By Michael Ahrens
Many education commentators argue that the lives of parents have become so complex that the basis of most parents' childrearing behaviors is to leave their child's development, particularly in the early years to "chance". There is still a belief that "education" does not really start until the child goes to school!
A fact of life seems to be that in the 21st century large numbers of children grow up with both parents having to work outside the home. A harsh economic reality that one might want to "wish away", but a situation that is unlikely to disappear from our lifestyles. Equally vigorously commented on is the fact that large numbers of children are being raised by a single parent, which would suggest that parenting is becoming "more tough"?
On the other hand this may be just "someone's value judgement" - what does it mean though.
We also read and hear in the media that 15-20% of children commence school with some form of a "learning disability or developmental delay" that could have been picked up earlier and corrected causing little to no long term damage for the child. Apparently everyone is to blame. Theories abound, and change regularly.
I am sure we have all read the following type of stories: "Daycare is good, even essential for your child". "Daycare is terrible for your child". "Daycare makes your child brighter - but, also "more violent". So which is right? Is there any single answer to the truth?
If we were to load all the text books and research articles currently available onto a newly re-floated "Titanic", we would certainly sink it under the weight of all the available "wisdom". Where does this leave us parents? What are the commonly agreed to points?
We seem to have little controversy about the importance of the first five years of a child's life, a time when nurturing and stimulation of a child is absolutely crucial. We have little controversy about the predictability of the way children develop, how they could be stimulated, how they might find the "enjoyment of learning", how they should be prepared to be "ready for school", yet despite the available "parenting knowledge", we still hear that up to 20 percent of all of our pre-school children miss out on essential developmental experiences in the first years of their lives, and that therefore they are not "ready to go to school". In some parts of the world politicians are now demanding compulsory pre-school education!
Ok, so today's parents are busy, due to economic requirements. Extended families are disappearing, single parents predominate, many children may miss and the various governments don't have the money, Yet, sound methods of "early intervention techniques" have been developed over the last 40 years - yet somehow societies fail to make such intervention services available to families who need such support. Instead we continue to read "professional caregivers of young children are the least trained, and worst paid educators in our children's lives". Why is it that we "parents" allow such bizarre political and economic decision making?
I wish I had an answer.
Of course it can be argued that "bizarre childrearing philosophies" are not at all a new phenomenon. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) wrote glowingly "about" children, their "wonderful spirit", etc. etc, but he seemed to have little problem in committing his own children into a foundlings home. [A classic case of "do as I say"?]
Please, I do not intend to depress the reader, nor do I wish to apportion "blame" to anyone, but there are things that parents can do, to take the "chance aspect" out of their child's development. Even when parents are very busy (and I get more emails from parents telling me that they have "no time", than about any other subject). We do have access to a lot of information - so let us use the material that is available. The Internet alone will provide parents with a multitude of information. I strongly recommend that the most useful material is "child development information" based on years of observations of how children develop. The advantage for new parents of using such "developmental schedules" lies in finding out that childhood development is predictable, occurs in sequences of skills, which build on top of each other (for example: crawling leads to walking, running, skipping etc.) and that the developmental schedules permit the parent to monitor (measure) their child's progress, making sure they are on track.
Such tools allow us to be pro-active about our toddlers' development, to maximize their early learning experiences, even when "time is precious". Of course pre-school children keep a parent very busy (and often exhausted), but by introducing some "developmental structure into our children's lives" we will lay down a positive developmental path for them. Children love the "routine" of learning, and they can be taught new, relevant skills, in short ten-minute bursts. Surely everyone, in even the busiest life can find ten minutes per day.
The outcome: A child having experienced successful learning within the family environment in the first five years, will generally have satisfactory experiences during their compulsory schooling years. Such a child will become a teenager with a sense of "joy of learning", and now research suggests that it is the "joy of learning" which matters, rather than just inherited intelligence (IQ). We also know that a child which is behind in those skills that are important in reading skills and number skills (literacy and numeracy) will unlikely recover any of these deficits!!
We cannot afford to leave things to chance. To see one such parent empowering option and a program to develop this joy of learning in action, you should visit the mylittlesteps online program by clicking on the link below.
Michael G. Ahrens is a parent, teacher, researcher, writer, and program developer associated with http://www.mylittlesteps.com/?C=3461&O=0 a powerful online parenting tool that ensures learning is fun, interactive and a worthwhile experience for both the parent and the child.