Almost all parents love to compare the intellectual prowess of their child to other kids of the same age. I must admit, I have done this too, albeit mentally. Mornings at the bus stop waiting for the school bus, the discussion between moms, almost always drift towards the little achievements, skills and talents of their children. As a silent spectator, I am often amused to find mothers speak of their child as if he/she is a budding Einstein. Not that I have anything against this, but when a child all of four years old is already being pushed to get ahead of the pack, something surely doesn’t seem right.
When a young mother of an almost four year old made this announcement, “My son can count from 1 to 100 and has a vocabulary of almost 20 words”, another mom in the group, tried to explain to her that he had simply memorized them all, and it doesn’t equate her child being little Einstein. What ensued was an intense argument on what’s the best way to make a child learn. And that got me thinking.
Are we pushing our children hard to learn too soon? What’s learning for a four year old? Are we expecting our children to be prodigies?
Through evolution, from Stone Age to the present day, across organisms, it’s always the survival of the fittest. There is this struggle to get ahead of the pack. So it isn’t surprising to find us humans to be any different. No wonder you find YouTube flooded with videos of children reading, well before they are out of their diapers. Many parents push their little ones to attain academic milestones, even before the child may be ready for it.
Is this really justified?
Why is there such a hurry to ensure kids learn? Why do we push too much too soon? The most common explanation I am given for this, is the so called “window period” of exposure before the age of 5. It is believed, the more the exposure by this age, the better it is for the child’s intellect (I wonder if there is any research done to substantiate this logic).
What’s the way to learn?
There probably is no right answer to this question. I always have this fear that a parent’s over-enthusiasm, pushing the child to learn too soon, may produce anxiety and a lack of enthusiasm in the child, instead of bringing about a love for learning and intuitive thinking. Children are biological beings, with a complex brain and thinking capacity. Thus, it is vital to give them time to grow and develop their motor and cognitive skills. A chocolate cake doesn’t get baked in a jiffy. You need to patiently wait it out for those 30 to 40 minutes. Similarly, a child’s learning requires time and patience. And the rate of learning varies greatly amongst children. So one needs to be patient and, avoid comparisons of sorts.
Learning isn’t a marathon…
…At least not at pre-school level. It’s OK to read to the child. He doesn’t have to do it on his own, not at the age of four. Stories work wonders on the child’s imagination. Let him make his own, with pots, pans, or just about anything. Let him doodle away; surely a tree need not have to be the way we conceive it to be. Let him take the lead and express his interests.
Encourage your child to explore, sans pressures, sans the need to achieve academic milestones. Muddy puddles, melting ice-cream cones, and wet paints on hands, that’s what his days are meant to have.