1. Do not let your child be a passive observer. If you read to him, ask him questions about what he has heard. Tell him to narrate the material back in his own words. Make him address any moral value issues which may come up. Develop his mind, not simply in the direction of absorbing, but in the direction of responding. The mind which can respond has to absorb in some measure, but the mind which simply absorbs — like in front of a television or computer screen — is too passive in the learning process, learns to take without giving, and it is questionable how much it really does absorb anyway. Computers do not offer learning experiences which require real human responsiveness. Programmed learning has its uses, and it can be very effective at later ages, but at this age your child needs interaction with an adult (and not with groups of children his own age).
2. Do not let your child ignore God. God is the ultimate reason for why he is alive. When God speaks, He must always have the child’s attention. So do not indulge in frivolous Bible story books which degrade God’s word to entertaining comics or to nice little tales on the level of myths and fables. The standard must not be entertainment value, but faithfulness to God’s word.
3. Do not let your child explore the world only from a cathode ray tube. Children need real experiences to relate to. Seeing a jet take off on television is not the same as seeing a jet take off in front of you. Hearing an orchestra on television or radio is not the same as hearing an orchestra in person. Watching a computer simulation of a scientific experiment, or watching a video of it, is not the same as doing it in front of your very own eyes. Yes, you can learn some things by the tube. But it is not the same. There are also some things which you are not learning.
4. Do not do for your child what he can do for himself. We need to reject all of this popular “self-esteem” stuff. The world’s problems can be summarized in one simple expression: too much self-esteem. Too many people think they are too good for what they get in life. They think they deserve better. And among the things which foster such notions is parents fawning over their little children. For the first year of his life, you pretty much need to do everything for him. But after that, the situation should begin to change rapidly. He can learn to do many things for himself in the next couple of years. He can clean up his own messes.
5. An important corollary to this is: Do not do for yourself what your child can do for you. Your child needs to esteem himself lower than others, beginning with his parents. He can gather the clothes for laundry, and he can fold the laundry. Then he can do the laundry. He can set the table and wash the dishes. Then he can help fix the meals. He can vacuum the floor and dust the furniture. Then he can wash the windows. If you do all of this for him, then he will get a notion of self-esteem: “I am so important everyone ought to do things for me.” But if he learns to do it for himself, then he will get a notion of self-confidence: “I can do it myself.” And if he learns to do it for you, then he will get a notion of self-usefulness: “I can be helpful and I am needed around here.”
6. Do not allow your child to ignore you. You are the immediate reason for why he is alive. When you tell him something, make sure he hears you. When you read to him, do not let his attention wander too far. Of course, be sensitive. There are going to be times when he has something he needs to think about, and you may need to leave him do so. But do not let him shut you out. You must always have his attention when you speak. You must always have something for him to hear. No, we do not live up to that standard. But that should be the standard by which we measure.
7. Do not let your child rule you. Let him rule himself. A man must rule himself before he can rule others. (Think of all of the offices which have become inverted and perverted because of men who could not first rule themselves.) Nobody learns to rule himself by obeying his own desires. He can only learn to rule himself by obeying another’s desires. There must be something larger than himself to serve. (That is why the concept of God is inescapable. If you do not follow the true God, then you have to invent a substitute god to serve a similar function.) If you can teach your child to know himself and rule himself, then he will be able to rule that part of the world which you give to him, and eventually that part of the world of which God places him in stewardship
8. Do not set your child in front of a television screen. Television is bad. The material on the screen is bad. The entertainment method of learning creates a sort of entertainment addiction — the child wants to be entertained all of the time — he wants his visual and auditory senses stimulated (overstimulated). Every child needs to learn to spell through touch and taste and smell, and through interaction with real human beings who smile and answer back. He needs to learn in submission to the authority of real parents, not the authority of glamorized, always-happy, limitlessly-resourceful, never-tired substitutes who have absolutely no accountability.
9. Do not let your child waste away. You will have to discover the happy medium between giving your child enough time of his own and giving your child too much time of his own. If he has too little time, he will not develop his own thoughts. If he has too much time, he will pursue mischief, or at least no profitable ends. Give him something to think on when he has nothing to do. Memorization fills the mind with things to teethe his mind on and ponder.
10. Do not let your child play in a cyber world. He can play in a miniature world. He can play in a pretend world. But it must be made up of objects which exist in the real three-dimensional world, not electrons hitting an opaque, two dimensional phosphorescent screen. Why? Because — though he may learn something from the screen image, there are nevertheless many things which he is not learning precisely because it is only a screen image. Besides the missing sensory experiences (touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing — three dimensionally), there are logical things missing (such as consequences in the real world). When the computer substitutes for the functions and processes which the brain normally supplies, the brain is left to atrophy. It does not develop its brain muscles, as it were. Excessive use of computers, especially at early ages, will restructure the way the brain processes information, often for the worse. It also causes the underdevelopment of the emotional and social dimensions of the child. Young children are developing many parts of their understanding, and “holes” can occur in their development if they are deprived of certain experiences during critical periods of time. These may not be discovered until much later.
I was just feeling overwhelmed and I read your post. #4 and 5 are my major downfalls. Thanks for the reminders. I think I know just where to begin…
I like it –except maybe a little movie-screen with good stuff–
Some of this list seem to be repetitive. But such is the obsession of our culture with video-related STUFF!! We need to repeat and/or address each facet even though it overlaps other facets of the video/computer/tv craze!
I like the your first point about children not being passive observers, but it is something I struggle with. How do you get your kids to listen carefully? My very visual boys all have great first time, cheerful obedience in other areas, but can’t listen to save their lives. They can easily narrate something they have read themselves, but if I read it they tend to daze off, or they can’t figure out new vocabulary from context. I have one six year old boy who can’t even listen to two sentences in a row. It’s like only one sentence fits in his at a time, and any more added will just make the previous one fall out. Should I consider this a skill issue, developmental, or simply a discipline issue?