Ships passing in the night is a poignant image for a missed opportunity at romance. Does it also describe you and your child or children?
From birth, you are your child's berth, her slip at the marina, the dock she is tied to. Are you as connected to your child as he is to you?
In parenting and education of children, connection isn't just an important thing.
It's the only thing.
I recently read about the research of Dr. Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and play therapist. Her current focus is teens and young adults who spend so much time on mobile devices and are missing human connection. I was delighted to see that her parenting advice for these teens reads like a prescription for helping kids mine the 7 Childhood Treasures, from birth to seven!
How closely do the descriptions below align with your day? As an adaptation of Dr. Twenge's advice, and fluffed up from my knowledge and experience, I suggest:
- When you and your young child come together for the first time in the morning and at day's end, spend time talking with her. In the morning, talk about hopes for the day, what is planned and desired for the time ahead. At day's end, talk about the day as it was, its highs and lows. You are helping her mine the raw ores of Trust, Independence, and Faith, especially.
- Spend dinner time together, talking (without the TV on, the phone(s) close by, or the tablet tuned into something). Ask questions to which you don't know the answer, questions with lots of possible answers, such as, "What's the best you ever felt?" "What do you think air is made of?" You are giving him tools to dig deeply for the Treasures of Negotiation, Vision, Compromise, and Acceptance.
- Spend time playing games with your child: card games (Go Fish), board games (Candyland), silly games (monkeys), active games (Duck, Duck, Goose). Taking turns and following rules empowers your child to tunnel down after the gems of Negotiation, Compromise and Acceptance.
- Engage children in the chores of running a household, as appropriate to their ages (by 3, for example, children can dust, wash dishes, and sort laundry, with some initial instruction and a little co-cleaning). He will also be mining his Childhood Treasures of Trust, Vision, and Compromise.
- Empower and expect children to play alone--to keep themselves engaged with play and activity for short--and increasingly longer--periods, without you. They will also be digging up the Treasures of Independence, Faith, and Vision.
- Don't rescue your child from the natural consequences of her poor choices, and highlight the cause and effect connection. Help her to understand that her behavior of taking toys away from playmates causes observable results: nobody will play with her now. Experiencing the naturally-occuring (not imposed by adults) consequences of her choices pulls the Treasure of Independence out of the ground faster than anything else! (Of course, this suggestion doesn't apply, if the consequence would be physically harmful.)
Brain imagery made possible by PET scans (this picture is NOT one!) backs up this drumbeat message of connect, connect, connect. From birth to seven, children's brains are being constructed, with billions of new connections forming faster than we can imagine. This brain growth is proven to be the direct result of...you guessed it!--connection. Interactions (A.K.A. connections) with the world--the social world or the physical world--are, literally, the building blocks for the brain's architecture. You are how you connect.
Connect. Zap...two brain cells wire together, in thousands of places throughout the brain.
Connect. Connect. Connect. Zap...zap...zap. Every moment the infant, toddler, and preschooler is awake, his brain is forming new connections because he's connecting to you, and to the world you show him.
In real estate, as we all know, success is in location, location, location. In early childhood development and the mining of the 7 Childhood Treasures, it's in connection, connection, connection.