As parents, we want what’s best for our children. We want them to grow and develop, be successful and happy, and we want them to achieve more than we ever did. Often times, we imagine a life for them that is an idealized vision of what we would have wanted for ourselves. We see their dreams as an extension of our dreams and try to live vicariously through them! Then, we are slapped in the face when it turns out that they are actual people with their own personalities, desires, likes/dislikes and dreams.
While preparing them for their future lives, we often do things that we think are very beneficial, but in fact, will more than likely backfire. As a Teacher, I have seen a wide-range of parent behavior and have seen their results as children grow up (sometimes I have even taken part in them, even though I should know “better”!). So, I wanted to share with you guys a list of some of the most well-intentioned behavior patterns that I have seen that have turned out to be detrimental to children.
Using Baby Flashcards & “Genius” Videos
In our quest to raise up brilliant children, we often start off trying to “teach them” at a young age with the use of flash cards and videos claiming to turn your baby into a genius. The reality is that this simply does not work. Baby brains are wired for learning, but they are wired for learning through natural interaction with parents and caregivers and through exploration; sitting in front of a screen or having a formal “class time” just won’t cut it.
Babies learn from hearing the soothing voices of their caregivers, from watching how the world around them works, and from listening to real conversation. The rote memorization of flashcards will not help! If you want babies to learn, hold them a lot (remember, you cannot spoil an infant!), speak to them, and let them see and experience the world. Seriously, an empty box will stimulate them so much more than any fancy programs you can purchase for them.
Teaching Children To Read Way Too Early
This is another popular goal that parents have for their children. They want kids to start reading at the earliest age possible. There are so many videos, flashcards, and activities that promise to teach children to read. If you stick to it, many can work. But there are trade offs that frankly, just aren’t worth it. Because teaching a child to read too early means they are just memorizing the symbols and words, instead of understanding them. They are skipping over pre-reading skills and the fundamentals that they will need for reading mastery and understanding. Moreover, because they can recognize the print does not mean they are comprehending what they are reading. It’s also important that children learn to listen and that they understand what is being said and read to them.
When you dedicate an inordinate amount of time trying to teach a 3 or 4 year old to read before they are developmentally ready, you are taking away from valuable time that can be used on other important and attainable skills. Moreover, they should also be spending time forming relationships and exploring the world around them. They need experiences and they need to master skills within their developmental windows. Sitting them in front of a screen or with some flashcards takes away from the time they should be learning about the world, relationships, and the use of language. What good is it if they can sound words out, but don’t comprehend what they are reading because they don’t have experiences to tie the reading to? And what good is it if they can’t communicate with others? Now, I am not saying that if a child expresses interest in learning letters and their sounds that we should ignore those cues, but just don’t get ahead of yourself! Go at their pace and help them discover knowledge with developmentally appropriate activities.
Expecting Children To Sit & Have “Class” Before They Are Developmentally Ready
Children should be learning through play until at least the age of 8.* Yes, 8 years old! It is developmentally inappropriate to have young children sit and listen to an adult speaking for more than 20 minutes at a time (time varies by age, of course). But 4 and 5 year olds should not have to sit for more than 15 minutes at a time! So, what does this say about our school system?
Children need to move! They need to run, wiggle, explore, touch things, speak. How can we expect them to sit quietly without moving and expect them to actually learn? It’s no wonder there are so many behavior and attention problems in young children! Hint: They don’t have the problem. We do!
Over-Scheduling Kids & Teenagers
As our kids get older, we have a tendency to over-schedule them. We want them to play five different sports, train in several forms of dance, take swimming lessons, chess lessons, play an instrument, have language classes, join the scouts, tutoring, etc. etc. etc. WOW! I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
Yes, we want our kids to have experiences and develop their talents, but really, they need to just be kids. Shuffling them back and forth to school and practice after practice after practice can really put a strain them. Not only that, but we are denying them the free time they need to explore, use their imaginations, and discover their own desires. We are also taking away the opportunity for them to learn how to manage their own time. If they are told what and when to do every single thing in their lives from the time they are babies until they become young adults, how will they know how to manage their lives in the real world?
This one is a reminder and pep-talk for myself. It’s hard for me to follow through, because I love my girls so much, but that is precisely why I must.
The world is SCARY. I am not going to deny it. It’s hard to let our children experience it fully, because we know the dangers and heartache they could face. But we need to prepare them for it and we need to make them strong enough to face it all. Part of our job is to let them go. We need to do it baby steps at a time, but we need to do it.
Many of us don’t even allow our children to go play outside! We are so afraid that something can happen. The world is not any more dangerous than when we were growing up. The reality is that we just have more access to media and therefore we are more aware of the dangers. But instead of this instilling fear into us, we should learn to prepare our children! Allow them to experience freedoms according to their maturity and development and slowly let them do more for themselves.
I realize that some of these things are probably hard to hear. We are all trying to do what is best for our kids, after all, they don’t come with a manual! This is also not about judgement, because there is no perfect way to parent. However, it’s important to draw from the experiences of others and we have opportunities to do so like never before! (Hellooo… you are reading this blog! A few decades ago, so many of you would have missed out on my pearls of wisdom )
So, what do you guys think? Have you noticed any well-intentioned behaviors that have backfired on you or someone you know? Share with us in the comments!