Success With and Without Struggle - But Success

Tisdale - May 13, 1999
By Timothy W. Shire

We as a species are very much aware of the apparent tremendous differences there are between us as individuals and in particular we are so often concerned about what seems to be natural ability of some individuals over others in skills and what we often describe as talent.

First of all it is important to point out that as a life form, though we seem to vary somewhat in appearance, were we to consider human beings from a cat's point of view, we all would seem pretty much alike. It is our own awareness that seems to draw attention to our differences. Let's consider some of these differences and consider what they might mean in terms of how our children develop.

  1. Boys lag considerably behind girls in language development and speed of both physical and mental maturity.
  2. In terms of race European children lag behind oriental children in intellectual development.
  3. Economically disadvantaged children appear to develop superior athletic ability to those children who are economically better off.
The three generalisations above, though generalisations, have some merit and field testing has established with certainty the first two ideas, while the third is a widely held belief by most people. As a parent, or prospective parent, who wants their child to have a good start in life, there are things we should know about human development that can effect a child's abilities.

There has always been a long standing argument about the importance in human development played by the child's genetic make up, as opposed to the influences of the environment in which the child develops. Genetic disposition is a matter predetermined by fate, as it were, so there is little we as an individual can do and given that all things were equal with each child the genetic influences affect a far smaller proportion of a child's development then any other environmental factor. So it might be a good idea to review what those environmental factors are that seem to produce more capable children and ones that can and seem to, find learning of all kinds easier.

  1. Children who come into this world at full term have an advantage over children who are born premature.
  2. Children who's parents do not smoke may have a minor advantage over children who's mother smoked during pregnancy.
  3. Children who's parents (mother and father) drink alcohol heavily are often disadvantaged and in many cases can suffer from limitations from their parents alcohol consumption.
  4. Children who's parents read to them at an early age frequently learn to read earlier then others.
  5. Children who are exposed to music at early ages and then later formal music training have superior ability in mathematics and spatial relationships.
  6. Children who spend a lot of time in front of a television at an early age may not do as well in school as children who have experience more direct interaction with their environment.
  7. Language development in children seems directly related to the amount of interaction they have experience with their parent or care giver.
  8. Children born between late August and January one, are at a distinct disadvantage in our present school system intellectually, socially and emotionally and repeating a grade at some time in their early school years will not improve their situation which will remain a constant throughout their whole life.

  These are only some of the factors that are well known to affect child development. Of course there will be exceptions, but in general over a large population these things seem to be important. With the exception of being born premature all of the other factors listed above can be either avoided or addressed. It is not a big sacrifice for a pregnant mother to avoid tobacco during pregnancy and man who is an alcoholic should not father children as studies have shown that the development of fetal alcohol syndrome children may occur more as a result of the father's condition then the consumption of the mother. Spending a lot of time with a child in conversation or reading to the child does have a major affect on the child's predisposition to formal education and the affects of music on child development are so well known now that mothers are play music to their unborn fetuses.

A child born between the end of August and the first of January is simply better off to delay entry into school , each child's learning cycle is synchronized with their physical growth cycle so they will develop on schedule no matter what but exposure to situations that are unfair and unrealistically beyond the child's development is cruel and has a negative affect.
  When we take these assumptions into consideration we can immediately see parenting strategies that will give our children a better chance of success without struggle (making learning easy).

The differences between boys and girls is just not well understood and may never be but it is profound and to ignore the consequences is just irresponsible. The determining factor that makes a male a male and female a female is chemically based and these chemicals have their role to play in determining the basic differences. Attempting to make boys more language oriented and girls more fantasy oriented just doesn't make sense. What instead makes sense is introducing to each the challenges they need when they are ready to meet those challenges.

The math curriculum in school has always been (in North America) geared to the timing of males students so that abstract concepts are introduced when boys are ready for them and the result is that in high school and beyond boys do better with these issues. Abstract math concepts must be introduced to girls eight to twelve months before when they are ready to tackle the problem and the result will be that girls will do better in math and sciences in high school and college.
  It was in the embassy area of Tokyo that a Japanese child development study discovered a remarkable thing. Experience primary teachers of European children all knew about this but it was not documented, but as a society we always have recognised this or that teacher as a really good one and when we examine what she did that made her better it was hard to pinpoint but we always have known that in her classroom things were ordered, calm and above all quiet. That was the discovery in Japan. European children at preschool and kindergarten age are in general, nosier and more excitable then Japanese and Chinese children of the same age. The difference though seeming to be a minor culture thing is profoundly important when it comes to the ability to learn and put into practice difficult tasks.
  If you want to improve your child's learning ability emulate the cultural disposition of the orient and quiet, calm self disciplined children will learn more quickly and more efficiently then noisy, rambunctious kids. This is not about having fun, this is about success. The reason for remarkably high test scores among oriental children is they have a better learning environment, internally. Excitement and exuberance is great in a free play situation but if we want rapid and practical intellectual development we need calm thoughtful pensive children.

We all hear about the hyperactive child, the term popular now is "attention deficit" but essentially every child, if given a little encouragement can become a little attention deficit. The treatment for the condition is reduced stimulation, quiet, low key coloured environments that will allow the individual to focus. The medication used with extreme cases, Riddilen, tends to slow the kid down which is an artificially induced reduced input situation. If your child shows the least tendency toward being a little more excitable, then you must examine first your conduct. Are you, as a parent, producing a somewhat wilder environment then necessary? If you are, tone down your own behaviour first, then begin toning down the stimulation. Television commercials are designed to get the viewer going, check them out and see if you are acting as a commercial. Barney and the Tubbies are worse then a blank screen, in fact most things on children's television are worse then the thing turned off. Crayons, interactive cooking, story telling, all make a better day and a better kid.
  The last point I made about economically disadvantaged children seeming to do well physically is for the most part a myth. However, one element about that issue is completely true and needs to be considered. A child growing up in an oppressed urban ghetto will often do what he/she can to find a solution to their problems. They do what they can do and they do it until they are very good. Wayne Gretzki was not a disadvantaged individual, in fact he was just the opposite with loving supportive parents and an abnormal level of desire. Physical development especially in skills is related directly to practice and more practice. It really is important to realise that people achieve the success they do largely because of their desire to hone their skills and go with their strength.