A lot has been written about the tweens and the teens and the challenges met by parents as they face bringing up their children. However, by those years a lot of a child’s foundation has already been established based on their earlier learning experiences.
Many years ago, my wife and I decided that getting the foundations right for our children would make or break the later years and devoted a lot of effort during the 3 – 7 age range to provide them with the social and emotional skills that would allow them to interact well with adults and other children.
We did some research at the time, but it was more ad hoc and based on our instincts for that which reflected our family values. We had basic principles that we wanted to teach – kindness, independence, fairness, generosity, happiness. We did not sit down and spell these out but looking back these were the thoughts that embodied how we treated our children and what we did to encourage these traits. We also encouraged play dates with other children and held fun birthday parties with activities that reinforced our values and teaching goals.
One of our “traditions” was the family Sunday dinner. Every Sunday, we would sit down in our formal dining room and have a special Sunday meal, which lasted perhaps an hour. During this meal we would all discuss the highlights and the low lights of the week. These dinners were very difficult at first, with the impatience of the very young to sit still and focus on social interaction and no other stimulation (e.g. smartphones). However, we persevered, and we are so glad we did as now many years later, our children look forward to family dinners during which they can talk openly about their successes, trials and tribulations. It was hard work getting there but worth the effort. These are now some of our most cherished and fun times together as a family.
My wife was working during our first child’s earlier years and we had limited time available. Our choices were to use day care or enroll him at a Montessori school. The latter was expensive but we decided to bite the bullet and do this so that the time spent would not just be playtime but would start the learning and socialization process. In hindsight, we strongly believe the extra cost was more than worthwhile. For more on the Montessori approach consult https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_education
Many parents are not in a position to afford the school fees but the methods of teaching and the emphasis on building the base of social and educational skills are sound and often can be implemented at home during everyday life and interactions with no extra cost involved.
My wife subsequently left her job as an executive in a major financial services firm and concentrated on bringing up our two boys. We strongly believe that their later successes during the high school and college years have been driven in large part by those early developmental years
Looking back, the main values we worked to encourage were:
· Patience – not instant gratification
· Consequences for bad behavior that were realistic and that we could and would implement and that the consequence for lying rather than telling the truth would always be worse irrespective of the situation
· Hard work
· Respect – for everyone however different
· It is OK to fail – but learn from it
So, bottom line it is our humble belief that these early years are more important than many people think and extra effort at these ages will provide the foundation for making later success in life more likely.