It is a demonstrable and undeniable fact that too many of today’s teachers, the media, and much of the internet are retarding or warping the minds of America’s youth. The only hope for new parents (and grandparents) to foster confident mental independence and civilized socialization skills in their children before the twisted propaganda of the outside world gets hold of them is to begin home activities that will properly inform them in their earliest developmental stages. These activities also will arm them against indoctrination and peer pressure when they encounter it, which they will soon enough after enrollment in formalized school settings.
Over the past several decades parenting has become seriously challenging. Our increasingly politicized society includes agenda-driven educators, socially engineered TV programming, violent movies and video games, and suffocating political correctness. It is now more important than ever for parents to lead the way by providing a steady, loving, and value-oriented home-haven that supports individual growth via self discipline and critical thinking on the part of their children.
For toddlers learning will be natural and exciting, just like learning to crawl and walk were when they were infants, but encouraging curiosity should be paramount as they move from being toddlers to being “little people” who are beginning to form concepts no matter how simple. It is curiosity that leads to a desire for knowledge, and knowledge of self and how to interact with others is crucial for the healthy development of youngsters.
The importance of reading books cannot be overemphasized. This must begin very early on. For toddlers it is crucial to add stories to their little lives. Bedtime or naptime (or anytime) reading by parents to children not only cements close bonding and trust but also opens young minds to the world of imagination and the joys of learning at the same time, which help facilitate their progression into the realm of conceptual thinking.
Tales with positive, moral characters and fascinating events that perk curiosity and project life as an affirmative adventure can serve to offer role models, values, and behavior patterns that educate while they entertain. Along with a variety of new stories, reading the same one multiple times can offer another advantage by aiding a child’s sense of awareness of themselves as a separate individual. In the comfort of a “known story” they can feel free to explore options that reveal who they are or who they are becoming, what they value, and what excites them. If they can envision themselves in fictional situations, they will begin to approach their own self awareness with a slightly more defined sense of morality. When characters in a story come to decision-making moments, since the child already knows what a character will do, once they are able to express feelings and thoughts in simple words parents can stop the story and ask what they would do in the same situation. This helps even very young kids begin to understand that different possibilities exist, so options teach the process of value selection in a fun, creative manner. Later, when they begin to read themselves, the roles can be reversed with children reading their favorite stories to parents and/or other siblings at designated times.
All of this reading aloud nourishes the mental development of children in a safe, cozy environment. The introduction to ideas, vicarious experiences, and different “people” (characters) through books is imperative for instilling love of ideas, curiosity, and creativity in very young children.
Teaching children the skills of interacting with others is also especially important today because so many kids (and adults) conduct most of their interactions via texting, cell phone, or internet social networks. Learning how to function successfully with others in person is essential for making authentic real-life friends, dealing with authority figures such as teachers, domineering classmates, and dozens more interactions all the way from making a purchase to asking for directions. Polite conversation, exchanging views on different subjects, and respectful debate also teaches children to control emotions by channeling them into calm rational discourse.
Dinner time is perfect for “show and tell” to share activities of the day. While teaching and practicing proper table manners — please! — subjects of general interest can be discussed by all family members. Car trips are also conducive settings for discussions. Wherever or whenever, it is important for parents to initiate family interactions so kids can learn appropriate discourse, express their own views cogently, and listen courteously to opinions of others. When disagreements arise, these are good opportunities to practice tolerance and patience; disagreements also test logical thinking and offer opportunities for civil debate.
Educating by reading and interactive socializing activities result not only in the active, delightful sounds and energy of little ones filling the family home but also help to nurture values that a child will employ while navigating their way to adulthood. The results? Parents are later rewarded with grown children whom they enjoy because they have become worthy as mature and independent individuals.
For better or worse, children today are America’s future tomorrow, so “Start early and stay the course” needs to be the motto of responsible parents everywhere in our country’s precarious cultural environment.
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation (www.art-21.org). She has written for many publications, including "Reader’s Digest" and The New York Times. Her latest book is "Adamas." For more on Alexandra York, Go Here Now.
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