Time for another #ThrowbackThursday here at To Write a Better Story.
This article is one I wrote in 2001 for Monmouth's Daily Review Atlas.
In 2001 my family looked like this:
My kids were 5, 2 and 1. The twins weren't even born yet!
This article reminds me how very important the early years are. So many foundations are laid in our kids during that time. I, like most new parents understand just how much is on their plate in those including, well - you know ... surviving,
so the thoughts below are not meant to add to the burden but instead offer a reminder clothed in encouragement.
Hey! I survived those early years.
Therefore, anyone can!
Every Parent is an Educator
I've been in the early childhood education business for almost ten years and I am still regularly awed by the unmatchable importance the role parents play in the development of their children.
There is an old argument of nature versus nurture or in other words, do children come smart or do we make them smart?
Well actually, both is true and parents of young children everywhere, myself included, need to be regularly reminded.
Increasing in popularity is homeschooling. In its everyday usage we understand that term to mean a classroom environment in the home for school age children. However, every child is a home schooled child, regardless of their age, and every parent is a teacher.
From the moment an infant enters this world it has begun the process of learning. One of the first thing he learns is how cold it is outside his mama's belly. So he cries. His tears usually result in a warm blanket, a snuggle with mom or dad and maybe even a chance to nurse.
From that very moment we have taught our children. They have learned, when I make this crying noise, people around me respond. They learn they have power to manipulate their environment. And thus parenting begins.
Our babies may not be learning their abc's and 123's (although many parents purchase flash cards as early as a child's first birthday in efforts to give their child an advantage) but they are learning something ... much, much more important.
Children are born into this world with a predisposed set of genetics. Their hair and eye color, skin tone and intellect are already written down for them in the books. We as parents can do nothing to change our child's physical attributes (when they become teenagers they will alter themselves more than enough, no doubt) but we can imprint onto our children's mental and intellectual development.
When a baby is crying in its crib and no one responds, the child learns from the first year of life, he cannot trust the world.
When a toddler is harshly punished for failing to to potty train in a timely manner, she believes it is difficult for her to be successful.
When an exploring cruiser is regularly hit for his curious demeanor towards grandma's knick-knacks, he learns it is OK to hurt another.
When a baby coos and gurgles and no one talks back she learns she has nothing important to say.
What are we teaching our children first?
Will it matter that our children can recite the alphabet at age three if they haven't learned it is okay to try new things, even if they fail at first?
Is it impressive that our children's video collection includes Baby Einstein products if they never enjoy story time on your lap or frequent the library?
In a study conducted last year by the phsychology department at Indiana University, stunning research indicated the similarities between infants learning to talk and birds learning to sing.
Babies and birds?
What a strange correlation.
I thought so too. But listen to this:
In two separate play times, 30 eight-month-old infants and their mothers were carefully observed.
On one occasion the mothers were instructed to touch, smile and verbally respond to their children when the babies talked to them. On another occasion the mothers only responded verbally. The mothers were allowed to have the exact same verbal response, however no touching or smiling whatsoever. And the results were amazing!
Just like baby birds, humans who are nurtured with a loving touch and are shown affection responded in the areas of social and language development. It's simple - babies who are given proper attention flourish.
Children who are left in car seats, on the floor or in cribs for long periods of time throughout the day, with no loving caregiver to interact with them will withdraw. And the overall results are babies who grow in to children who, when in the same kindergarten as everyone else, will from the very beginning of his or her school career be behind.
Forget the abc's and 123's. For the next 13 years your child will play catch up.
What kind of student are you raising?
What kind of home school are you running?
What kind of teacher are you?
Talk to your babies. They are not just and extra 20 pounds of weight to be carted from here to there. They crave and desire your response and affections. Nurture that baby and be amazed and the beautiful song it sings.