Perhaps I am a little bit more obsessive about ‘parenting’ than most people are. Frankly, I think all kids (but especially MY kids!!!) are too precious for us NOT to be obsessive in learning all that we can about all various facets of ‘raising them’ before we decide to have them.
So, before I went on to have kids, I read up on it. Obsessively. Exhaustively – I hope.
Of course, this was a 15-20 years ago….before I became a parent. So most of it was not ‘online’…and I would be hard pressed to remember all my ‘sources’! Much less ‘look them up’ and post links to them… Therefore, what follows cannot be categorized as anything other than my ‘never-humble-opinion’!
Still, this opinion is based on having done my homework…and having read a lot of studies – many of them not really popular with the current ‘educators’ – still, these were bona fide scientific studies, publishes and peer-reviewed and from all various spectra of scholarly schools. I will do my best to put it into ‘common sense wording’, in order to get the main point across as clearly as possible.
In order to understand what ‘we need’, psychologically speaking, it is a good idea to examine how – historically speaking – children were raised. It is, after all, the societies which ‘did OK’ that survived – so, considering the circumstances of how they raised their kids may help us understand which ‘circumstances’ are most favourable to raising adults who are most predisposed towards perpetuating the most successful societies. To re-phrase: let’s look at what ‘worked’ in the past, and what did not – and why.
The ‘traditional’ way of raising children is in an ‘extended family’ unit.
This is true of every race, on every continent…so, perhaps, we ought to take heed of this lesson.
Very young children are raised in small groups: the younger the child, the smaller the social group it is exposed to. This is very important, for various reasons: but, it is easiest to think of it in terms of ‘attachment’ and ‘social bond’.
The very first bond a child traditionally forms is with its mother.
This is due to in-utero conditioning (when the mother experiences ‘good/pleasurable’ things, from food to sounds and so on – her ‘feeling good’ chemistry is shared by the foetus: thus, some ‘preferences’ are being programmed into the brain even before one’s birth) as well as nursing/early care. (We are talking pre-baby-bottle times…nowdays, a father can step in and forge a bond with an infant much earlier than it used to be possible ‘traditionally’.)
As the child grows a little older, immediate members of the nuclear family (plus the maternal grandmother – but that is a different post) begin to forge social bonds with the infant.
These are very important: from ‘father’ (in addition to ‘mother’) to ‘older siblings’. The infant is still the youngest, most vulnerable – and thus most protected – member of the family. It is difficult to explain just how important this last bit is: it is essential in forming the ‘I am special’ bit of the personality – the bit from which ‘self-confidence’ and natural (not twisted) sense of ‘self-worth’ come.
As the child continues to grow, it is more and more exposed to a social group of ‘siblings and cousins’. The important thing about this ‘group’ is that there is a significant variation in the ages of the ‘siblings and cousins’ – the older one becomes, the ‘higher they rank’ – but the greater the responsibility for their younger siblings/cousins they have to shoulder!
This is a natural means through which children learn that ‘growing’ brings BOTH privileges/status AND responsibilities. This process is very positive, good for the ‘psyche’. Our own history has shown it to be so.
It is also a natural ‘drive’ enhancer: one wants to ‘catch up’ to the skills of the older children, while working hard not to be ‘passed’ by the growing skills in the younger children… with ‘special allowances’ to individual variations being possible because of the ‘family’ nature of the structure: the differences are seen as ‘special talents’ – most of the time…
To recap: there are 3 significant aspects to ‘traditional family’ method of child rearing
- The size of the social group the young child is exposed to is closely tied to it’s age: the younger the child, the smaller the social group – and the ‘clearer’ the ‘social order’ withing that group. The younger the child, the smaller the group. Since this ‘group’ was usually left in the care of one adult – plus the ‘older children’ – the size of this group usually did not exceed 10-12 (in the first decade of a child’s life).
- The ‘social order’ within this group was, to a great degree, dictated by the age of the individuals in it: the group was made up of children of VARYING ages – which brought along a structured ‘social order’ of status coupled with age.
- Each child was motivated to ‘catch up’ to the older children and ‘not be caught up to/surpassed’ by the younger ones: exceptional skill was recognized, and did not ‘denigrade’ others…but, this was a strong motivator to want to succeed. It was a ‘natural’ way of teaching kids that as one gets older, the expectations of them grow: to earn respect, they must grow to fill these expectations.
This was not ‘forced’: allowances were made for ‘special skills’….if one had shown a special talent in a specific field, their responsibilities would grow in that field and lessen in others. That is the flexibility inherrent in a small, family-based unit.
Also, because the children were of different ages, they could compete constructively with each other…the older children could acknowledge the growth in the younger ones without being threatened and all that….(most of the time, anyways).
The ‘modern’ method of ‘early childhood education’ violates this process in several important ways:
- The size of the group in ‘state-sponsored’ pre-school/kindergarten is much larger than the size of the social group a child would traditionally be exposed to.
- In ‘state-institutionalized care’, the children are ‘sorted by age’. That means that there is – at most – 1 year age-difference between the oldest and the youngest child in the group! This is justified by the commonality of the ‘age-appropriate developmental stage’ the children share. It is not possible to understate the destructiveness of this ‘grouping’ to the children concerned!!!
OK – let me rant on the second point: if the implications thereof have not become clear by now!!! And while they are ‘obvious’ to me, perhaps I ought to explore them in another post….