Transcript: Early Childhood Development – Shaping Your Little One’s Mindset & Behavior For Success

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Early Childhood Development – Shaping Your Little One’s Mindset & Behavior For Success and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: Not surprisingly, most episodes of First Time Mum’s Chat are focused on providing mums with tips and strategies to help launch them on their parenting journey. This week’s guest Dr. Ravi Rajaratnam, is a management consultant. So what does a management consultant have to offer someone commencing their parenting journey?

Well, Dr. Ravi is an accomplished mentor, coach, and speaker, and specializes in mind and brain wellness and has spent decades teaching business leaders to reach their full potential. He realized that there is a common theme that kept popping up, their belief systems, which always led back to their childhood.

This led Dr. Ravi to write his book, Hardwiring vs. Rewiring, in which he reveals how to strategies to hardwire the right skills in your little one, during their early childhood development stages. All new parents, anyone involved in the role of caregiving will learn a lot from Dr. Ravi in this episode.

So without further ado, let’s get onto the interview…

Hi, Dr. Ravi, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here and I can’t wait to hear all about your new book and how it can help first time mums.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Thanks Helen, it’s good to be here. My name is Ravi Rajaratnam. I’m originally from Malaysia and I was born in Malaysia, came to the United States back in the mid 1980s and I’ve been in the United States ever since. Currently I reside in San Diego, California, married with three adult wonderful children pursuing their own passion and career.

By trade I am a strategic advisor, a coach, a mentor, and also now an author and one of the biggest things that really gives me energy is developing people. I’ve dealt with a lot of executives and leaders, making them be the best version of themselves and through that journey, whenever I’m working with people that are underperforming, when I peel the onion, when I try to go to the root cause of why they’re underperforming, it always led to their childhood. And that was one of the impetus for why I needed to write this book called Hardwiring Versus Rewiring.

Helen Thompson: I love that name. It sounds to me a bit like it’s sort of electrical, you’re hardwiring and rewiring something in the house. But as you say, it’s rewiring your brain and working out what happened in your childhood, which I think sounds great.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Yeah, absolutely Helen, because if you were to go in and type in the word healing your inner child, that’s the new word right now you know, in terms of healing, your inner child to basically rewire, if your audience is in the computer, they should type in “healing your inner child” and you’ll get at least 40 to 50 million results come back. And that shows you how important it is because your inner child is where your subconscious is and subconscious mind is where your emotions, your memories, your beliefs of the past reside, right? But then if you step back and you say, why are we healing our inner child when our inner child needs to be filled with laughter and joy and safety and comfort and security and things like that, right. That’s because a lot of them have issues. And that’s one of the reasons why I was compelled to write this book because rather than doing it reactively, rewiring at a later stage, how about getting parenting right beginning while the child is born by hardwiring the right skillset, the mindset and behaviors.

Helen Thompson: And connecting to those as well. I know you have three main areas that you talk about in the book and one of them cognitive development, I think that this language and I think there’s another one, I can’t remember what that one is.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Yes, so that’s another interesting point you mention that because as parents, we don’t really have an instruction manual. Right, so we do our best based on how we were raised and what we think is good. So one of the things that I laid out in the book is what are the early childhood development skills? So besides the motor skills, which are more visible right, you have cognitive skills, you have language and communication and you have social and emotional skills and if you look at it at very, very high level, healthy development of the cognitive skills would result into like education, success, and, you know, professional things like that and the healthy development of the language and communication and social and emotional, leads to its social success. Again, that’s a very, very high level because all pre-skills need to be nurtured for you to be successful. And the other interesting thing is if you look at these three skills that I talked about, they’re directly related to the 21st century skills, which are cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that are very, very important.

So there’s definitely a connection. So what I’ve laid out in the book is to give them an understanding, what are the early childhood development skills, when is the critical period for brain development, because zero to five is what the critical age is because a baby is born with a blank canvas. So 0 to 5 is when the baby’s brain grows the biggest to adult size, by age three 80%, by five years old, it grows to over 90% of the adult size. So that’s the period where your brain is at the highest neuroplasticity where everything is getting absorbant. A clear example is if you see a child or someone who’s younger, the ability for them to learn and speak multiple languages, as opposed to trying to learn it later on, because why, the neuroplasticity is the highest at 0 – 5.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot rewire a brain. You can, but it’s much lengthier and messier process because you need to first understand what the root cause of the pain was during childhood, recognize it, and then deal with it and then try to rewire that. So, again, going back to, if you’re a parent, if you are a childcare provider, if you’re an educator, equip yourself with the strategies that have laid out in the book to nurture the healthy development, the early childhood development.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it’s interesting, you say how 0 – 5 is the age where the brain develops because I come from a childcare background and I also teach baby massage and I’m very much aware of how baby massage can help with the brain development, because it’s talking to the baby, communicating with the baby. Everything you do, you touch and you’re communicating, you’re working with their senses and babies are very intuitive. People say to me, but how can you talk to a baby? Babies don’t understand, but babies understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Absolutely, whatever words you speak, all of a sudden they repeat it. How did they get that? They were absorbing it while you’re speaking and things like that. And you mentioned touch with what you do with baby massage and things like that. That is so critical Helen, because our body is, basically there’s two systems. One is the growth and the other one is the relaxing, so when we are stress, right, the body suppresses the growth system because we are in a fight or flight response.

