Glass Half Full: Note to parents — children can hear everything
July 27, 2014
We recently hosted my husband's nephew and family for a weekend. Their two daughters, ages 3 and 7, are delightful: two cute blondies who are curious about everything and inclined to sing the theme song from "Frozen" at any given opportunity. I suspect many families can relate.
We shared two relaxed days at Burnt Cedar Beach, watching the girls play in the sand and water as children have done for centuries.
Given technology and the invention of complicated toys that open entirely new doors for children, it's always a pleasure to witness the traditional pull of a beach.
Our nephew and niece are terrific parents. They provide significant time and attention to their daughters, probably substantially more than my husband and I did when ours were at that age.
Frankly, I believe that today's parents are often better at that than we were, in many ways. At the same time, as an educator I wonder about two "modern" changes that carry with them unanticipated consequences.
The first is the fact that, sometimes — and I know that I am treading on thin ice here — parents can devote so much attention on their children and are so inclined to acquiesce to all requests that the latter develop an unrealistic need for instant gratification.
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It is all right to expect children not to interrupt; it is a healthy practice for children to understand that the world does not revolve around them.
In my profession, I see lots of boys and girls arrive in school very well prepared to take on academic challenges. Youngsters are naturally equipped with curiosity and a desire to explore. We love that in them and do all that we can to preserve and encourage.
Where they can be more challenged is in understanding that time and space are now shared. All children have strong opinions and interesting ideas. Frequently they bring their own sets of rules and expectations. Positive social interactions and people skills are every bit as important as the academic ones.
Those best prepared are children who have already learned at home that sometimes they are the center of attention — and sometimes not. Balance is an important life skill.
The second area is the very important reminder that, as it used to be said, "little pitchers have big ears." Children hear everything.
I recall being smart enough as a girl to turn pages in a book, as if I were reading, while listening intently to adult conversations. I figured, rightly, that if the grownups' perception was that I was busy, I wasn't listening.
It never ceases to surprise and worry me when parents talk about their children in front of their children, especially about areas of concern.
Last weekend, as the child in question sat in her lap, a mother noted her daughter wouldn't eat dinner and wanted food later.
Denying the latter "wasn't worth the battle." I swear the child looked at me and smiled. She was winning and knew it.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.
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