Advertising
Advertising

Early Academic Training Can Harm Kids In The Long Term

Early Academic Training Can Harm Kids In The Long Term

“Children must master the language of things before they master the language of words.” – Friedrich Froebel, founder of kindergartens, 1837

I remember a friend of mine who taught English to 6-7 year old Italian kids. She was constantly plagued by parents who kept insisting that the children should learn something about English grammar. They did not realize that their children did not yet have the logical and reasoning capacities in their brains to get their heads around functions of nouns, verbs and tenses. My friend tried explaining this to the parents but they were never really convinced. Fortunately my friend refused to give in and the kids went on learning English through playing, games, singing and drawing.

You can see the parents’ agenda, though. Their faulty reasoning is that the earlier you start getting your head round all the academic stuff, the better you will be and the greater progress you will make. They want them starting earlier and earlier on letters, numbers, homework and worksheets.

Advertising

Research does not back Common Core Standards

Most research shows that these parents are totally wrong. The situation is not helped by the fact that Common Core Standards set down by the US education authorities require that children should start reading and math early on. But language and literacy games and experiences are the activities which can lay the foundations for children to become expert readers. Why start too early?

“The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.”- G.K. Chesterton

A 1930s experiment which is still valid today

L.P.Benezet was a schools superintendent who conducted very interesting experiments in the 1930s in Manchester, New Hampshire. He asked some teachers to drop arithmetic from grades 1 to 5.

Advertising

”For some years, I had noticed that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child’s reasoning faculties.” – L.P. Benezet

This was an outrageous suggestion at the time. The results were astounding though. Children who had abandoned arithmetic were taught to count and measure things. Children were also asked to talk about topics that interested them rather than reciting things they had learned by heart. The idea was to give them hands on experience with numbers, but also to communicate and reason logically.

By the time of the sixth grade, those children who had been in the experimental classes were doing much better on tests of story problems and had a much better understanding of numbers and measurement. They were not doing too well on the standard arithmetic tests but they soon caught up. They were also still much further advanced on the story problems by the end of the sixth grade.

Advertising

German educationalists were wary before implementing change

It is fascinating also to look what happened in Germany more recently in the 1970s. There was a proposal that the school curriculum should be modified. There were suggestions that there was too much emphasis on learning through play in the kindergartens. Legislators and educationalists were thinking of moving to a more instruction based syllabus. But first, they wanted to carry out an experiment.

They involved over 100 kindergartens. Half of these were to use more academic type instruction while the other half were to continue basing everything on play. No prizes for guessing which children came out on top. Those who studied through play did better on reading and math tests by grade four and they were better at coping with social and emotional challenges. As a result of this experiment and others, it was decided to hold back on academic instruction in the early years of education.

Let the children play

Pediatricians and educationalists are now convinced, more than ever, that play is essential part of a child’s development as a whole person and is an important element in the happiness and well-being of each and every child. This has been borne out by numerous research studies and also advocated by the great educationalists such as Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget.

Advertising

It is crucial that child playtime is not reduced in the kindergarten or pre-school stages and also not overwhelmed by screen time or early academic training. Let the children play and learn!

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers

Featured photo credit: kindergarten is fun/woodleywonderworks via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

7 Things You Can Do to Deal with Low-Energy Days 10 Reasons Why People Are Unmotivated (And How to Be Motivated) 10 Morning Habits Of Happy People 10 Simple Morning Exercises to Make You Feel Great All Day What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It

Trending in Parenting

1 7 Positive Parenting Techniques to Raise Happy Kids 2 13 Practical Pieces of Advice for New Parents 3 How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths 4 How to Help Your Kids to Deal with Bullies at School 5 3 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn And Grow Positively

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on December 3, 2020

7 Positive Parenting Techniques to Raise Happy Kids

7 Positive Parenting Techniques to Raise Happy Kids

Having a black belt in the martial arts does not make you a black belt in being a parent—far from it. Most parents have a level of skill or expertise in at least one area, whether it’s baking, management, DIY, or something else. We know the rules, are familiar with the problems, and can craft an outcome that we would like. These are all needed for positive parenting.

So, raising kids should be simple, right?

