"Parenting is the ultimate daredevil activity."

Parenting is the ultimate daredevil activity, says arts education expert Judith McLean.

“When you think about the word daredevil, the combination of the words actually mean someone who knows the risks but does it anyway and I guess parenting is a lot like that,” says Professor McLean.

The professor’s list of risks include a lack of sleep for years, incessant worry if the child is in trouble or in pain and the financial costs of children.

“Parenting is the ultimate daredevil activity. You know all of the minuses about children and then you go and do it because procreation is inherently human,” said the professor.


A base jumper leaps off Kuala Lumpur Tower. Image via iSTock.

Brain development is a 50/50 deal.

The QUT Chair of Arts Education and QPAC Scholar in Residence has been focusing her work on the "brave" act of raising a child and believes that parents have a huge impact on their child’s development.

"The most daredevil thing I think we do - that we’re not even aware of -  is that when we bring a child into the world we are responsible for shaping that human being and that brain is our co-creation and that just blows people away," she said.

A parent are responsible for half of their child's brain development, says the professor, or say 25 per cent if sharing the parenting equally with a partner.


A mother and son take a toboggan ride. Image via iStock.

Parenting disagreements are an opportunity.

"To ensure that the daredevil activity doesn’t get away from us and doesn’t end disastrously, is to start with the self as a parent and to look at and make sense of our own early life and that’s not to just remember  - it’s to make sense of make a coherent picture out of it."

"We need to understand where our values and beliefs come from to make sure that we’ve made sense of them, and they’re the values and beliefs that we hold and not just our parents. This is the time as young mothers and young fathers that more than ever we need to understand our value system," said Professor McLean.

One of the ways she suggests parents can discover and question their values and beliefs is through their own disagreements.

"When there is a disagreement that is the richest opportunity for you to go back and lay bare where that value system came from," said professor McLean.

She says locating our own beliefs is an "enormous opportunity to form your own coherent narrative and the narrative you want your own child to have".

Children need "in between" spaces to thrive.

Professor McLean's outlook is informed by psychologist Mary Ainsworth's attachment theories. Ainsworth's famous strange situation experiment highlighted various forms of attachment  - including the idea of a securely attached baby.  In the experiment a securely attached baby would cry when their parent left but was able to regulate their emotions, be involved in another activity and be happy to see their caregiver when they returned. 


Building a secure attachment also ties in with Paediatrician DW Winnicott’s concept of transitional space. 

"DW Winnicott came up with this notion of this transition space so if you’ve got the mother and the baby and the baby is playing there’s a space between called the holding space or the transition space -  which is a space that could be physical or could be metaphorical - but you’ve got to allow the baby to come in and out of that space so that they start to differentiate and become their own person," said Professor McLean.

"If they’re continually held there’s no chance that’ll you’ll build a resilient child because they don’t get to experience the space in between, so building 'in between' spaces is the most critical thing you can do for your child."


Children need "in between" spaces. Image via iStock. 

The thrill of having children.

To let children have their own successes and to connect with rich experiences and flow is all part of building their resilience says the professor.

She says raising children is a "clear and present danger" but the "richest repository" for parents to be able to learn who they are.

"Being a daredevil parent means letting your child run ahead of you. Letting your child leave you and explore," she said.

"You know with daredevil activities how exciting it is when you do them and it works, it’s the biggest adrenaline thrill that you could ever have."

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