It’s Okay to Ignore the Kids
TALKING to your kids is important but there's no need to overdo it, experts have reassured lazy dads.
We must never tire of quoting the classics, and my wife’s book Bringing Up Bebe has a vignette of an overachieving father in the park, stimulating his child’s mind. The dad is using the device of "narrated play": giving a blow-by-blow commentary on the kid’s every move.
As my wife describes it:
The boy looks about 6. The father - in expensive jeans and a stylish weekend stubble - has followed him to the top of the jungle gym. In a bilingual twist, he’s giving the boy a running commentary in both English and what sounds like American-accented German. The son seems used to his father heading down the slide behind him. When they move to the swings, the father continues his bilingual soliloquy, while pushing. This is all still within the bounds of what I’ve seen elsewhere. But then the mother arrives. She’s a rail-thin brunette… carrying a bag of produce from the farmer’s market next door. “Here’s your parsley snack! Do you want your parsley snack?” she says to the boy, handing him a green sprig.
Parsley? A snack?
One’s initial instinct is to laugh. But one’s second instinct is to worry: Do these absurd parents have a point? They are certainly right that kids need parental stimulation. I recently spent some time speaking to expert paediatricians and reading their findings, and the conclusions were clear. In general, kids whose parents play with them, read to them and feed them healthy stuff end up doing well in life. Kids whose parents don’t, don’t.
For the lazy father, this creates a dilemma. I much prefer reading the paper while my children occupy themselves with whatever game they're playing. However, if that means they will grow up to be cretins, paid to wipe the backsides of the super-rich elite classes circa 2050, will my quiet time have been worth it? Well, possibly yes. Still, could these absurd Park Parents be onto something?
Happily, the answer seems to be: not so much. You need to stimulate your kids, but the experts I consulted don’t think you should overdo it. Pam Winter, an expert on early childhood, wrote the report "Engaging Families in the Early Childhood Development Story," summing up the current state of the science for the Australian government. Ms Winter made the point that when kids grow up not being played with or read to, their brains don’t develop well. However, she added that the scientific literature had unearthed "little or no evidence that… unusual types or excessive amounts of stimulation will increase intellectual capacity."
The US’s National Scientific Council on the Developing Child took the same line. It found "no credible scientific data to support claims that specialised videos or particular music recordings... have a positive, measurable impact on developing brain architecture... Similarly, didactic instruction in skill areas that are developmentally inappropriate is an exercise in futility."
In short, enough with the parsley and the bilingual narrated play. Children need stimulation, not overstimulation. Give it your all, Park Parents, and we’ll see whose kids end up wiping backsides after we’re gone.
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/its-ok-to-ignore-your-kids/story-fnet08ui-1226500700292#ixzz2CGV1p4sE
You must be signed in to comment. Sign in or Register