We wanna survive, right? Because we wanna run from the animal or we want to get out the danger and things like that. So what the body does is it suppresses the growth system. Growth systems is what’s required for you to nurture all the development skills. So if the baby is stressed, right, if they’re not having the right attention, they’re not getting the comfort, they’re not being touched, touch alone and hugging and talking to them, that does wonders because that gives them safety. And when their safety, when they’re in the safety zone, then they’re growing and you’re surviving, you’re not growing. You’re not thinking about, okay, I’m growing, I just want to get out of this danger. So it’s important. Touch is very important.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, babies strive on touch. Somebody once told me a story about a baby in an orphanage who wasn’t touched, wasn’t communicated with, they were just lying in the cot, they were cold, they were miserable and they just didn’t thrive until somebody came and picked that child up and instantly they started responding, started smiling, started communicating with that person, because, wow, you’ve picked me up and you’ve cuddled me and you’ve communicated with me, I haven’t had any of this. Somebody told me that story and I thought that was very interesting.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Yeah. I have that in my book as well, to give a graphic example, how neglect causes the child to be developmentally delayed. You know, talking about developmentally delayed, if you look at the United Nations statistics right now, they claim that 250 million children under the age of 5 are developmentally delayed, 250 million! That should be shocking to everybody and under the age of 5 and we know 0 to 5 is a critical period.

Guess what? What’s gonna happen when these people grow up, going to adulthood? You’re gonna have all these different social issues. So regardless, even if you’re not a parent or a child caregiver, you need to start taking action and understand what’s going on around the world. Let’s pay more attention to this, right and try to play more full out as opposed to doing part-time parenting.

Helen Thompson: Definitely and giving them the opportunity to communicate with you and talk to you and not always telling them to be quiet. Giving them a chance to hear what they’ve got to say as well. Cuz that brings in the social skills as well, because you are encouraging them to be sociable, you’re encouraging them to express themselves.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Exactly, we will say things to kids like, at least when I was growing up, right when I was outside, not necessarily from my family, they’d say, try harder. It’s like, how am I gonna try harder if you haven’t given me any strategies on how to try harder, right. So that’s one thing and then on the emotional side, oh boys don’t cry, you know, tough it up. It’s like, no, understand the emotions. Why are you having these emotions? Talk about them and tell them how you deal with it, right? Because if we haven’t given them those strategies, they’ll grow up as adults and still have that. That’s why we have this Freudian slip, right because it’s back in our subconscious. So as an adult, once in a while, we slip up and when we know why that happened, well it happened during childhood, and that’s why.

Helen Thompson: With what you do, do you support people who have got childhood issues? If somebody came to see you, would you actually support them with those childhood issues? Would you give them tools of how to deal with those?

Ravi Rajaratnam: Absolutely and the biggest thing Helen, is you don’t need any expensive gadgets. You know, the best toy the child could have as a parent, a lot of parenting is role modeling. How are you talking to the child? When you’re talking to the child are you looking at their eyes or are you multitasking? Are you looking at your smartphone, are you doing something else and things like that, right? How are you talking to others, are you being respectable, are you being conscientious? The kids are observing all that, right? So you role model, even if a child would’ve asked you a question and you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say, you know what, Helen, I don’t know the answer, but let’s figure it out together. Let’s go find out how we can find the answer. You’re giving them problem solving skills. So you don’t need any kind of gadgets or anything like that, just simple parenting.

All I have to do is do a quick assessment with the parents. You know, it’s like, okay, when a child throws a tantrum, what do you do? The important thing is let them know that I hear you, I know there’s something going wrong with you. I dunno what it is. You need to communicate to me. Unless you calm down and communicate to me we can’t have this conversation, mommy or daddy can’t help you right? But we’re always here and we always love you.

