Some of the parents I have spoken to about early childhood development have lamented that despite the efforts they have put into their child’s development, they don’t feel that their child is learning as much as they had hoped. I have often responded to this concern by explaining that children know a lot more than they are willing to show.
It is important to have faith in your child and believe in his ability to learn. Shichida and Tobitani have often written that if you doubt your child, your child will feel your negativity and begin to doubt himself. This will only have negative repercussions for your child and that will impact his ability to learn.
Doman has often said, “Don’t test your child.” Despite that, many parents still feel a need to test their children to see if the programs are working. Unfortunately, when they find that their children does respond well to the test, they assume that their child has not understood the material. This impacts them negatively – they feel disappointed, discouraged, upset – and that in turn affects their children. If you cannot control your emotions, then stop testing your child. It’s the worse thing you can do for your child.
But how will I know whether I’m wasting my time?
Even if we assume that your child hasn’t learned anything at all, consider it from this point of view… When you spend time teaching something to your child, you are building a bond with your child and you are spending special one-on-one time with your child. Would you call that a waste of time?
No matter how much or how little your child absorbs, he will absorb something. Even if it comes back to him vaguely like de javu when he’s in school later, he will find it easier to learn the material he’s already subconsciously learned. Here’s an example I experienced when I was growing up. I was taking piano lessons and my teacher was teaching me a new piece for my piano exam. As usual, when I played it for the first time, I had to sight read the music score. Unlike the previous music pieces, I found it easier to play this piece despite the fact that it was supposedly a tricky one. Surprised, my teacher asked, “Have you played this before?” To which I answered, “No.” Then he asked, “Then you must have heard it before?” To my recollection, I could not recall having heard it before and yet something about it felt familiar.
Another example, also related to music, was when I was reading a novel. A character in the novel was singing a song and the lyrics were written out in the book. As I read the book, I remember adding my own music to the lyrics. Thinking I’d made up the music myself, I told my cousin about it. She laughed and said, “You used to sing that song when you were in kindergarten.”
Even if your child vaguely remembers learning the material, you can bet that when he comes across it again in school, it will be a lot easier to learn the second time around. When I was in high school, I thought Chemistry was so complicated. When I started University, we had some review lectures that covered what we learned in one year of high school chemistry all condensed into a couple of one hour lectures. I remembered wondering why I found the material so complicated in high school because it made so much more sense when I was looking at it for the second time in University. It’s like riding a bike – you never really forget how to do it. You might be a little wobbly getting back on after a long break, but you get it back a lot more quickly than it took you to learn it the first time.
Those are the worse case scenarios. Just because your child can’t or won’t tell you the answer doesn’t mean he doesn’t know it. Young children aren’t interested in showing you how much they know because they are too busy exploring new things. And pushing them to show you can have quite severe negative consequences. I have learned this the hard way with both Gavin and Gareth. Unlike Gavin, Gareth hasn’t really been interested to start talking. His first word was probably “papa” which he used to say whenever Daddy was around. He clearly understood the significance of the word because he would look at Daddy when he said it or he would reach out to touch Daddy when he said it. Rather stupidly in our excitement, we kept asking him to repeat the word and that was the end of “papa”. We never heard him say it again.
I know Gareth understands a lot. He grasps the significance of things – like when I’m holding my bag, he knows I’m about to go out and he clings to me for dear life because he wants to go out, too. I also know it is pointless to test him because he doesn’t always comply. For instance, his favourite toy is Mickey Mouse. Sometimes when I ask him, “Where’s Mickey?” He’ll point to his stuffed Mickey or a picture of Mickey. Other times, he’ll ignore me and continue on with whatever he’s been doing. If he can ignore me with his favourite subject – Mickey Mouse – I’m sure he can ignore me when I’m asking him other questions. And because I cannot control my emotions, I don’t even give him problem solving questions any more.
Children will do things only when they want to. I observed this with Gareth when he is playing with his shape sorter. I used to think he only knew how to fit the cylinder because he would try to push all the other shapes through the circular hole. One morning, to distract him while I tidied up around the room, I sat him down with the shape sorter and left him to work on it. A little later, he was pulling at my legs and I wondered why he wasn’t working on the shape sorter. I turned to look at it and it was completed. All the shapes were inside. Since that one and only time, I have never seen him complete the shape sorter again. He’s gone back to simply putting in the cylinder and trying to push all the other pieces through the round hole.
This has been a rather round-about way of saying it, but essentially these are the take-home points:
- Have faith in your child, believe in him. Doubt will only hinder his learning capacity.
- Not matter what your child picks up, rest assured that it will benefit him in future.
- The time spent with your child is good for your parent-child bond.