We've covered the importance of the family, healthy babies, good parenting. Now we take you through the real-life experiences of childhood.
PARENTING begins with that wonderful moment you first hold your baby in your arms. It is then that the educational process starts that molds and shapes the child into what he or she will be in later life. Make no mistake about it — the early months and years are the most critical in guiding and rearing of children. Here is how you can make the most of this vital period of time.
Talk to Your Child
Beginning right after birth, talk to your baby. As much as possible avoid baby talk. Use clear speech. Talk while caressing him, bathing him, dressing him, changing him. Hearing the sound of your voice and the language you speak is necessary to his development. Changing the position of the baby's crib from time to time is important, too, as he begins to distinguish differences in seeing as well as hearing. He begins to become familiar with different colors and shapes. By the time your child is 8 or 9 months old you will notice that he has more of an understanding of what you are saying. When you see this spark of enlightenment, fuel it! Use carefully selected words and phrases — but speak normally. Don't use baby talk that will only have to be unlearned later. Remember, a child will revert to early learnings, and any faulty constructions you have instilled will come out later — to the child's embarrassment in front of classmates. Work on your own grammar. You are your child's first teacher and you are transmitting the language with which your child will think and express his ideas. You surely want to transmit it as thoroughly and as correctly as you can. It is wise also to avoid the other extreme — once the child can comprehend. Some parents talk above the child's level of understanding. If this happens the child may "switch off," later impairing concentration In school.
Don't confine your baby to a playpen for overlong periods. It may be more convenient, but it can curtail interest and curiosity — and curiosity is essential to learning. As your child is crawling, he learns by feeling the surroundings. Muscles and coordination are being developed. Coordinated movements early in life have a critical role in the development of the brain. All dangerous things should be put out of baby's reach, but allow for a certain amount of minor mishap. Don't be overprotective. Limits in certain areas should be set for the child's own good. Refrain from saying "no" continually, but set definite limits to establish self-discipline early. Remember that children will test their parents and will push to the limits they can go. But they will accept authority if parents are firm.
The child's character traits, personal values and personality are decided basically by the home environment. Parents are the prime teachers — or should be! But often the development of character is left to the school in hopes that teachers will impart to the child the discipline and respect the parents couldn't. A parent should realize he or she has a host of advantages with which to succeed. Young children will unquestionably believe a parent. They have a strong desire to please parents who are truly interested and excited about their accomplishments. Parents must show the child how to give and share. The child must not be allowed to snatch toys away from others. He must learn not to take anything that isn't his. He must not shade stories to his own advantage. Above all else is the parental model for these traits. This will determine the child's character. And character is the real key to later success in school and life. Character and good study habits are what every parent first needs to be teaching his children at home. A child needs to be learning order and organization. No boy or girl should be brought up in household confusion. A neat, ordered home with regular mealtimes will help develop order, trust and confidence in a child. Praise builds confidence in your children. Don't talk demeaningly to others about your children's faults and inner feelings. If a child knows that what he or she reveals to you from the heart goes out to others, the child will stop being open with you. Don't lay the foundation for a generation gap. Begin building family loyalty now. Activities — not necessarily expensive activities — when done together are the concrete, personal experiences that draw parent and child to each other. Such shared experiences will also develop right self-confidence in children — a positive eagerness toward new opportunities, rather than a withdrawing, doubtful, discouraged inferiority complex. Children should be learning cleanliness from the home environment. They should be learning friendliness by social contacts and events — from group outings to home entertaining to dining out. They should be building confidence, enthusiasm, a happy, positive approach. By their actions, they should be displaying a deep honoring of parents and respect for all elders. They should be learning to follow instructions by completing household chores and tasks. At their level, they should be learning to work for results, staying with a task until it is completed successfully. Children should be taught to accept criticism. Your child will need your comfort when criticized, but he or she must learn to make necessary correction when wrong and forget the sting of criticism. Your love will help. If parents let down in these areas, the child will become unresponsive both to his parents and his teachers at school. He'll become an expert at tuning out — he'll ignore directions and adjust poorly to situations.
