Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson with a doctorate in educational psychology and a professor of early childhood education with 30 years of experience in child development has had a great deal of concern for the lack of attention paid to parenting and the home environment. As a mother and grandmother, she can also speak from her actual experiences.
Julie Gilkay interviewed Dr. Anderson who lives in Seattle when she was appearing at the Fox Cities Book Festival. The entire article can be found at this link:
Children need Love
Q: Can you talk about the importance of reading at a young age and the role of books in childhood development?
A: Here’s the thing: It takes children four years to really master talking. Not until age 4 can children speak correctly just about all the time, and that’s with talking and listening every day of those four years, just about every minute they’re awake.
But we expect kids to learn to read in just one school year, in kindergarten or first grade.
To help children be ready to learn to read in kindergarten or first grade, children need to become experts at how books are organized, how stories work and the idea that letters and print tell the story. Children have to know that reading is enjoyable and have to have some background in popular books their friends have heard. The place this has to happen is at home and at childcare, and it happens slowly, over time, starting when they are babies and toddlers. Reading with a child is one of the most important investments a parent can make in that child’s school success.
Kids need to know that reading is something adults do. It’s not just a school-skill.
So while it’s important to read with your baby and your toddler and your preschooler and your older child, it’s also important that your child see you reading, too. Many adults say they’re “not a reader.” Being a parent is the time to rediscover reading. Your child wants to be like you. If you want your child to learn to read, you have to read yourself.
Q: The public school system in Wisconsin is set to lose $900 million in state funding. What are your thoughts on that?
A: Well, of course, any loss of funding for education is very distressing. If I ran the world, things would be different. But I don’t and parents don’t and teachers don’t, and we still must raise our children. What to do? It helps to remember that what children believe about themselves and their ability is essential. And a can-do attitude has to be cultivated; it’s really easy for kids to think “I’m just not good at math” or “I don’t like reading.” So we all need to adopt what’s known as a mastery orientation, which agrees that practice makes perfect. If a child is not good at math, it’s just that he’s not good at math yet. And if a parent isn’t good at math it’s that she’s just not good at math yet. We can all still master the skills we want to learn. It all depends on our attitude.
Q: Would it be accurate to say that your philosophy on parenting is, “Every good thing that happens between us happens first at home”? If so, what do you mean by that?
A: That statement just means that being a parent is really, really important. It reminds us that the good things we want for our children and the good things we enjoy in our communities and nation all depend upon lessons learned at home, about simple courtesy, self-control, kindness, responsibility and so on. Every good thing that we enjoy together is developed and supported by what parents do at home. This is why parenting is important and why good parenting is worth working for.
Q: What is the biggest roadblock parents face today?
A: Parents today are under a great deal of pressure to be perfect and to have perfect children, despite the fact that in many households all the adults work, money is tight, and there’s tremendous stress. There’s a lot of information on TV and the Internet about how to raise kids — not all of it helpful — which means there’s a lot of anxiety about doing the wrong thing or getting the wrong results. Many parents I work with are confused and anxious. And that’s no fun. Many parents blame their children. And that’s not fair. The solution to this anxiety is to realize that raising children takes every minute of the 18 or 22 years moms and dads have. It can’t be done overnight. It happens slowly, in a gradual shaping of behavior and understanding. So, as much as possible, take the long view and understand that no parent and no child is or has to be perfect. Enjoy each other!
Q: What form of discipline do you endorse or find to be the most effective?
A: I endorse self-discipline, which means modeling behavior one wants to see and helping a child learn to behave appropriately in any situation. This takes time. It can’t be done with gimmicks. But did you know that even “good” children hear four times as many negative comments about their behavior as positive ones? We get what we talk about. Talk about the things your child does right.
Q: Biggest parenting mistakes?
A: Maybe the biggest mistake is thinking that everyone else has it all together and we’re the only ones who are confused or in doubt. Living with another person of any age requires us to be flexible and that means that sometimes we’re in between feeling certain and feeling uncertain. Our child really is another person. She’s not a clone of us or an extension of us or a possession. Just like any other person, she will do things we don’t expect and we’ll have to adjust. Being comfortable with that is part of being a grown-up mom or dad. It’s OK if we feel confused sometimes. And it’s OK to ask for advice or help.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of building responsibility in children?
A: We all want our kids to be responsible. Sometimes, though, we’re uncertain what we mean by that. Being responsible isn’t just doing what Mom and Dad say. The responsible person can assess a situation, identify the right thing to do in that situation and then do it. Obviously, this is pretty complex. So teaching responsibility isn’t something that happens overnight. Responsibility is developed over time, in little ways, every day. And just as in learning anything else, when learning to be responsible a kid will make mistakes. The responsible adult expects this and is always ready to re-teach.
Q: One of the challenges of parenthood is finding some me time. What are your suggestions on how to make that happen and why it’s important?
A: One of the quickest ways for parents in two-parent households to get some me time is to ask their partner to take over for a while. A lot of moms think that the way they do things is the only right way and that dads just don’t do things the way Mom would. But by lightening up and letting Dad be an equal partner, both parents can benefit. In single-parent households, a mom or dad might need to trade off with a friend or relative. But the biggest step is just planning some time off and making that happen.
And why is me time important? Me time helps keep parenting in perspective. There are other things in life besides our kids, you know! Me time also keeps us from becoming so involved in our children that we are tempted to take over their lives.
And me time helps us step back once in a while and let the solutions to parenting problems bubble up. I’m sure you’ve had this experience, that an idea occurs to you only when you quit thinking about it. Me time gives you a chance to listen to your own inner wisdom.
Q: What one message do you hope parents who hear your talk or read your book walk away with?
A: I hope that parents will understand that anyone can do this; anyone can have a happy family life and raise children to be good people. It doesn’t take any money or any special toys or fancy school or anything else they don’t have right now.
Every parent has what they need: love, a few minutes each day to talk with their children, a few more minutes each day to listen to their children, time to read together, moments in which to model the kind of behavior they want to see. Raising children is never simple, and every family has tremendous challenges. But you can do this. I have confidence in you.
Dr. Anderson’s parenting advice is very “down to earth” and her advice is easy to follow. Spend time with your children and listen and talk to them. Finding time to do it is the problem that most of us have. Single parents have it really hard because they must shoulder all of the child rearing by themselves. No downtime for them. Teaching children to be responsible adults takes many years of work. If you were interviewed, what parenting advice would you give? Anything different from hers?