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Children: Learning about the World and Their Place in It

From birth, children are learning about themselves and the world around them.  Using their five senses, they form opinions about who they are, what the world is like, and how they fit in it.  You shape how your children frame their world view, how they build their self-image, and how they come to see their place in the world.  Of the myriad ways that you influence your children’s perceptions, a few examples are listed below.

  • If your infant regularly feels your comforting touch when he cries, he may learn that his signs of distress or need (i.e., crying) will be attended to by you. He may learn that he can get his needs met . . . that you love him and are willing to take care of him.
  • If your nine-month-old dislikes the taste of a certain food that you are trying to feed her, and you insist that she consumes the food anyway, she may learn that it is you (not she) who is ultimately decisive and that her opinions are not always determinative.
  • If your toddler sees and hears you and your spouse fighting with intensity and/or frequency, your toddler may come to see his environment as hostile, frightening, and insecure.
  • If your kindergartener hears you using a large vocabulary and feels comfortable asking you for definitions, she may learn a large vocabulary of her own. She may also be more likely to do well in her English classes and perhaps get better grades overall.
  • If your third grader sees and hears you and your spouse reconciling your checking account, discussing what vacation you can afford, and having other budget discussions, he may learn to budget and live within his means.
  • If your fifth grader hears you talk about your dissatisfaction with your job, she may learn that work is an unpleasant experience and thus set a negative paradigm for her own work experiences years later.
  • If your sixth grader sees and hears you calmly and kindly negotiate with others when you have differences of opinion, he may learn to trust in the stability of relationships and the benevolence of friends and family.

Your children watch you studiously.  Make conscious choices about the lessons you are modeling for your children.  Talk with them daily about life (their lives, your life, and life in general), in affirming and realistic terms, using a vocabulary that will set the stage for academic success.  Encourage them to ask you questions openly.  Invite into your lives only those people who model healthy behaviors and set a good example for your children, especially a babysitter.  Allow your children to explore their world in a reasonably safe manner.  Get a little messy sometimes (then clean it up).  Live.  Experience.  Enjoy.  Celebrate.

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