May we suggest some New Year’s resolutions for parents of young children?
- I will give my children more time to just play, with blocks and other open-ended toys, and with toys that they can pretend with, like dress-up clothes and old cell phones and briefcases, and play dough, and big boxes and stuff like that. I will cut down on the lessons–one is enough, so at any given time, I will pick swimming or gymnastics, or maybe none. I will not give my child worksheets or workbooks. That is not a natural way to learn letters or math, and it is not nearly as effective as learning these things in real life. I will cut down on the coloring books, and give my child more blank paper. [Please read an interview on NPR with a Yale professor, Erika Christakis, entitled “What Kids Need from Grown-ups (But Aren’t Getting.)”]
- I will let my child play outside more. Tons of research lately show that the benefits of being outdoors, in nature, are tremendous. Kids are better able to focus, to be creative, to connect with the natural world, to explore and learn, when outside. After seeing first-hand the benefits of an outdoor classroom at our school last summer, we have to agree. Please do yourself a favor and read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.
- I will let my children try to resolve their disputes themselves first, before I step in. It’s a valuable skill, and one they can develop. Use our Stoplight for Peace, and our Good Choices cards, to help them. Your peace of mind will increase as you do not have to be judge and jury for every little dispute–hurrah! Simply telling them to talk to each other and listen to each other before they come running to you will make for a more peaceful 2017.
- I will not give my child empty praise. If he swipes a paintbrush across a piece of paper a couple times, I will not gush about how I love it! I do not. Empty praise is meaningless, and does not increase a child’s self-esteem. What increases a child’s self-esteem is real accomplishment. All I need to say is, “Wow! You made it all the way across the monkey bars! You wrote the names of everyone in the family! I’ll bet you’re proud of yourself for making your bed all by yourself.”
- I will cut down on the time my child watches TV, or does video games, or other media. A little bit is fine. But we all know than more than an hour or so a day for a preschooler is too much. And I will not let my child watch anything with violence. Instead, I will take my child to library every week, and let him pick out many books. and I will read to him, and I will give him time to look at the books himself, over and over.
- I will give my child free time to do nothing. That’s when imagination and creativity and bigger thoughts can take hold. We have a child in our class this year who likes to “lounge” when she gets up in the morning, for half an hour or more. Her mother allows her to do this, and does not fret that her child is wasting her time. In fact, this is one of the most creative and self-sufficient children we have ever met.
- I will not beat myself up for mistakes I make. I will remember that all parents make mistakes (it’s a tough, 24/7 job!) and that our love for our children will carry us through.