Helen Thompson: You’ve gotta give that space to calm down because they’re not gonna be able to communicate with you when they’re in that state, because they’re just so emotional and so upset.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Then if you do the punishment, that doesn’t work either. Because after parents punish them, what they do, they feel guilty and they start rewarding them, so the child gets conditioned, oh, this what happens if this happens, you know mommy and daddy will get angry, they’ll punish you, but then we’ll get this big reward later on, right. To your point earlier, even if they don’t understand, you’re talking to them, you’re interacting with them, showing them, this is how you deal with the world. When you’re working in an office, you just throw a tantrum with your boss or the workplace if you can get away with it.

Helen Thompson: Yes, that’s right. But then if they haven’t been taught that as a child, they’re not going to know that are they? They’re not gonna know how to communicate and be sociable.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Yep and what’s so important about 0 to 5 and the early childhood development skills is because 95% of what we do, our day to day operations, how we think, how we process, it’s all coming from the subconscious. Only 5% of the time we are consciously doing something. And a simple example would be driving the car. When you’re initially driving the car, you’re paying attention to everything and things like that, until you became an expert, you put in your subconscious and you drive from point A to B and you don’t even know how you drove there and you’re thinking about multiple other things, right? And that’s where 95% of what you do is in subconscious. So if the subconscious was nurtured healthily, guess what, you’ll do well. If it’s toxic or had a lot of stress or trauma, guess what, that’s, what’s gonna happen in adulthood. So that’s why you see, you know, rewiring process is essentially reparenting and it’s a multimillion dollar industry. Not that I’m knocking them, because a lot of this situation it could be because it was a single parent or a broken family or lack of role model or whatever, it causes pain and anxiety. So it’s just important that if you have not in that environment, make sure that you are parenting full out. I say, like a hundred percent rather than doing part-time parenting, right, when you are with them. Understand you have to work and things like that but when you are with them, right, you wanna make sure you’re there, a hundred percent.

Helen Thompson: And that’s hard for parents sometimes I think because they may be stressed and they may be worked up but I think you’ve just gotta take a big, deep breath in and just relax and just say, okay, can you give me a few minutes and then I’ll come and talk to you and let them know that you are like that because I think it’s important for parents to let their children know that it’s okay to be stressed and it’s okay to be worked up, but to also show them what the next step is, give them the opportunity to come back to you and talk to you if they need to.

Would you agree with that?

Ravi Rajaratnam: Absolutely because you’re also teaching them that how to deal with stress, right? Like say, if they want to go play with another boy or girl their age and they don’t wanna do it, you don’t enforce it. How do you do that? That’s a similar example. There’s so many learning experience that you could use in day to day activities, teaching a child, how you cope with this and that works wonders at adulthood.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think what you say is, is very valid and I would hope that parents understand that. Cause I think a lot of them are stressed and a lot of them are worked up with the world that’s going on. We’ve had COVID we’ve umpteen things that are making parents more stressed and take getting their kids off school and getting them back to school. There’s been a lot of strategies in the world recently.

Ravi Rajaratnam: I agree with you and that’s one of the number one things a parent could do, and it works for adults as well. Reduce the amount of stress you’re exposing to the child. So adults and child. So because if you look at all the different diseases and things like that, if you look at the root cause it’s because of stress, chronic stress, a little bit of stress is good but not stress that is prolonged where it becomes chronic. And that’s when you get all these different diseases and things like that, and giving them strategy on how to deal with stress, right? Simple things, like taking a deep belly breath in and activating the vagus nerve. Oh my God, that worth wonders.

Nobody taught me that, I had to learn it later on. Giving those strategies to your child it’s like, just take a deep breath, relax, cuz you have the blood flow and things like, okay, calm down. And there are other things like, I always kid with my kids, it’s the reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth, like, listen first before you speak.

Seek first to understand before being understood and different strategies like whatever they do at work. If they get a nasty email from somebody else, go ahead and don’t respond to the email, but maybe put it in your inbox for a while, sit on it for 24 hours and then the next day you look at it, oh my God, I’m glad I didn’t send it. Then tone down the message and things that, similar to the child, they’re learning. So take a deep breath. Okay, let me deal with it later on, what can I do and use the same strategies. I love working with people whenever they have these kinds of issues, because it’s just like a, sometimes it works like you are a private eye or police officer asking all these probing questions and things like that, but all starts with an assessment.

And I have a simple formula too in my book that talked about stop, stop, and continue. Basically start looking at all the things that you’re doing right now, that is promoting a healthy development of the early childhood development skills. So what are some of the things you need to start doing if you’re not doing, and then start looking at all the things that you should stop doing that are detrimental to the healthy development, and then what are some of the things that you’re doing good that you should continue doing?