Be Highly Interested
Parents should be highly interested in their child and all his interests. This shouldn't be just a casual display — young minds quickly discern the difference: When "Daddy, will you play with me?" is asked, the — response, too often, is usually a weary, "Not now, I'm too tired." Or "In a minute, son," hoping some other interest will soon occupy him. Take time to play with your child. It shows your child that you love him and accept his world. Also, you can see the progress he's making — on a regular basis. Children should be allowed to play near you when you are working, even though this leads to interruptions. Our job as parents is to train our children. Answering their questions is a necessary part of this responsibility. When the questions come at a moment that you cannot answer, have the child wait. This is valuable training for school and later life. It develops patience and control. It is good, too, because the child has to remember the question, which is excellent preparation for school. If, however, these questions are left unanswered, we have let valuable learning experiences go by. Children of all ages benefit by being included in the day's regular activities. Shopping, painting the fence, visiting friends, planting the backyard garden are all helpful educational experiences.
Personality and Language Development
As time goes on you will notice your child's personality developing. At age 2, some children are capable of using expressive language. Building compound and complex sentences can be handled at this age, though some youngsters do take a bit longer. At age 2, a child has a speaking vocabulary of about 200 words, but during the next three years it can reach 2,000. This shows the steady, rapid progress that can be made during these crucial preschool years. Help your child put immature responses into words. Don't let him get away with nodding or pointing. Have your toddler speak in correct, full sentences. In all teaching, remember: A child will strive to live up to our expectations. If we have a low standard, the child will settle for that. If it's a high one, he will reach for it. Teach and train in a positive, happy, warm, loving way. You shouldn't allow yourself to get so overburdened with other tasks that impatience sets in. Have time for laughter and fun. Make family life enjoyable.
Your Child's Play
Play is the child's work! It is important in his or her life and development. Far from being an extra, it is vital to growth. From the earliest days, play experiences help develop coordination, tastes, maturity and personality. Character is largely formed in early play experiences. Through play a child rehearses patterns of living. Play doesn't always have to include toys. Teaching your child to perform household chores can be equally fun and constructive. If proper play experiences are offered, a child is likely to transfer much of the pleasure of play into what adults call work. Toys are important, though. They are a child's tools for learning. They can be used to develop a strong; healthy body and an alert mind. They can help form a child's personality and creative skills. When purchasing toys, parents should select those suitable for the child's age, sex and temperament. Up to one year children enjoy and profit from toys they can look at, feel, safely chew on, hold in their hands and drop. They should be washable and unbreakable and have no sharp edges. One-to-two-year-olds often like toys they can take apart and put together again, and toys they can push and pull around. Balls, blocks, little airplanes, cars and dolls would generally interest them. For toddlers and younger children, toys that can be assembled, that give children the chance to learn different colors, and help them learn to count, are good. As a child grows older, he likes to turn pages (teach him how) and experiment with newly discovered abilities. Nontoxic modeling clay, safe vegetable dye paints, various balls (which help coordination, timing and agility) and construction sets are good, depending on the child. If a child has difficulty catching balls, toss things to your offspring, such as soiled laundry to put in the hamper. Girls enjoy dolls that can be. dressed and have underclothes changed. Boys, too, should be familiar with the procedure. The manipulative skills of 4 — and 5-year-olds need toys that stimulate their coordination and mental abilities, speed and accuracy. Trains, hobby materials in arts and crafts, construction or model sets, tricycles, real carpenters tools and games that can be played out of doors are appropriate here. Outdoor play is excellent for health and coordination. A swing, jungle gym, outdoor tub (under your supervision) are good, as is a sandbox, replete with shovel, bucket and sieve. Good educational experiences and toys should involve active personal participation. This is essential to the whole pattern of development. Be sure the toys are safe and durable. Some suggestions of the U.S. National Commission of Product Safety include: Test doll heads. Twist and turn the head, as well as the arms and legs, as a child might. Look for sharp edges. Make sure the eyes and ears of toy animals are firm. If a toy comes only in a package, ask the retailer for a sample you can examine. Be wary of electrical toys. Get assurance that paint on toys is nonpoisonous. Above all, use good common sense! Remember — children are your priceless gifts from God. Make their playtime safe. Toys do not have to be the purchased variety exclusively. Some can be made from wood or cans with plastic tops. Children enjoy cardboard boxes too — they make fine trains and buses. Creative toys provide the child the excitement and satisfaction of learning. They challenge the child to use his imagination in a constructive and creative way. Scissors should be round ended, but really cut. This is the time to teach proper use of sharp objects, and your child should soon be quite safe with them. (If giving pencils you should observe how the child is holding the pencil and forming letters.) From your cloth remnants have your child cut odd bits of material and match the pieces, feeling as well as seeing the differences. Don't expect perfect results from your child's craft activities. It is the activity that counts at this time, not the result. Be sure to have your child clean up and put toys away. That is each child's responsibility — in having toys one must learn to take care of them! Failure to do so is allowing a breakdown of character. In games with others, a child should be taught the importance of sharing and that winning is not as important as being a good sport. Games teach good sportsmanship and how to face disappointment gracefully. A child should be taught to always put forth his best effort and to cheerfully cooperate with others. These points should be learned early!
