We hear that word being emphasized a lot in the context of young children, don’t we?
With balance being the ideal that educators and parents strive after in early childhood education, how do we actually achieve it?
The first step in trying to find balance is to understand our child. We often talk about discipline and try to distance them away from making mistakes that sometimes it’s easy to forget that they are new to life. They aren’t as familiar with the way things work the way that we are. Mistakes are essential in the learning process, and more often than not we learn best from them.
Now, this does not mean that we should simply allow our children to go through mistake after mistake on their own. As parents and educators, we should always be there as best as we can to guide them through their mistakes and help them understand why they are mistakes. When your child makes a blunder, talk to them about it in the moment. We may think ‘Oh, I’ll reprimand them later when it’s more convenient,’ but with all that we have going on in our daily lives it might slip our minds, and our children wouldn’t even know that what they did wrong.
Taking into consideration that they are new to life, think of your child as a sponge. They absorb everything, from the good to the bad. If we want our children to be well-balanced, we ourselves must try to portray the kind of behaviors and mannerisms that we want them to practice. For example, at school they learn how to line up and wait for their turn. At the end of their school year, this would come naturally to them that teachers would only have to say “Line up!” once and they would get into line accordingly. Gone are the early days where it takes 15 repetitions of the phrase (and the odd game of chase between teacher and student) to get them into place. However, does this habit only apply within school?
When we are outside, be it in supermarkets, at the movies or on the road, we should practice it too. Even when our children aren’t with us, we should also think of other people’s children as well. Imagine lining up to pay for your groceries and seeing a person cutting line. What if your child asks “Papa, why didn’t he line up?” You see, children are more observant than we think they are. All adults, even if they aren’t parents and educators, are responsible for showing good examples too. If we want others to practice this, we must take the initiative to do the same. After all, children see children do (even if they aren’t ours).
Your child’s education does not only rest on their teachers’ shoulders, but yours as well. Yes, they do spend most of their time at school but it’s the continuity between their school life and their daily life that will really lock in the values that we want to instill in them. You are the most important adult figure in their life, so naturally they learn best from you. If there are any parental involvement activities at school, try your best to participate in them because those are great opportunities to bridge the gap between the school and your family, which will in turn boost your child’s interest in what they learn. Get to know your child’s teachers and work together in providing the best possible environment for them to grow up in, instead of making their school and their life outside seem like two separate worlds. If you understand what the teachers practice at school with your child, then you’ll know what is the best way to complement those practices outside school.
On that note, what are some things that we can do to complement our child’s daily experiences? If at school they can get their intellectual and physical input, at home you can practice life skills. This could be anything from pouring their own water, to spending time at the park, praying together or even telling stories at bedtime. When they feel sad, talk to them about their feelings and how to express them. These are all learning opportunities that will help your child develop, even if they might not take more than five minutes.
Learning isn’t just something that involves books and pencils. For a child to grow up wholesomely, it involves so much more than that. At their early childhood stage, a well-balanced learning environment is crucial in the development of their love for learning. We can’t assume that all children will do well simply by going through books and other reading materials. Learning is not a one-size-fits-all process. There are so many kinds of learners among our children, and there are so many kinds of learning materials that we have access to. By understanding your child’s nature and partnering up with their educators, it will help you to navigate your way to discovering what methods work best in ensuring that your child gets a balanced development.
With all that in mind, why is it important to balance out their experiences at this stage of their life? In their early years, it is the time where the foundation on which they will base their outlook on the rest of their lives is being formed. Do we just want our children to excel in their academics but shy away from human interaction? Do we want our children to be physically vibrant and reject any form of formal education? If we would like our children to be receptive to all the years of learning and life experiences that they have in store for them, let’s do our best to make sure that we help them to build a good foundation.
Achieving balance in our children’s upbringing might not be as instantaneous as we would like it to be. We might stumble along the way, and we might not see the results now but with patience, perseverance and forgiveness for yourself, anything is within our reach. After all, we weren’t born to be parents and educators the same way our children weren’t born to be perfect, well-balanced people. We all start somewhere, and as Maya Angelou once said, “All great achievements require time,”. In shaa Allah.