Every parent we have ever met wants to have a smart child and be a smart parent. Raising a child is the most important responsibility anyone will ever have and can provide the most pleasure and reward.
Kate, the first child we ever had in our daycare, was eighteen months old, did not crawl or walk, had extremely limited play skills, had always been rocked to sleep, and although she had good speech skills, she had none of the verbal skills that support positive social interaction.
James had made the commitment to be a stay at home dad so Kate would get the best possible care. With complete dedication and love, James was constantly doing her tasks for her, entertaining her, isolating her from social interaction, and unknowingly denying her the ability to grow, learn, and do, because he lacked the understanding of how intelligent she was.
We communicated with him daily. We provided him with extensive knowledge and examples of his child’s intelligence, coached him on appropriate communication skills, and developed guidelines to establish achievable standards. Within a year she had learned to crawl, then walk, then run, play with other children in a pleasant and constructive way and fall asleep on her own. She took the first steps toward verbally asserting herself while respecting other people’s needs.
We knew that in opening our daycare we would be offering a highly skilled opportunity for children to live, grow and learn. But we were stunned and concerned to find that parents, although well educated and successful professionally, were unskilled and overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting. Even though this first case study may seem extreme, we found that the parents were unknowingly making serious mistakes because they lacked the knowledge and expertise to understand what the results of their actions would be.
So what is a parent’s role?
• A parent’s role is to love, guide, nurture and support a child in such a way that they will develop skills, strength, confidence and abilities to survive in the world and achieve maximum potential.
• Be there in mind and heart and body. You are going to be making choices all the time. Choose your child lovingly. Whether you are a “working” or “stay at home” parent, you need to manage your discretionary time so your child’s needs come first! Personal time at the end of your workday has to wait! Lunch with your friend can wait! The new movie release can wait! The cocktail party can wait! Quality time is important but quantity matters too!
• You need to provide a home where your child is loved unconditionally and your love is demonstrated frequently through physical expression and your undivided attention!• Respect your child as an individual. It is interesting to see physical and behavioral similarities to you. But don’t forget he is a totally unique person! He may have your physical attributes but he will have his own personality and style.
• From the first time you hold him, communicate through gentle touch and language, telling him about his world and the experiences and activities you will be sharing. Speak to him the way you would to a best friend. Make sure he knows what is expected of him. You will be amazed at how soon he recognizes voices, a certain touch, responds to specific sounds, understands words, favors a certain toy.
• Understand that your child is growing and learning everyday. Listen to his sounds, watch his body language. Create a balanced interaction: speak/listen, coach/observe. Know that he is understanding the message and telling you what is and is not working. You want to respect every phase of growth and know that it changes quickly. Just when you think you have figured him out he has mastered that phase and is moving on to the next one. The most exciting aspect of parenting is to experience and participate in their steps toward independence.
• For the first year your child spends most of his time eating and sleeping. Following our specific guidelines in chapter three, you will be assuring that he is getting adequate food and sleep, letting him establish the best schedule for himself. Your child needs to be fed when he is hungry and put to bed when he is tired. The investment you make in helping him establish his own schedule will result in a happy family.
• You really want your child to be independent, confident, self sufficient, problem solving and assertive. From the very beginning, do not do anything for him that he can do for himself! Once he can roll over, let him do it, even if it takes longer than you expect. Let him hold the rattle, reach for the toy, hold the spoon with you. You are showing respect for his skills and interests and establishing a relationship and pattern that will benefit him for life. See every moment of interaction as a shared learning experience. Some will be joyful and some will be challenging, but they will all be rewarding.
• Your child will be more responsible and relaxed if he feels safe, is not over-stimulated, not overtired, and not getting mixed messages about what is expected of him. As much as possible, have him in a child friendly environment i.e. home, parks, and child appropriate social gatherings. Keep errands that he is involved in , strictly for necessities. If you have to take him shopping, bring along an appropriate toy, book etc. and talk to him about what you are doing. This is an opportunity to introduce new words into his vocabulary.
• Make sure he is always clear on what is expected of him. Correct unacceptable behavior as soon as it happens. If he starts to use crying to get attention, i.e. when he firsts sees you, give him an appropriate phrase or statement, “Hi Mom.” He will quickly get the message that language is key. He cannot throw food and toys, he cannot hit and kick. Once he has language skills he cannot use crying to get what he wants. These issues are covered in detail in chapters three and four. Just remember he understands what you are saying and needs a firm approach and consistency.
• As he grows you will be expanding his world, developing his ability to make choices, his inner resources to deal with change and disappointment, as well as physical and emotional injury. It is all about keeping the communication and action clear and concise, being honest and focused, being calm and balanced. Do not do the work for him. Give him the support and knowledge to develop psychological and emotional strength.
• You will begin to help him set goals from learning how to pump on the swing, ride a two wheeler, count to 100, write his name, play soccer, study ants.
From The Book Smart Parent Smart Child, Author : Phyllis And Cynthia Anka