Building What is Important in Childhood

Lisa Samick, Director of Early Childhood & Family Engagement

“Children are like tiny flowers: They are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers.” – Frederich Froebel (1782-1852)

Froebel, long seen as the founder of the kindergarten movement, captures in this quote the foundational belief of early childhood education. At its core, behind all of the block building, the song singing, the clay sculpting… we are helping children separate themselves from their parents and figure out who they are as an individual and as part of a community.

As with anything, however, this individuation is a process – one that begins at home and must be dictated by the development of each individual child. Many parents have asked me about what should they be doing? – how they can best prep their beloved daughter or son for success? I completely understand where that comes from. The pressure of parenthood can be crushing – particularly in urban centers like New York City, where preschool admissions can feel more overwhelming than college admissions, and building a 2-year old’s resume is a field that now offers consultants!

Ultimately, all we want as parents is to give our child every opportunity and advantage for the future. So, what can we do? First of all, we need to embrace the journey – not the destination. This month’s theme of “Building our Sacred Community with Love” is so apropos to this topic. Your child (and by extension, you) are on a journey to build who they are going to be – as students, as friends, as citizens… and each precious step on this journey is critical to the ones that come after. Infancy, toddlerhood, preschool… it all goes by so quickly. We have to be so careful not to get caught up in the hype of all the things you need to be doing to “prep” your child for what comes next.

So try to ignore the playground chatter about kids who should be reading by age 3, or performing long division by age 5 – while that may be true for a few children, they are the outliers and not prescriptive of who your child should be. Instead focus on the developmental stages that are appropriate for your child and work on skills that are pertinent to their current part of the journey. In the end, mastery of those milestones are actually much better predictors of success than trying to move a child’s skill level ahead of where he/she is developmentally ready.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is not a new concept; however in recent years studies have shown that EQ is the single best forecaster of academic success. These social/emotional competencies are exactly the developmentally appropriate work of young children and what we strive to achieve in the ECLC:

  • Self and other awareness: understanding and identifying feelings, understanding that actions have consequences in terms of others’ feelings.
  • Mood management: developing the skills to handle and manage difficult feelings, practicing strategies to control impulses and handle anger.
  • Self-motivation: being able to set goals and persevere, even when there are setbacks.
  • Empathy: being able to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”, taking another’s perspective, being able to show that you care.
  • Management of relationships: making friends, resolving conflicts, cooperating and collaborating.

So, take a deep breath and a deep look at your child. Know that the academic milestones will come – reading, pencil grip, one to one correspondence – when your child is ready. And if the playground pressure starts to get to you… find a new playground!!

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