What can we do to help our child be most successful in school a mom and dad asked me recently. Their son, a smart, curious little guy, was enjoying preschool and his parents were determined to help him continue to excel.
I thought about that conversation this weekend after listening to a program that cited U.S. students falling way behind academically in comparison to students in other countries and how another study showed U.S. college sophomores spending more time partying than studying and learning.
Then there was also the wide-spread coverage of a new book out by author/parent Amy Chua , The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, who raised two super children under a very strict, sometimes bordering on abusive, parenting style in order to achieve perfection.
So what is a parent to do?
I like to think of the word I used to describe the young preschooler above – curious. If we can keep a sense of intellectual curiosity alive in our children, we are more than halfway there to enriching their academic and personal success and growth.
Babies are born curious and teach themselves an unbelievably amazing amount their first year by watching, listening and exploring their world.
What I think is often the missing link in developing this curiosity further in our children as they grow is that we drop the ball by fearing and not trusting them to continue to find interest and delight in the world around them. We jump in, fast forwarding information and experiences at them, leaving little time for conversation and assimilation through play.
We need to be mindful of what we are offerring our children. What are they viewing,hearing, experiencing everyday? Do they have time to explore, invent, daydream, pretend? Are they hearing stories read aloud of adventure, poetry, science, history, fiction and non-fiction throughout their childhood, even after they learn to read on their own? Are they experiencing the wonders of the natural world?
Or are they over-scheduled in extra-curricular activities, their days filled with adult-led instruction and competition? Do they have an over-abundance and reliance on screen time – TV, computers? Are they exposed too early to adolescent music, dress and culture?
One of my favorite short poems from my childhood by Robert Louis Stevenson is this:
The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
As parents, we make the choices in the world that fill our children’s hearts and minds. We can intentionally choose to allow,encourage, and expect their unfolding interests, knowledge and competence to shine through and be strong by keeping alive their beautiful innate curiosity.
A favorite book I still recommend to parents that has been around a long time but I believe has valuable insight and information for parents to ponder is Miseducation, Preschoolers at Risk by David Elkind.