Monday, January 30, 2012

FMB: Teaching and Toddlers

1) I worry sometimes, in an overeducated-elite kind of way that my kid will not be smart.  He's almost three!  His grasp of numbers is still kind of shaky!  ("How many are there? (5)"  "Seven!  Six!  Thirteen! Sixteen!")  He can't read yet!  (I could read when I was 2.5. My mom was... maybe a little pushy about it.)

2) But I don't want to be pushy and destroy his love of books and learning.  So I try not to force him to do things he doesn't want to do.

2a) And then I worry that he won't be smart

3) He can identify all 26 letters, including lowercase.

4) In time-honored fashion, I have provided a concrete reward for number-learning.  He has little dishes of treats- raisins, nuts, yogurt raisins, M&Ms- and however many he can correctly count from each dish, he can eat.  So far, we've gotten to 7.  Progress!   Rat and lever!  Yes!


  1. in two years, i plan to just copy and paste this post.

    i was also one of those crazy-early readers. (and talkers, but i didn't walk until essentially the day before the PT appointment. so.) i know the bean is going to be good at all kinds of things, including things i'm not good at. i hope this means i will remember that he doesn't have to be off-the-charts in the things i am good at, but remembering that kind of thing is...not the kind of thing i am good at.

  2. I was there, too. Don't worry, you are doing all the right stuff - except, you are stressing yourself out too much.

    If he is excited about the world around him and you offer him lots of wonderful things to see, touch, feel, and do; he will stay excited about learning. Voila! A smart kid and life-long learner.

    When I get really shaken up about wanting smart kids, I remember that my first priority is to raise happy and productive people. Stress doesn't seem to make people happy.

    BTW, my youngest was determined NOT to learn his letters until after he was five. After our oldest child was an early reader - I was panicked about this. Suddenly, in kindergarten, he shot past all of their criteria and is competitive in the K-5 chess tournament as well. He is getting it, but reading doesn't light him up the way that engineering does.

    Your little guy knows his letters at three and counts to seven? He rocks!

  3. I think it's impossible not to worry that your kid won't be smart. Unless, of course, you are busy worrying about feeding your kid and preventing him from being shot in a drive by. But hey, I bet you know the best predictor of a child's IQ is a mother's IQ? So you're fiiiiiiine.

    (Although I bet you also know that the ability to delay gratification is a better predictor of academic performance than IQ...and that academic performance ≠ "smart"...)

    1. Oooo, be sure to hook him up with the thesis writing service above!

    2. If only I could have hired someone to write my thesis. Though I've had to read back through it recently for The Paper That Wouldn't Die and... I could have done a much better job, were I not nine months pregnant at the time.

    3. I hadn't thought of it in terms of delayed gratification- though I've read studies about effort and perseverance being a better predictor of overall performance (in life, not academia). And if I could tell my 18-year-old self something, it would be CHILL THE FUCK OUT HONEY.

  4. Both our kids taught themselves to read at a little over age 2. (Well, that's when we're SURE the J-man was reading because his verbal ability caught up enough to let us know, and Dale Jr just reads to us all the time.)

    We did NOTHING extraordinary to cause this. We read to them; they watch Signing Time and Super Why on TV... And, they see us read constantly. I was watching an old video of Dale Jr, and he knew the alphabet (verbally) before age 1. I had forgotten that. My extended family has actually chastised us for "forcing" the kids to learn to read that early. They refuse to believe we didn't do anything to "make" them learn - the boys just DID.

    Yeah, I worried that my kids wouldn't be smart too. Then, we had the J-man, and while he IS actually brilliant, he also meets pretty much every criteria for autism that exists. So, we worry in a different manner now!

  5. It doesn't even occur to me to worry about my children being smart. Like yours, they will of course be smart. I worry about them being happy and not being too nerdy and intense to enjoy being kids :)

  6. And in the end....the 'smart' kids don't have any better life. Now that all my kids are grown, I look back and wish I had spent less time thinking about their intelligence. I mean, I have a Ph.D. and I know that the other 'smart' people around me haven't made better lives for themselves, aren't happier people (often less happy), and are not necessarily good people.
    Of course you'll teach your kids to count and help them love reading..but the focus on having smart kids can mean you don't take as much time to let them play in the woods. And you might miss out on the good times while you are checking to make sure they are earlier readers than the next kid....
    I'm not sure if I was allowed to go back in time I could change my own striving personality..but I wish I could...I wish I could have not worried about their being smart, and just enjoyed where they were in their stage of development.

  7. Aww, almost nobody can read as early as you did. I learned at 5, and even that was considered pretty early since most in my school district learned at 7. I don't know - is earlier always better with regards to these skills?

  8. Argh that stage kills me too: the 2-year-old who confidently claims he has 4 or 12 fingers because he just counted them. All you can do is bite your tongue, since no sane person argues with a toddler unless they have to. And also they will get it all on their own too.

  9. Fortunately, I need not worry about their happiness and politeness and so on- the things I can actually do anything about!- which leaves being neurotic about everything else. :) We spend a LOT of time splashing in puddles, building snow forts, scribbling, finger-painting, baking cookies... all the fun stuff in life.

  10. Luckily, it's the fun stuff in life that actually helps children's love of learning. I observed in high school, it wasn't always the most intelligent person getting the best grades, it was the one who liked learning and was willing to work hard!

  11. Nicole, that is so true! Nothing is more important than teaching an enjoyment of learning. Kids learn more than we think just by playing games or exploring outside.


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