Engaged and Empowered Parents
Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers. Positive, nurturing relationships with parents protect and expand children’s brain development, improving their self-confidence, motivation to learn and ability to control impulses. As babies become toddlers and then progress to pre-school and school age, positive parent communication with child care providers and teachers further accelerates early childhood learning, helping set children on a course to realize their academic potential.
Uninvolved parenting, sometimes referred to as neglectful parenting, is a style characterized by a lack of responsiveness to a child’s needs. Uninvolved parents make few to no demands of their children and they are often indifferent, dismissive, or even completely neglectful.
The Major Parenting Styles
During the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind described three different parenting styles based on her research with preschool-age children: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive parenting. In later years, researchers added a fourth style known as uninvolved parenting.
Sometimes, it’s easy to assume there’s a “best way” or a “right way” to do everything, but that assumption can lead to micromanaging your child’s every move. If you can’t let go and allow your child to explore new opportunities—like wearing clothes that don’t match or putting the bathtub on the roof when she’s playing with her dollhouse—it’s likely that you’re overparenting.
Sometimes, kids need to experience failure firsthand. Recovering from failure provides children with opportunities to discover how they can do things differently in the future.
But before drawing that conclusion, consider the possibility that you may be overparenting. If you don’t treat your child like a smart, competent human being, you may be cheating them from reaching their full potential.
If you find yourself frequently arguing with teachers, coaches, daycare providers, and other caregivers about their rules or the way your child is treated, it may mean you’re overparenting. Helicopter parents often call teachers to demand their child to get a better grade or they forbid Grandma to allow the children to eat any sugar.
Trying to micromanage how other people treat your child all the time isn’t healthy. Kids benefit from learning different rules in different environments.
Sometimes, overparenting stems from expectations being set too high. For example, a parent may get a child involved in dozens of activities and may even manage a child’s free time to ensure that she’s always being productive.
At other times, overparenting results when parents have expectations that are too low. Parents who don’t believe their child is capable of behaving independently may do everything for them—like their homework—because they worry their child can’t do it right.
Parenting your child in a way that prevents you from experiencing any anxiety isn’t healthy. It’s important to allow your child the freedom to be a kid. Overparenting can prevent your child from experiencing a rich and full childhood that will prepare them to become a responsible adult.
Am I Really My Child’s First Teacher?
You might be thinking, “I’m a parent, not a teacher.” The great news is, whether you’ve had training or not, you are your child’s first teacher.Many simple, everyday routines are excellent opportunities for developing your child’s emergent literacy skills. Emergent literacy refers to the point in children’s development before they are able to read on their own or write words that others can read.This concept assumes that literacy learning begins at birth and develops gradually over time. It also suggests that the pre literacy skills children develop at this time are the critical foundation for later reading success. For example, by the time Lucas turns 1, his parents will have spent 8,760 hours providing him with consistent care. When Lucas is ready to start kindergarten at the age of 5, his parents will have accumulated 43,800 hours —over 1,000 days—with him, where growth and development are continuously occurring. This is a crucial period of development when it comes to literacy.
So what can you do? Below are three quick, yet impactful suggestions for quality literacy experiences. These ideas will help you promote literacy in a way that makes sense for you and your family.
Language develops long before a child speaks actual words. In anticipation, we sing, talk, read, and tell stories to children. Since there is a natural progression of oral language (the ability to speak and understand language) to reading and writing, telling stories is an important step to becoming a reader. You can develop your child’s oral language through storytelling. Use your imagination, and adjust your stories to fit your family’s traditions and culture.
Use everyday routines and surroundings to promote a print rich environment, which is an environment that allows children to see print and words in authentic ways. For example, the kitchen is full of literacy learning opportunities: label your appliances, refrigerator drawers, and items in the pantry; follow a recipe with your child; and identify key words on food labels. But the kitchen is not the only place to create a print rich environment! Extend your labeling to other parts of the home, too. This will help your children to learn letters, words, and the purpose and meaning of printed language. Developing this understanding of print will be foundational for children. They begin to understand that words have meaning, which will be important as they begin the process of learning how to read.
Make books available
In addition to reading, allow your child to physically explore books by making them easily accessible. Children develop emergent literacy skills by showing an interest in books—encourage your child to turn pages and pretend to read. Imitating the behavior of reading will allow your child to explore and begin to grasp the overall concept of reading. You can build on this pre- reading skill as your child will soon begin to develop an awareness for words, pictures, and the purpose for reading.
Nicole Taylor earned a PhD in Educational Psychology with a concentration in language and literacy, an MA in Language, Literacy, and Culture, and a BA in Early Childhood Education. Her research area centers around family literacy.