our descendants. A great burst of love is needed more than ever, a collective evolutionary lunge forward, with passion, with hands held across the globe—our circumstance demands it.
I am thrilled to breathe new life into this book. The Addenda contain new information that has moved me, excited me and fascinated me, modifying and enhancing the original text considerably. Since the first edition, wherever I have learned new information that has required me to amend earlier viewpoints, I have done so. For example, further reading and study taught me a crucial new story about the evolution of human empathy, making more sense for me out of the human predilection for competitiveness and aggression as adaptations to centuries of adversity. I have also included new learnings about the astonishing mysteries of brain development in childhood, the effects of outsourced childcare, the fraught subject of nighttime parenting, and much more that will be of service to parents, teachers and health professionals.
I chose to keep the body of the text intact so you can see, as you delve into the Addenda at the back, how some of the views presented in the original text have become stronger while others have evolved and taken a new shape. You will also see that a small fraction of the data in the main text is now outdated, which I have largely left intact as a nod to the passing of time—a reference to the rapidity of social and technological evolution. However, most of the information in the text is unchanged by the years—timeless.
My intention is that this book will not be merely a snapshot in time, but a living, breathing and evolving organism, capable of learning, adapting and growing. It is a dialogue rather than a treatise. Since the first edition, I have continued to write both articles that have been translated and re-published around the world, and a second book, Heart-to-Heart Parenting. I have been touched and privileged to receive many invitations to deliver keynote addresses, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, family law practitioners and health professionals around Australia, New Zealand, the UK and US. My readers, clients and participants have been, and will continue to be, my teachers. Your feedback helps to shape the course I navigate in study, therapy, writing and discourse.
This book will be an adventure; don’t be surprised if it is transformative in some way. I hope the tale it tells will touch you, move you—though at times it may shock and upset you. I also hope that in the end it will inspire and further empower you. Such is the overwhelming feedback I have received from readers around the world since the first edition. I welcome you to this journey.