Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Holiday Reading

One great thing about beach holidays is that it is a chance to catch up on all the holiday reading.

In Bali, I was reading this book. It explains the hype behind marketing like the "mozart effect" and how the "infant enrichment" kind of industry came about through some modest research and spawned this plethora of crap we buy for our kids. The conclusion is that there is absolutely no need to buy a whole bunch of "early reading/math/numeracy skills" materials. In fact, it's probably counter productive, because (surprise surprise) praising children for their intelligence places undue emphasis on being "clever" warps their values, and may create an environment where they eventually lack persistence and prefer to give up rather than fail, or else have a suicidal horror of failure.

I like the book in that the key message takes a lot of pressure off parents as "architects of their child's brain" and any other codswallop which the "early development" marketing industry wishes you to believe. There is very little you can buy that will augment your kid's IQ.

On the other hand, the central message is that forget buying any gadget and just focus on what parents do anyway - providing a nurturing family environment uniquely individual to each family.

I think fairly unique to our family (and some of our friends) - we are big time believer in sleep hygiene. I am not sure why it is not more common place - There are enough studies to show that ADHD kids benefit from having better sleep patterns. It seems self-evident that in normal healthy kids, establishing good sleep habits go a long way in creating quiet and well-behaved children.

Most fellow travelers are amazed that Sophie almost never cries on long trips (car, train, plane). She completely defeats the stereotype of wailing infants and hyperactive toddlers on long-haul flights. They are even more surprised that even when Fabien and I travel with Sophie by ourselves, we have been able to play Nintendo, watch movies, and read books.

Of course, now that Sophie is intensely verbal, we also have had to answer Sophie's constant stream of questions like "Why we fly-fly-fly?" "Why clouds outside?" "Pour Quoi froid dehors?" In doing so, we've talked to Sophie about Bernoulli’s law and lift and thrust, about cloud formation and condensation etc... I have no idea how much physics she has actually absorbed, but it doesn't really matter, because whenever we tell her something new, she becomes extremely quiet and stares into space for a while.

These are random photos of our happy kid on our balcony at the start of the Beijing summer, and her dad managed to catch a photo of her spacing out, but that is what I call the "just wait for it" look. I call it that because it usually means that there is another question bubbling up in that little mind of hers, and I am just waiting for it.

I try to answer the question (whatever it is!) as truthfully and accurately as I can.

Does this exercise make her more intelligent? I have absolutely no idea.

All I know is that after explaining something to her for 10 minutes, she needs to think quietly about it for at least another 10 minutes before asking another question (which may be related to the first question or else completely tangential), which (in the context of a plane journey) lets me complete another level of Super Mario Bros.


La IsleƱa said...

Ooh, what a wise little girl Sophie is.

S*, hopefully you will write a book. It'll come in handy when I finally pluck up the courage to foster a child (when I grow up, that is).

Clara said...

Oooh. I'm so glad there's nothing to the early development nonsense. I mean... look at what our parents had to work with and look how we turned out anyway.

I think knowing that you're loved and be able to try things, even though you fail is more important than all that hot housing!

Ex Night Queen said...

I am kinda sceptical about all that praise and encouragement crap for kids who do well in stuff - was in HK and playing with my friends' nephews on the PC - some word game. Was praising one of them for getting the correct answers...encouraging him when he got it wrong...then the other boy got all impatient to try and he got so many more wrong answers and in the end, my encouragements and praise just felt so I kinda realised that wasn't such a good thing after all to create that hype for success. what then? It's something even I as an adult have to grapple with everyday - will this make me happy or is this "THE" thing to do?

Sky said...

i feel the same way about the "early learning" fad that almost all mommies i talk to here in sgp are chasing after. but the "praising" - i can't help myself :P, though i believe it's a balanced thing - how one treats mistakes and achievements - both are important learning tools in life.

i like la's idea - you should consider writing a book :)