How to raise a child who’s able to make the most of her abilities, whatever her talents may be
If your child shows a flair for kicking a ball, drawing stick people or even defusing warring factions in the sandpit, how can you make the most of her talents. Read on for some expert advice on maximising your child’s potential.
“To maximise your child’s potential in any area, you need to give her the opportunities to develop her skills within a loving environment,” says Pam Holtom of Parents as First Teachers, an organisation committed to helping mums and dads help their children reach their full potential. “As a parent, you need to be sensitive to your child’s needs and respond to them.”
So if the next David Beckham, Lily Allen or Kofi Annan is squishing baked beans and spilling juice in their high chair, here’s how to bring out the best in them.
Your child doesn’t have to be super brainy to be a thinking child. If she’s quiet and contemplative, it could be she’s watching and taking it all in. With the right encouragement, you can nurture her inclination to observe.
“Babies need experiences to help their brains to grow,” says Pam. “Without these, the brain’s neurons can’t make the connections babies need to think faster and more directly.”
But that doesn’t mean you have to sign her up for every possible baby activity. “The experiences she needs are stimulation and interaction,” adds Pam. “The most important things you can do right from the start are to talk to your baby and read books to her. Have proper conversations, don’t just give instructions.” When you read, point to the pictures and explain what you can see.
The next most important thing is to play with her. “Your baby is like a scientist trying to make sense of her world,” Pam explains. Adapt your games as her understanding expands, making problem-solving gradually harder and introducing role play from 2 years. If your child is naturally quiet, use open-ended questions to encourage two-way interaction.
Your little one may show great compassion, but she’s still going to need guidance from you to learn how to balance
If you comfort a child who is hurt or upset, you show her how to be kind to other children
Pam Holtom, Parents as First Teachers
“Sometimes we expect children to be kind and gentle before they’re ready for it developmentally,” says Pam. “At 2 or 3 years, your child is the centre of her world.”
However, talking about other people’s feelings will help her begin to understand that what she does can have an impact on others. Similarly, helping her to find words to express herself rather than actions, such as biting, will build up her social skills.
It’s also important to set a good example. “If you comfort a child who is hurt or upset, you show her how to be kind to other children,” suggests Pam.
“Ruben has always been very caring, but it’s really come out since his little brother, Noah, was born. He’s always very concerned about Noah, and the other day I saw him kissing his fingers and toes, something he’s never seen me do. I tell him what a sweet boy he is and how proud I am of him.”
Jennifer, 34, froand mum to Ruben, 2, and Noah, 2 months
“Jake loves playing with soldiers and army toys, so I sit down with him and we make up stories where his soldiers go to hospital when they’re hurt. That way I hope I’m teaching him that in the real world shooting someone with a gun has consequences and isn’t a game”
Gilly, 32, mum to Jake, 3, and Millie, 2
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