Well, wrong. Simple does not mean easy, and in the current climate of a pandemic, it feels like it just got a little harder as well. But the world needs us at our best right now. If we do not raise our kids to be the best version of themselves, the negativity, the anxiety, the frustration of this generation will come full circle with less creativity and a reduced desire to face challenges.

Trips to Mars will be furloughed. The next Steve Jobs may skip a generation. You get the idea. So, where to start?

Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that it’s a good habit to begin with the end in mind. So, let’s start there.

1. Begin With the End in Mind

Imagine it’s your funeral and your kids are around your grave. They’re talking about the good times and the bad. What would you like them to say about you as a parent?

Beyond people saying how much they love you, this part gets hard for a lot of people including me. But think about it, what is it about you that the kids love the most?

For me, I want my kids to say that I was always fully engaged when I was with them. They felt like there was lots of positive energy, and they were the most important thing in the world at that moment. If I value being fully engaged, how do I make this a ritual so it’s there when the kids need it? For me, it’s my energy levels when I’m with the kids.

Our lives are a mixture of complex energy drains, so I have to be responsible for ensuring that when I’m with the kids, I’m joyful. I do this by being aware when I’m feeling low and having a plan ready to help.

This can be as simple as having your favorite songs on a Spotify playlist to help bounce back to being more focused or something more organized like having days off in your diary to recharge the batteries. If you can take 2 minutes to write down what you would like your children to talk about when they visit you at your tombstone, you’ll have a map that points to the type of parent you aspire to be.

Advertising

When you’re clear on this, you can design the habits needed to help you become the best version of yourself.

2. Legos

My childhood was very different—not your typical family environment. I grew up in a hotel in a seaside town, with my parents working more hours than they should. They were tired, busy, and angry more often than most parents because every day was a struggle to keep the business running as it was a tough time and a tougher clientele.

But the happiest memories I have of my parents were when they would play with me. This did not happen often enough, but we had a computer game table in the bar. It was an electronic pool game, and I loved to play against my dad in this 8-bit challenge. Remember, this was even before Nintendo consoles! Dad would get me a Pepsi from the bar, and we did not even talk. We were just both fully present in the moment and the game.

There’s a lot of bad press in the media about games and screen time. But you can make it a positive experience if you can immerse yourself when sharing this time.

One day, my dad came home with a big black bin bag full of Legos. I had never seen Legos before as it was not on TV adverts and school was for work, not play. Dad emptied the bag on the floor and we just played. No rules, no small talk, and nobody explained what to do. You just instinctively know.

It was probably the best day ever. Games and Legos are timeless. So, find the time, and just play. This is the step towards proper positive parenting.

3. Try Not to Bring “No” Into Play

This is a small thing, but when you bring no into play with your kids, it can feel like a win-lose situation, even if you are trying to keep them safe or just showing that you care. Instead, seek a win-win situation.

There is this balance between positive parenting and preparing kids for the real world. But probably the hardest of all positive parenting techniques is “avoiding bringing no into play” (ABNITP).

Going a little further, the technique has two parts—ABNITP and the use of positive language.

It does not mean never to use the word ‘no.’ But in the rare cases that it slips out, it’s more powerful and the kids are more wired to accept it.

Advertising

Here’s an example. Have you ever been on the phone and the kids wanted to talk to you? When you have a child asking you questions and trying to get your attention, it’s easy to say ‘no’ straight away. But rephrasing this to ‘when I finish the call, we’ll talk’ is a win-win mindset. When we feel most tired is when we’re most open to going into a win-lose mindset.

One small phrase had a big impact on my parenting, especially for those days when I felt drained:

“My coffee mug is drained, can you help me fill it up.”

I could get less resistance if I genuinely needed a little time or the kids would come up with a way to help. As the kids got older, this also turned into a great habit of them making me coffee in return for some time—a nice win-win situation.

4. Empathy

As a black belt in martial arts and growing up with busy parents, emotional intelligence was never that high on my radar, mostly because I never experienced much empathy growing up. There probably were not opportunities for it. Life was practical and you picked yourself up if you fell over, shook it off, and got on with life.

But as a martial arts coach in charge of a large number of kids aged 4 to 6 years, I’m not serving my students if I don’t have empathy. Young kids understand more words than they can communicate. Their view of the world is very different to us as adults, and they can teach us a lot if we are open to listening.

