The Critical Role Parents play in a Child’s Development

The overall healthy development of a child into their early youth is (or should be!) a central concern for all parents. As one might expect, their role is indeed a multifaceted one. The child should be emotionally nurtured so as to cultivate a well-established sense of empathy for their fellow human beings (this is particularly important during those earlier stages of psychological development).

However, it is also the parent’s duty to make sure the child becomes well equipped for the hectic life that awaits them as adults. Of course, there is no need to teach the child about the intricacies of the banking system just yet (that comes later). Though, through taking baby steps, the child will eventually learn to develop a deep sense of responsibility that will hopefully guide them well throughout their later years.

As one might have guessed, raising a child is not an easy task. In fact, in many respects it is a struggle, although not a fruitless one, as all parents can one day take pride in themselves upon seeing their children as successfully well-integrated members of society. But first, there are a variety of fundamental building blocks that must be put into place before any such thing can happen (or at least, to greatly smoothen the process). This article will address the key areas that should always be on a parent’s mind when it comes to raising their children.

1.      Improving Cognitive Abilities

A child’s overall cognition is so much more than their ability to simply memorize new information. Indeed, cognitive development encompasses the overall quality of a child’s ability to think deeply about any new information presented to them; to independently establish their own thoughts on a subject, instead of simply reading pre-existing information. This also involves the ability to apply information they have previously learned to new concepts. Indeed, this type of abstract thinking crystallizes during what is called the “Concrete Operational” stage, based on Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. During this stage, toddlers and young children will begin to think logically about concrete events, develop a less egocentric worldview, as well as begin to conceptualize the world beyond their immediate position, gaining the ability to “work things out internally in their head, rather than having to physically thy things out in the real world” (McLeod, 2022).

Because this stage of development happens when the child reaches the ages of 7 – 11 years of age, it is very crucial that a parent engages in logic building activities with their children during and even before this happens. Here’s how they can help in this regard:

–        Art Projects: Forms of art, such as drawing and painting, can serve to not only boost a child’s creativity, but also help with their fine motor skills.

–        Ask Lots of Questions: Keeping your child’s mind constantly active, even in a passive way, can encourage them to regularly use their mind, and think about subjects more deeply.

–        Practice the Alphabet: You can encourage your child to improve their alphabetical knowledge by singing the alphabet song with them, while reading books about the basics of their ABCs.

–        Practice Shapes and Colors: When spending time with your child, you can point out certain shapes and colors in your environment so as to educate them about the different kinds. For example, pointing at a sign and saying “That’s a triangle”, or pointing at a table and saying “That’s a rectangle.”

–        Read Books to them: A great way to help your child develop their cognitive abilities is to practice their language and imagination skills; the opportunity to do this is readily available as there are many books out there that cater to children. For example, Gakken’s Play Smart Workbook for Ages 3+ includes puzzles, instructions, shape and color recognition activities, and many other activities designed to train a child’s focusing skills.

2.      Developing Social & Cultural Understanding

To a certain extent, this will happen on its own, as children are the fastest learners among us and can quickly absorb the norms and customs of the world around them. However, it is the responsibility of teaching how to respond to and respect such customs that lies upon the shoulders of their parents.

Indeed, it is easy enough for a child to grasp the concept of a mother and father living under the same roof as that of a single family unit. Fair enough, such cultural norms would be hard not to understand. However, they will further internalize the quality of the relationship between mom and dad, and more crucially, how arguments are settled within their own family. This is why it is important to set an example for your little ones through settling internal familial disputes in a calm and reasonable manner.

Furthermore, the development of a wider social understanding is not relegated to only within the family unit. Take, for example, how a child decides to interact with his or her peers in the playground. It is a well-researched fact that children who are exposed to aggression within a familial setting are the most likely candidates to become aggressive to other kids outside of the home. Indeed, according to the cited 2006 study from the University of Washington, the correlation is so direct that a staggering 73 percent of kids who came from such backgrounds solved their problems through bullying. It is also important to note that of this percentage, an even higher number of these kids were also the victims of bullying themselves (up to 97%).

“’Children learn from seeing what their primary caregivers do. They are much attuned and very observant about what goes on in a household’, said Dr. Nerissa Bauer, lead author of the study and a former UW pediatrician” (Schwarz, 2006).

Therefore, it should be apparent that the role of the parent in raising one’s child is not only one involving the active participation of their upbringing, but should also include setting good examples and role models for the child to follow. This means improving oneself in regard to how he or she treats others around them, as well as actively showing their children that hard work and dedication achieves results. This form of “passive” instruction will be quickly internalized by the child. Indeed, contrary to common belief, every child is a deep thinker, and they will certainly reflect on the behaviors of their own parents first and foremost.

Therefore, the role that a parent plays in regard to raising their child is multifaceted: it involves both an active and passive involvement in the areas of the child’s physical, mental, social and spiritual development. Furthermore, it also includes focusing on improving oneself so as to provide a suitable role model for the child. Indeed, the overall process is a complicated one, as they say, “parenting does not come with a manual.” However, as difficult as it can be, the rewards are well worth the effort.

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