In the torrid world of parenting bright kids, it is very easy to lose sight of the big picture as you deal with the rarest skirmish, insult, or confrontation. This can make parents vulnerable to despair as they rose perspective regarding whether they are raising their bright kid well.
|Infancy Stage Of Development In Psychology|
I'll offer a reminder of the main stages of child development as they relate to bright kids. It is useful to be aware of these stages because this helps us to keep in mind what we should and shouldn't be expecting of these kids at various ages.
Infancy and Preschool
It's a rocky road, this parenting business. Most parents of bright children start by asking, "What's normal?" This post tries to give you a rough guide to this.
Before trying to tackle this question, it is important to remind you that kids develop at different rates. It is always anxiety-provoking for a parent to look at their little Jimmy, who is struggling to work out which end of the pacifier to stick in his mouth, when the neighbor's little genius, Henrietta, has already knocked over War and Peace and is currently composing What Hamlet Did Next. Nevertheless, remember that children differ: they develop in their own time, and the person who develops fastest is not always the most successful or the cleverest.
Let's repeat that: the child who develops fastest is not always the most successful or the cleverest. As someone once wisely observed, if you turn life into a rat race, whether you win or lose, you always wind up being a rat.
We have probably learned more in the past few years about the way people learn and develop than we have in the previous 50 years. Much of this upsurge has been due to the proliferation of positron emission tomography (PET) scan studies.
The squishy blob of grey matter that sits on the top of your neck is the most complex, adaptable, regenerating object we know of. And it's busiest when we are children.
The way the mind develops is not a neat sequence of events. Recent research is confirming what two of the great thinkers of child development (Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori) postulated: that children's minds develop in fits and starts followed by periods of consolidation. These processes were labelled "assimilation" and "accommodation" by Piaget, and were described as "cycles of learning" by Montessori.
In terms of" brain development, there appear to be times of overproduction or exuberance during which we may be highly receptive to new information and able to gain specific skills more easily. During childhood and adolescence, this seems to be the way the brain develops - overdoing it in terms of production and then cutting back on what is not needed later. It's a pretty system because it's precisely that overproduction that allows us to choose, to hone and to specialize our skills.
If we map the key social competencies at different ages, we get a rough timeline that can help parents to be aware of priorities. Of course there is individual variability as well as gender differences, but nevertheless timelines such as the ones can be used to help parents target specific behaviors and learning processes at different times.
Children's brains are much busier and quite a bit cleverer than adults' are. From birth, the brain is busy setting up connections. At birth, each brain cell or neuron has about 2,500 connections called synapses; the number then increases rapidly, so that by two to three years of age there are 15,000 synapses for each neuron. Preschool children have brains that are more active, more connected, and more flexible than ours. In many ways you could argue that you will never be cleverer, more flexible, or more adaptable than you were when you were three.
Up until the age of three, children are like sponges. Given sufficient time and attachment with a caring adult and a reasonably interesting environment, they just learn. They absorb their surroundings and are especially interested in differences. In fact they learn by being attuned to differences. This remains true for all of us throughout our lives.
This means that from birth we are intensely interested in our social environment: we notice difference, we focus our learning towards emotions, we try to draw causal connections between events, and we want to create meaning and try out our knowledge in new settings.
We are born to learn about new places and people and to adjust to what we find there. This means that children already know a whole lot more about learning than adults do.
Much of our sense of belonging and security is laid down in these early years. Basic attitudes - including whether the world is a safe, friendly place or a hostile jungle - are put into place. There are many places of power in the world - the Pentagon, Mecca, the Vatican, the Kremlin - but the most powerful of all is the family home. The family is the most powerful structure of human belonging in the world: it is the place where gifts are received, gifts that take a lifetime to unwrap.
If your bright child did not have the calmest, warmest, happiest infancy, don't despair. It doesn't mean she will spend the rest of her days viewing the world as an awful place. It does mean, however, that you may have some work to do to give her more positive ways to live. To find out more, you can check out Infancy Stage Of Development In Psychology.