With a current focus on school readiness, our nation and communities are looking at supporting early education. High-quality early childhood education programs increase childhood literacy and high school graduation rates, not to mention reducing crime and teen pregnancy rates. As a result, children are coming to school ready to learn and be successful.
Parents can positively affect their child’s behavior by taking three actions. These steps will provide a foundation that supports the child’s social-emotional development. The actions will teach children skills that lead to more behaviors that parents want to see, and fewer of the ones they don’t want to see.
Parent educators at Parenting Now! are often asked, “What can I do about my child’s behavior?” Our philosophy is that there are many approaches to discipline, but every approach should be a thoughtful way to pass on parental values and rules.
Discipline is an opportunity for the child to learn. Sometimes, parents believe discipline is the same as punishment; in fact, the root of the word is disciple, or “to learn.” Children have much to learn, and it is a parent’s job to be their loving teacher.
We easily recognize children with speech and language difficulty because we hear them struggle. How do you recognize a child with a vision problem? Often, you can’t. Is it motor skills? Balance? Judgment, interest, personality, shyness? We hardly ever ask – is it vision?
The same is true as infants, toddlers and preschoolers mature into school age children. When they experience headaches, poor coordination, learning problems, carsickness, apprehension in sports, etc., the first question that comes to mind is rarely, “Could this be a vision problem?” But often, it should be.
While consistent routines, good nutrition and quality parent-child interaction time are important, the value of outdoor motor play should be noted, as it leads to positive outcomes. While it may seem counterintuitive, children’s brains are in a better state to focus and pay attention when they engage in running, jumping, bouncing, swinging, climbing, spinning and other movement activities. Physical activity leads to greater learning opportunities.
With our children facing obesity rates of 24 percent – higher than the national average – it is critical that families have places for kids to be physically active, and our regional recreation sites offer great ways to keep our kids moving.
Prolonged activation of the stress response in children can have damaging effects on the development of the brain. The stress hormones that flood the brain during prolonged stressful periods can affect the development of brain cells and connections between them, the size of certain brain areas and, ultimately, development of healthy brain architecture. Because these brain areas are important for learning, memory, and emotional processing, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to problems with thinking, memory, and emotional processing as well as increased risk for later health problems.
The research can help us understand how a baby’s mind is formed and what we can do as parents to help our children be their best. Much of this research supports what many parents already do: read to their children, talk with them, interact with them. Some of the research tells us how to do these things better; how to ask questions and engage our children with the written words in ways that increase their understanding and brain development.