No one gives us a full semester class on how to be an amazing parent. There are not courses in our high schools or in our colleges that ever focus enough on the most important job many of us take on at some point in our life. That is the job of being a parent.
Sure, you can listen to stories from other parents, you can read books on how to be a new parent, and you can even visit web sites helping you chart the course of the development of your new baby, but none of these will ever truly prepare you for how much goes into raising one little baby from infancy, through the toddler years, and on into preschool age. Did you realize that by age five ninety percent of the human brain is developed?
This is quite a job you have chosen, and you need to understand something very quickly to make it easier on you, your spouse and your child. All of the advice givers mean really well, but they are not always correct. I am including some pediatricians, some speech therapists, some psychologists, some moms, some teachers, some of every group imaginable.
Along the journey of raising your child you will be given some bad advice so my advice is to go with your gut at times. I recall my mom and my sister telling me I was talking to my third child too much during her first year of life. They would suggest I just drive in silence as I took her for her well baby check up or change her diaper without conversing or singing during the entire process. My gut told me not to listen to them, and today she is in all honors classes at her school and has already taken the SAT and performed well as a 7th grade student.
I know they meant well, thinking I needed to take a break from the constant onslaught of questions and talking from my older two children at that time. Truth be told, I was more at ease as an older parent with my daughter, and I enjoyed our private conversations. I will never forget the day when our pediatrician warned me that I should stick to one language after over hearing me say a sentence in Spanish to Megan, and then switch back to English as the Doctor joined us in the examining room.
She brought up the topic of language delay and was concerned that my speaking both languages to Megan would cause her to be delayed in the verbalization of her first words, not to mention the fear of some type of speech problem that might arise from the introduction of both languages during such an early part of life. Learning Spanish as a second language early in life is what made Megan excel academically, and I knew it.
There are times when you need to welcome the free advice and filter through it all, choosing the best nuggets of wisdom for present and future use. When you hear the word stop in many of these well crafted suggestions, take heed. Particularly when it comes to something that means you will be stopping the learning process and cognitive development of that precious brain of your baby!
Did you realize that during the first five years of life there are neural pathway connections made in the brain of a child that will enable that child to become a lifetime language learner? It is true! Allow your child to hear more than just her native language and your child will speak that new language with native or near native pronunciation, experience early reading skills and demonstrate advanced problem solving capabilities. Amazing what gifts you can give your child without wrapping them up in gift wrap!
To sum it all up in one sentence is very easy for me as a bilingual educator, mom of three bilingual children and trainer of early childhood professionals who seek to bring Spanish and English together in their daily routines. Provide young children enough daily exposure to a second language, and those children will be wired to learn any of the thousands of languages of our world and be smarter for it!
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