Early Head Start: Are Parents Trying Too Hard?
By Michael Grose
One of the implications of the current trend toward smaller families
is that we now have a generation of parents who are willing to go to
enormous lengths to give their children an early head start in life.
In the rush to ensure that children have a maximum amount of
experiences many parents ferry children from one lesson to another
after school and on weekends. This busyness of life takes its toll
on children and on families as homes are required to run like
clockwork and meals are thrown down between lessons. To hell with
shared mealtime I have to pick up little Jessica from tennis lessons
and drop her off at ballet classes is the mantra of many modern
The self-improvement industry for children is currently thriving,
with a staggering variety of programs on offer to children from as
young as three. Ballet classes, music lessons, and toddler
gymnastics the lessons go on. Don't worry if your children become
stressed attending all these lessons. There are stress management
classes available to help them relax and unwind. We pay quite a
price for keeping our kids busy for the sake of getting a winning
Parents are well versed in the knowledge that early childhood is an
important developmental stage for children. Positive early
experiences influence how a child see him or herself and, as
teachers know, assist greatly with the learning process once they
start school. But parents need to be careful not to confuse an early
start with a good start and place too much pressure on children at a
young age. Pull back rather than push ahead is a message we need to
send to the parents of today's pressure-cooker kids.
It also seems that many parents are in danger of becoming redundant
as they are outsourcing much of their parenting to experts. Parents
need to have a little faith that the time that they spend with young
children is actually beneficial in giving them the good start in
life that they are looking for. The recent trend for primary aged
children to have a personal trainer (I kid you not!) to ensure they
stay fit and healthy is an example of parents taking this
outsourcing too far. It seems that it would be more beneficial for
the whole family to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle, than hire a
trainer to give kids a workout.
So why does the move to smaller families place pressure on parents
and children? Parenting is something that is learned from
experience. With families reducing in size the pressure is on for
parents to get their parenting right from the start – there is
little opportunity to grow into the job.
It is timely to remember that a good start for children involves
plenty of positive adult attention and regard, consistency of
approach, the development of the skills to look after themselves,
and the wherewithal to help others. These are all things that
parents are well qualified to do.
Michael Grose is Australia's leading parenting educator. He is the
author of six books and gives over 100 presentations a year and
appears regularly on television, radio and in print.
For further ideas to help you raise happy children and resilient
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