It’s the start of a brand new year and the perfect time to reflect upon resolutions for 2015 – although these thoughts on child development and education that have been on my mind for a while now… The hope is that writing about them might help me get some clarity…
As my eldest boy approaches the end of early childhood (defined as the period of human life from birth to age 8), I find myself stepping into uncharted territory. More and more, I look towards the development of his character and wonder if I have done enough in his foundation years.
G1 the Solo Child
When G1 was little, we focussed a lot on his intellectual development. We sent him to Heguru and we offered him many opportunities to nurture his interests and hone his talents. As he grew older, we exposed him to formal lessons for art, music, and sports, and he received one-to-one brain training with myBrainLab. On an intellectual level, we have always been impressed by G1’s development.
As infant and a toddler, G1 was a highly sensitive child but a manageable one because I could usually figure out how best to handle him. As a young child, he was considerably well-behaved and very enjoyable to have around. All behaviour issues were centered around major changes in his life – starting school and the arrival of G2. As a parent, I had never felt more confident and sure of my methods.
G2 was my “easy baby” – “always seen but rarely heard”. I carried him everywhere in my pouch and nursed him until he was 3 years old (give or take). As a baby, he was everything G1 was not – quiet, content, and easy to handle. I thought at the time it was because I had the whole parenting thing down pat. It was only when G2 discovered his legs and started moving that I realised I’d actually been having it easy. When his toddler years arrived, he turned my whole world of beliefs upside-down and made me question everything I once thought I knew…
G2 the toddler and young child is what they call “a boy’s boy”. He was always on the move – why walk when you can run? He is the scientist that had to test the breaking point of every object he came in contact with. A curious child, G2 often landed himself in hot water because he could not resist that insatiable urge to explore everything with all his senses. All confidence I had as a parent after having G1 was eroded by G2’s reluctance to “fall in line”.
As with his brother, we gave G2 the same early childhood opportunities – he attended TweedleWink and Heguru, and we immersed him in a enriched environment of books, music and play. I also taught him to read using Little Reader. Being born in the iPad generation, G2 has had significant exposure to devices and screens. Although G2 has never been as “showy” as his elder brother and it has been more difficult to gauge his intellectual development, we have often heard very positive reports from his teachers.
Being raised in a typical Asian family that reveres intelligence and good grades, it has been difficult to let go of that ideal that brain power is all that really matters. And if brain power is all that really matters, then I ought to be pleased with how my boys are progressing. But as they grow older, I feel a concern gnawing at me as I wonder about the rest of their development.
Even though I have also focussed much on discipline and character development, I find these qualities difficult to measure. How can you tell if your child is “on track” to becoming a “good adult”? How can you tell if you have done enough to provided your child with the mind tools for happiness?
- They found that children who developed language early were more likely to achieve academic success, but this wasn’t particularly associated with adult well-being.
- In contrast, those who were socially confident, rarely alone and socially connected through clubs and youth groups were more likely to grow up into happier adults.
Even if you don’t care for those qualities, it is clear that future success is not solely dependent on brain power but upon a variety of individual characteristics:
- being open to experience and conscientious is four times more important than intelligence in predicting academic success – Conscientious and Open to Experience
- children with greater self-control become healthier and wealthier adults – Self-Control
- grit and mental toughness separate excellence from mediocrity – Grit
In our pursuit to raise “successful children”, we cannot afford to neglect the development of their character and I find that as the years go by, what has become most important to me is the kind of character my boys will emerge with.
Every individual is a mixed bag of personality, emotions, and experiences. We all have our good days and our bad days. We’ve all done things we’re proud of and things we’d rather forget. Similarly, our children are the same. There are days when my boys are so well behaved that a mother could not be more proud. Then there are the days when I desperately want to pretend I have no connection to these raucous children running amok through the malls. And when my children behave poorly, I can’t help but wonder if I’m parenting right or if there is something else I should be doing differently. On the days when my children’s behaviour shames me, I try to remember Makoto Shichida’s words that children are not a finished product but a continuous work in progress and that there is still time for me to help them correct it.
I guess I must come to terms with the fact that I will never know if I have done enough to develop our children’s character adequately. What I do know is that while my children are still young and “moldable”, I know I must aspire to do all that I can as a parent. That said, I do confess that I doubt I could ever neglect their intellectual development because it is far too ingrained into the core of my being that it has likely become a part of my genome. Or perhaps it’s just part of my Asian kiasu-ism?