Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
Many people think that because babies don’t talk, they don’t understand and don’t know what’s going on around then. Not so. Babies get it, but the mechanics of speaking are different from knowing, so many parents underestimate how much is going in the little ones’ bodies and minds.
Babies’ brains are grossly undeveloped when they are born but growth is rapid. By the time the child reaches age 3, the brain has grown to 80% of its adult capacity. Therefore, the building blocks for future learning are laid down during those first 3 years.
Scientists have found that the brain continues to grow (but more slowly) and matures in our early 20s but in the meantime, children’s interest in school has grown or waned. Children who learn the rigors of learning early do better than those who don’t.
More important than what happens in school is what happens at home. When was the last time your children caught you reading a good book, studying a map, using the dictionary, or going to the museum; just for the fun of it? Are you interested in hearing new ideas, learning new things or learning to do old things in a new way? If you can say yes and often to these two questions, you are well on your to helping your children to do well in school.
Modeling is the first step. Remember, our children watch what we do. When parents are eager to learn, their children will most likely be eager to learn as well.
Regardless of your socio-economic, cultural, ethnic background, education is the key to financial success in adult life. For most of us, that starts with succeeding in school. When your children succeed in school, they have the key to a lifetime of success.
According to researchers, if parents do 4 simple, pleasurable, things they can build strong beginning. These things are: touch and hold their babies, talk to them, read to them and play with them. This is consistent with a statement on the website of the Urban Child institute who used the words: touch, talk, read, play as their motto.
The brain is wired to learn and early brain development is largely shaped by parents’ involvement with the baby. Children grow and thrive when they are in dependable relationships that provide love, security and support.
As children grow, parental involvement in children’s learning community produce the best results.
What’s a Parent To Do?
1. Model a love for learning.
2. Build relationships in the child’s school. Get to know the staff rather than wait until there are problems. Communicate with your child’s teacher in an open, honest and trusting way.
3. Without acting like the Helicopter Parent, participate in your child’s classroom activities. Go to open house. Help to chaperone a class field trip. Share your talent or expertise. Regardless of your profession, participate in career day. Read a story. Sing a song. Help with a special project. Help with the bulletin boards. Offer to help the teacher. Give an hour or two whenever possible.
4. Join the PTO. This way, you’ll meet other parents with whom you can connect and find support. Remember, the school belongs to the community and can’t function adequately without you.
5. Be respectful of your child’s teachers. If you have a beef, be careful not to air it to your child. If you show disrespect for the teacher, so will your child. Take your complaint to the teacher first. If you get no satisfaction, go to the supervising teacher, then to the principal. Attend school board meetings.
6. Be supportive of your child. Encouraging statements are better than complaints. “I know Math is hard but I believe you can do it. Keep at it" “I'm proud to see you finish your homework."
7. Focus on progress rather than perfection. Have a good enough policy. Nagging and nitpicking zaps motivation.
8. Give children a few minutes of down time after school. Most of us need time to relax and play before we start our next big project. Homework can began after that.
Regardless of who you are, how much or little education you have, you are the key to how your children do in school. So get involved and show your children that you value them and their education. This way, you are giving them the key to lifetime of success in learning and in life.
© Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D. July 25, 2013
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for more than 40 years. She lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at www.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.