It’s one of those enigmas of child-rearing: In order to flourish, children need a complex mix of events that are both normal and novel.
Normal events include reliable routines which structure a child’s day. Going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday may sound a bit boring. And yet, this predictable pattern helps children develop healthy sleep habits.
Likewise, a consistent daytime schedule builds a child’s feeling of competence as he anticipates what comes next throughout the day. This regularity breeds trust and reduces stress for kids.
Recent reports about women choosing not to bear children has brought the “Childfree Choice” into the spotlight. Time Magazine reports that in 1976, only one in ten American women in her forties was childless, compared to the current statistic of one in five.
Some say our world is in such a mess they cannot in good conscience bring a child into it. Others describe their own sad upbringing and fear making the same mistakes their parents did. Still others say they could never be as good at parenting as their parents were.
Parents long to know what’s on their kids’ minds, but getting kids to talk about those things can be a tough nut to crack.
But there’s one time when kids are likely to have a great deal to say, and that’s when in they’re smack-dab in the thick of an interesting experience. If you want to hear your kids talk, plan to be present with them when something’s going on. Here are some ideas:
There were never two parents raising the same child anywhere who ever agreed entirely about how to do it. When adults care about the same child, a certain amount of “gatekeeping” is bound to happen, in which each adult thinks he or she knows best about how to parent.
Here’s an example: Adam says, “Eve, you should make that boy behave.” Eve says, “Adam, he’s doing the best he can. Quit riding him all the time.” Years down the road, Cain slays Abel, and the finger-pointing commences. “I told you we were doing it wrong!”
It was a recent blistering hot afternoon. A weary mother marched across the discount store parking lot with her three little boys. She firmly grasped the hands of two of the stair-step tykes while the third trailed solemnly behind.
The two boys whose hands she held howled in complaint as she spoke to them seriously under her breath. Noticeably, no bags of purchases accompanied this small group. The purpose of the trip had obviously been aborted while the beleaguered mother dealt with the misbehavior of her sons.
Amazingly, a wide variety of parenting styles produce healthy adults. But the divergence of those styles may make for disagreement with other parents.
A young mother recently described a play date with her college roommate who has a baby about the same age as hers. Amber had long anticipated getting their babies together to play, fantasizing about introducing these little girls to a life-long friendship.
Recently I wrote about children seeming to absorb by osmosis the characteristics of their families during the years of growing up. But a new book explores the other possibility: Children sometimes turn out very differently from their parents. In his book Far from the Tree, psychiatrist Andrew Solomon shares stories of hundreds of families whose children have very different lives from their parents.
Among my favorite memories is a lovely evening in late May of 1984. Just home from the hospital, I sat outside with my newborn son, listening while his two older sisters and dad played in the yard. Other happy memories stand out around this little boy, including his third birthday where he sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” wearing a football helmet and one of his sister’s ballet tutus.
A recent summer storm provided an object lesson for a family I know. Making their way along an interstate highway on a weekend outing, the family drove into a violent storm moving erratically across the state.
Within minutes, hailstones pelted the car along with heavy rains. Visibility was seriously compromised. The parents prayed for safety and watched for an exit where they could get off the road to wait out the storm.
Meanwhile, the four-year-old in the back seat was alarmed by the noise of the pounding rain and hail. She asked her parents if they were safe.
Preschool provides a safe venue for kids to learn some hard lessons about the world. Is your preschooler ready?
Lesson# 1: What do you mean you’re not going to stay? For kids who’ve been home with parents, preschool may represent their first major separation. You can prepare your child with visits to friends, playdates in other homes and seeing the classroom before the first day of school.
As summer winds down, parents see the start of another school year lurking around the corner. Summer freedom has been a blast, but academic expectations lie just ahead. Here are a few suggestions to rev up your kids’ learning power.
A family of five I know has had a heck of a year. They’ve lost a grandfather, suffered the loss of a job, and now struggle with the serious illness of their mother.
This family’s three children have missed out on the carefree days of youth in the last year. Instead, they’ve attended a funeral and mourned the loss of one who played a significant role in their lives.
They’ve listened in as their parents strategized about how to make do with less in the face of a lost salary.
“Don’t sweat this deadline,” commented the longsuffering contractor. “It’s not a matter of life and death.”
Reflecting on his words, I was thinking about how we use that phrase—“a matter of life and death”—to denote the singularly most essential issues in our lives. Our very language respects the importance of the experiences of life and death, but this honor dims in the reality of our expectations sometimes.