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Good Parents Grow in Wisdom


Q. I look back on all the toys I bought our son, and I could just cringe. All those colorful, electronic bells and whistles! They cost a lot, and they didn't really do much. He played with them once or twice, and then went back to the old standbys: balls and blocks, sand and water, a few Matchbox cars and his favorite dumptruck. Why, oh why, did I waste my money like that?


Because you love your son! And you wanted to make him happy. There's not a thing in the world wrong with that.


Ironically, it is not until your child is at the secondary level of schooling that you can look back and realize that what you thought were stimulating features of toys were actually contrary to what's needed to build a child's thinking skills, especially concentration and imagination. It isn't until your child stops being dependent on schools and teachers for what to think and how to learn that you realize that passive toys, such as you describe, are not the best tools for making a child self-reliant and enthusiastic about learning.


You have to go through the ages and stages first, before you "get it." But that's OK: life is a "learn as you go" process, after all, isn't it?


It's a good sign that you can look back on your early decision-making, and realize that you were overdoing how expensive and elaborate your son's toys were. That means you've grown as a parent! They say the surest sign of high intelligence is being adaptable, and they could also say that the surest sign of a good parent is someone who can grow right along with their child.


If you want your child to grow up happy and healthy, with a good experience in school, there's nothing more important for you to do than to keep yourself in a position to keep growing, too.


And that means you have to keep learning!


Here's a challenge:


Read one book about child development or learning every year from the time your child is born until that far-off senior year in high school. That will add up to 18 books - a foundation of knowledge that speaks well of your commitment to being a good parent.


If your family has a tendency to being spacey and disorganized, you might want to read a book about attention deficit disorder early on, so if you spot the early warning signs, you can redirect your child and prevent expensive remediation in school.


If your child shows a specific talent, such as writing, you might want to get a book on how to develop a budding writer, and have little exercises and activities on hand to do with your child to bring that talent along.


If your toddler keeps getting into sandbox confrontations and shows evidence of being strong-willed, there are behavior management books that you should be consulting for every stage of growth, to help that personality trait develop into confidence and leadership, not aggression and bullying.


Your child will change a lot from infancy to Graduation Day. You will, too. Make a promise to yourself to do whatever it takes to make that journey just as enjoyable and productive as you can.

Homework: See the book, A Mind at a Time: America's Top Learning Expert Shows How Every Child Can Succeed by Mel Levine, M.D. It's geared toward parents of special-needs children, but the concepts and perspectives apply to all children - who, we all agree, are all special!


By Susan Darst Williams Ages & Stages 100 2008


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