Many preschoolers are practically weaned on television, in some cases spending more than half of their waking time with eyes glued to their "teacher." In the United States, before reaching age 5, a child may have already spent more time in front of a television set than the average student in a liberal arts program spends in the classroom throughout the entire four years of college attendance! Quickly changing scenes and the rapid-fire delivery of television shorten the attention span of children. Many children who watch television extensively tend to lose their powers of imagination. The electronic video thinks for them so often, they become unable to think for themselves. (The simplest of toys and a vivid imagination entertained before television was available.) Upon entering school, children reared on television find their "training" catching up with them! With the children accustomed to being entertained, teachers find it difficult to hold their pupils attention for any length of time. Add to this possible weakened eyes from staring at one point (sometimes without blinking for long periods, whereas the normal eye movement is from side to side). Television should not fill the vacuum created by a parent's neglect. It should not be a baby-sitter. Children need to be talked to and listened to in their formative years. The television — set itself, however, is not the problem — if control is exercised. Watch good programs together. Parents can then comment on any fallacies or wrong actions that can creep into "good" programs,
The Importance of Listening
Children need to come to school with the habit of giving their undivided attention to the teacher — or any elder who is speaking. This is far too often not the case because of the impact of television, and because parents themselves are failing to set the example. The child's future is already at a very sad disadvantage. Listening is a vital key to learning, Start developing this skill early. It will take work, diligence and self-discipline, but your child's future success depends on it. Have your child sit still and be quiet at certain times of the day. Start by having him or her listen to you for a minute or two at a time. Make sure the child's eyes are on you, Then ask a question concerning what you had just covered. Praise the child with: "What a good boy (or girl) you are! Those ears just catch every one of Mommy's (or Daddy's) words!" A big hug will be in order. You will develop by experience the ability to know how much your child is able to take in and reiterate in answer form. Add information when you feel it's too easy for him, always expanding your offspring's knowledge and understanding. Extend his listening time to several minutes by the time he's about 5 years old.
Literature for Reading
In teaching to listen, read to your child! Take your child to the library even by age 2. A love of books will begin to develop by so doing. Choose books that have proper information. Avoid too many talking animals and fairy tales. Keep to subjects relevant to your children's experiences and interest. Through books your child's vocabulary will increase and he will learn the flow and rhythm of words. Synonyms and antonyms will enter his ears. Nouns and adjectives will parade before his mind. Poetry is important for the rhythmic pattern children enjoy, and for speech development (by repeating words that may initially be difficult to pronounce). Have your child learn several from memory. Memory work aids in the proper development of mental organization. Be sure the selections cover a wide spectrum of facts and experiences. Introduce your child to the rhythm of language with all its richness and beauty. Show your child how you read. As you read, use expression — make the story or poem exciting, interesting. Use inflection and vocal color — but be balanced! Don't be over dramatic. Don't continue reading something in which your child has no apparent interest at the time. He has so many of his own interests going, build on these. His knowledge in these subjects will rapidly increase and other areas will open from this. Open the world to your child — teach, instruct, nourish, add to the ideas and interests he or she has. Try to look at the world through a child's eyes. View the folded rosebud, the billowing clouds, the tiny twigs of trees. Appreciate and enjoy God's creation with your child, and you will be teaching him "while you're walking by the way."