When your coaching a class and a 4-year-old is talking about their pet dinosaur, it’s not necessarily disruptive. It may be their way of communicating with you.

Taking a little time to communicate back pays dividends for your relationships. This can be the same for parenting.

For example, when your child falls over and cuts their knee, they can instantly start crying, sniffing, sobbing—you get the picture. As dads, we like strong cars, strong houses, and tough kids. Telling them to grow up, stop complaining, and be quiet can be our first thoughts. But it’s never constructive—and neither is cooing them.

Remember, young children understand more than they can articulate. Letting them know that “they’re brave as it must hurt, but they’ll be alright when they stand up” shows empathy and understanding of our child’s stage of development. Empathy is an essential aspect of positive parenting.

Advertising

5. Gratitude

What have you ever done together for other people? When my kids were young, we raised money for a children’s hospice. At the time, they did not really understand what a hospice was, but they understood that they were helping other children.

As a martial arts club, we had several volunteer children and parents spend an afternoon at a supermarket packing people’s bags. Many people would then donate some money to charity. It was a great experience for the kids as they got to help, which they enjoyed more than I thought they would.

The shoppers were really positive towards them for helping, and we all went to the hospice together to hand over the money. When we were in the hospice, we were allowed a tour of the parts that had no kids.

As a parent, this hit me more than a right cross. We’re going back 19 years, and I can still remember the smell from the sterile environment. It was a fun experience and a nice way to build habits with the kids to think about helping and giving back. Plus, this example helped me reflect on how lucky I was to be a parent. Teaching your children gratitude is key to positive parenting.

6. Adventure

Most kids love being active and having an adventure. We forget that a lot of the things that we may do or take for granted can be an adventure for the kids, such as meeting our friends, shopping for a car, fixing computers, etc. Involving your kids in these activities can be a change in their routine and fun.

Looking for a car had a big impact on my son. He would flick through the used car magazine while potty training. He would visit the showroom and sit in the passenger seat to let me know if it was comfortable. He was quite cute and would usually get a few treats from the sales team as well for asking good questions.

To this day, my son loves to remind me about the time he had to get help as I got stuck in the seat of a Lotus Elise. He also drives a sports car now that he’s grown up, and he was so proud to take me with him when he purchased it. Effective positive parenting should involve adventures.

7. Not All Strangers Are Bad

This comes from a place of opinion, so feel free to disagree, but I wanted my kids to talk to strangers.

Within this technique are many skills that will teach my kids to become strong in life and help keep them safe, too. The problem is that many kids think that they should not talk to strangers—that they are all bad and dangerous people. But I’ve always taught my kids that they can speak to strangers if they want to.

My kids grew up watching me talk to strangers all the time. From watching this activity, they’ve learned how to make friends. They’ve learned about the good questions to ask. They watched me listen, smile, and use my body to help communicate. Teaching kids that there is good in most people is a positive way of building their confidence and teaching them a nicer way to live.

Advertising

I’m not suggesting letting kids wander around unsupervised, being trusting, and chatting with everyone. There are real dangers in the world, from cars on the road, sharp objects, hot things, and—especially where my kids have grown up—the sea.

I see a danger in everyone I meet, but my kids did not need to see the world this way when they were young. Most people would awe me with kindness to our kids. There was a time when a lovely German lady held my son while I had my head over the deck of a ship from seasickness.

I believe our kids will grow up happier with less judgment if we start teaching our children not to fear what they don’t understand but to approach it with curiosity.

They also should know how to trust their instincts and—if something is not typical or does not feel right—to go with that intuition immediately.

There have been times that strangers have wanted to do me harm in life. But more times, they’ve helped me when I’ve been lost, in need of kindness, or in need of someone to talk to. This is why I believe that we should face our fears as a parent every day and let our children talk to strangers if we want them to grow up happy.

Final Thoughts

I hope to be a granddad one day and continue the techniques I started with my own kids. The Danes have a great word that expresses how I think—”hygge.”
This is about the power that being fully present brings to being a great parent. It’s a drama-free way to be together.

It’s not easy to be a parent in today’s crazy world, but if you begin with the end in mind, you can try to craft this into your daily routines until it becomes the habit of raising happy kids. And this is what positive parenting is all about.

More Tips on Effective Positive Parenting

Featured photo credit: Kelli McClintock via unsplash.com

Read Next