So it’s like a stop, stop, continue, quick assessment, oh, okay take a check and go forward.

Helen Thompson: And I think it’s good to have a self check because then it gives you the time to regulate yourself. So you know where your at, so then you can help your child. It’s like that scenario in an airplane. Take the oxygen before you give the oxygen to a child. Because if you don’t have the oxygen, you’re not gonna be able to help the child. And I remember saying that to my father and he just didn’t understand that, he turned around to me and said, oh, but you’re my daughter, I need to support you, I need to help you. But I said, dad, yes, you do and I appreciate that. But. I said, if you don’t help yourself first, you are not going to be in a position to help me. And he found that strategy quite hard to relate to.

So if anybody wanted to find out about you and find your book, how would they go about doing that?.

Ravi Rajaratnam: So my website is probably the best resource it’s and I got all my social media handles there and have more information about the resources. I also have a lot of resources that I’ve used during my research for writing the book from the Centers for Disease Control and things like that and there’s a whole lot of things.

The biggest thing is, first of all, understanding what are the early childhood development skills. That’s number one. Two understand what are the critical brain development time, 0 – 5 and then look at the sensitive period of brain development because cognitive grows at a different time during 0 – 5 the most, versus language and communication, social, emotional, and then start putting together a strategy in terms of how do you, in the book, I talk about the four C’s that parents or childcare providers or educators can embed and practice and teach kids.

It’s basically, curiosity, conscientiousness, critical thinking and compassion and they’re all directly tied to cognitive intrapersonal interpersonal skills to the 21st century skills. So simple strategies where you can embed it in your day to day activities and interaction, that’ll go a long way.

And I pretty much just laid it out, giving examples what you can do, whether it is changing a diaper or whether you are having a bath with them or feeding time and things like that. How can you embed conscientiousness and critical thinking and things like that.

Helen Thompson: I like the curiosity because young children have so much curiosity. That’s why they ask the questions why, why, why because they’re so curious and they like to learn, they like to find out things. They’re wanting to find out information and I think when they start doing that, give them the information that they know and be honest with them too. If they ask you a question, that may be a bit hard to answer, be honest with them and tell them the truth or say to them, look, let’s find a book so that you can have a look at this and I can read it to you so you can learn more.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Exactly because if you only look at curiosity, I think that’s the basis for innovation as well. Just look at the definition of curiosity itself. It is a strong desire to learn and know something. Actually that not only in sparks innovation to also spark interesting motivation to learn experience and understand the environment and the world. It’s just so critical and again, like I said earlier, 250 million children under the age of 5 are developmentally delayed, when you have the power to change that, especially when you have 140 million babies being born every year. So if you’re a parent, there’s no excuse for you to just equip yourself with the simple strategies so that you can nurture them correctly and you’re not adding to that 250 million statistic.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and I’ll just finish with saying that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do that. Parents don’t have to think, oh gosh, I’ve gotta do all these things, I’ve gotta send them to an expensive boarding school and I’ve gotta do all this. You don’t have to do that because just taking them outside and doing things with them and introducing them to problem solving toys and communicating with them and talking to them all the time, you are giving them all that anyway.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Exactly and your point earlier about talking to them, that’s where they increase their vocabulary and there’s also a research that was done where people in different social, economic situations, the number of words that they have in their vocabulary is much less than a parent that both professionals working.

But just because you are in a different socio-economic area, it doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to them. You just mimic everything you’re doing.

Helen Thompson: I could talk to you for ages about this because I’m passionate about child development too, because of what I do, but is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish?

Ravi Rajaratnam: There is a section on my website if anybody has any question, feel free to send me an email. I’ll be more than happy to answer that. I’m more than happy to work with you. I do a lot of speaking engagements as well across the globe. So there is an opportunity for anybody who wants more about what I’ve just talked about. I’m more than happy to talk about that as well.

Helen Thompson: Well thank you, Dr. Ravi, I’ll put everything you’ve mentioned in the show notes, so that people have access to that. And it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I find this subject very interesting, cuz I think a lot of parents may not be aware of the things they can do to help their child so thank you for sharing your knowledge on that.

Ravi Rajaratnam: Thank you so much. My mission is to get my book out to the 140 million parents who are having babies every year.

Helen Thompson: Dr. Ravi revealed some great tips and insights in this episode, and I highly recommend checking out his website and new book. That United Nations figure of 250 million children under the age of 5 being developmentally delayed is going to haunt me for some time. I encourage you to challenge yourself to ensure you are not adding to that statistic with your parenting.

I’ve included links to these in the episode show notes, which can be accessed at