Don't Rush Reading
Don't be a parent who is over anxious to get his child reading! Parents often like to put great emphasis on this while leaving other more valuable preschool work undone. Children often can "read" before they go to school, but have poor comprehension and eyesight and can do little else. They have learned to identify words, but without the depth of meaning that takes added maturity and life. experience to comprehend. To some parents, other areas are not so obvious or readily tangible as reading, and therefore are overlooked. These are the important attitude areas covered earlier. This is the foundation upon which all else will rest. Reading at a very early age can be accomplished, but it is not necessary. If your child does show interest in reading before his first year at school, expose him to familiar words all around US — "STOP," "TELEPHONE." In a natural way, have your child point out signs as you walk and ride. He or she will have such pleasure in recognition! Select books to read that contain these words. It is much easier for a child, to understand ideas that are familiar than a book in which there is little interest. Have your child tell you a brief story. Using large dark letters, print what he or she has said. You can make up a book this way, using large sheets of paper. Praise your child for each word recognized. If you choose to buy your child books, make book buying a real event. Buy one at a time. With this incentive, a child will not only experience joy in reading, but may want to tryout writing.
Preschool Writing Development
Again, remember it takes tremendous coordination to write. This can be developed by picking berries, folding napkins, sorting out Daddy's nails and bolts, working with clay or kneading pastry with Mother. Encourage your child to do much cutting and pasting. Cut out pictures and paste them by topic in a scrapbook. Use cardboard upon which to paste a picture and cut into shapes — an endless supply of jigsaws! These activities develop strength in hands and fingers. Good penmanship begins here. If your child strongly favors use of his left hand, make no issue of it. Be sure to teach your child not to write in books that should not be written in.
Preschool years offer a made-to-order situation for teaching elementary mathematics. Have your child measure how many times a certain toy will fit on a chair, how many steps it is to certain objects. Have your child set the table and count out the spoons, forks, knives and plates needed. Make a clock using numbers found in magazines. Have your child gather acorns, stones, pebbles, sand, shells, and weigh them against each other on a scale. On shopping trips, have your child find round and oval fruits and vegetables, rectangular packages. Let him or her have experience with proper handling of money, especially pennies, nickels, dimes.
Acquaint your child with music. From earliest days let him hear a rich variety of music in the home. Play recordings, both classical and children's, along with a rich selection of other types, including ethnic compositions from around the world. Include music that is majestically inspiring, peaceful, pleasurable, joyous — and even sad. Have background music at special meals. Point out the instruments of the orchestra. Let your child participate in making music and keeping time to it. Let him or her sing, dance, skip, jump, march and learn left and right by so doing. Through rhythmic activities a child gains coordination, confidence, social skills and knowledge. Music helps in discipline and development of creative skills. Be careful not to ridicule or in any way put down the musical attempts of your child. Encourage, and help instead. Make music fun. Enjoy it as God intends.
The Important First Day at School
As your child gets closer to school age, prepare for that important first day. See that he or she has been playing with other children, is having contact with other adults who have authority — and responds to them. Talk positively about your child's school. Problems of excessive shyness can be avoided if the child is allowed to stay with relatives and later a close friend or two for the odd morning or afternoon during toddlerhood or soon after. Some experience of a well-supervised and structured playgroup for a morning or two (avoid more than this) can help prepare the child for the school setting. Build it up as a joyous experience — a place where he or she will meet new friends, new challenges and have a lovely time. Take your child to visit the school before enrolling. As your child enters on the first day, and all succeeding days, he or she should enter without you, have a cheery "Good morning" for the teacher, put the lunch pail neatly in the space provided, walk in an orderly manner to the desk and sit quietly, waiting for the class to begin. When the teacher speaks, a child should respond instantly, not when he's ready to! He should not wave his hand frantically when asking or answering a question. He should be trained in finishing lunch within a half hour and sit properly during it. He should have been independently toilet-trained and not embarrassed to ask a teacher for permission to use the toilet in emergencies. Any questions or misunderstandings you have should be directed to the teacher directly, not through your child. You will be laying groundwork for an effective future relationship with the school. Uphold the teacher in your child's eyes. If you don't, you are undoing principles you have already taught. When school and home work together, progress is steadily and rapidly made. To help reassure your child, be sure to be prompt in picking up him or her at dismissal time. Putting God's principles as the basis of knowledge, your child will now have the start of a giant blessing that will grow day by day. He or she will please all who come in contact with your family, reflecting your training and, by extension, God's truth, for "even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right" (Prov. 20:11). Our next installment, "Pre-adolescent Years," will carry us up to the beginning of the teen years.