I once read some books when M was just weeks old that convinced me babies have immense potential even before they are born. Hence, the popularity of pre-natal teachings, though I didn't believe in them when I was pregnant.
Basically, how, we as parents, see our little helpless bundle will have a significant impact on how we react and interact with them, right from their birth. This will in turn affect how they turn out.
Right from day one, E and I agree that we do not baby-talk our babies. So no 'we go take car-car', 'want to play ball-ball', 'drink milk-milk or nan nan..'etc... Instead our conversations with our infants were mostly complete sentences, spoken with a tenderly loving tone.
More importantly, I also firmly believe in NOT underestimating a child's potential. From age 0 to 2, a baby and toddler have such immense potential, waiting to be discovered. Each is a born genius. This is the time when their brain growth is the most tremendous, compared to any other times of their lives, so we simply cannot underestimate what they can gain in this early two years.
Adults often think that their kids do not seem to understand many things or capable of learning anything at all. I beg to differ. What we do not see, doesn't mean is not there.
A child under 2 is limited by his language development. He may not be able to sufficiently express to us in ways that we can understand, so he can't let us know that he can understand and appreciate more than we think. But it doesn't mean that they are not learning.
For my own children, I just assume that they are like sponges and will absorb whatever that I teach them.
My mum used to say to me 'your boy is only a baby. why do you bother to explain this and that, or do this and that with him. Just wait till he goes to kindergarten.' Frankly, I always think that she is the one who misunderstands. I never once think 'oh he is still so small, he is not going to benefit/learn ..... oh my 15 month old will not understand this!... ' etc..
I feel it is my job, as a parent, to provide them that nurturing environment with the stimulations and coaching, to help bring out their best potential. I am not saying that what I do is the best and always right, but it is definitely my best efforts for my children. Whatever that I don't know, I learn from others. I research and read up a lot. I tried methods that I believe in and assess the improvements or the lack of it. I adapt methods and try again.
And I always have faith that with the right stimulation and coaching style, any child will learn in the best ways he/she can. If we can make a positive difference in their formative years, we can bring out their fullest potential and help them build on their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
Now, this doesn't mean pressurising a young child to play with toys or read books that are too challenging for him. It may backfire as it adds to his frustration and lowers his self-esteem and confidence. By providing the right nurturing environment, I mean ensuring a language-rich, stimulation-rich and loving learning and living environment from young.
A child learns throughout the day. He doesn't stop learning when he steps out of his enrichment class (if he attends one) and he doesn't start learning only when he goes to school (or at a school-going age, like my mum used to believe). And how one child learns best may be different from another too.
This is an art, as well as a science!
Originally appeared in this June 2009 post.