by Helen F. Neville, B.S., R.N. with Diane Clark Johnson, CFLE
Helen Neville has spent her career working with young children and their families, and with the introduction of the revised edition of Temperament Tools, she reflects on the challenges that face today's families.
One is the pace of life.
"We used bemoan a father's long hours at work, but now many mothers have just as demanding careers. Children do fine with high-quality child care, but it's hard for the adults to be responsible for both income and family needs, and to have their energy so splintered," points out this long-time pediatric advice nurse, parenting educator and temperament specialist.
An accompanying issue: the tight schedules for both parents and children. "Even play dates have to be squeezed in," she notes. Adding to this time pressure is the desire many parents have for giving children many different educational, athletic and social opportunities. "Fortunately, childhood lasts for years, so there is time to try different activities at a more comfortable pace."
Neville also worries about early pressure for academic performance. "Wise parents tailor their expectations to development and temperament," says the author, who is also the author of Is This a Phase? Child Development & Parent Strategies, Birth to 6 Years. "But some adults expect children to print letters and read before the necessary brain cells have had time to connect. It's like declaring babies are deficient if they don't walk by nine months or forcing them to practice every day."
Energetic toddlers often walk, run, and climb at an early age but as preschoolers they may draw and print later than their low-energy peers, she reminds.
Yet another huge issue for Neville: media.
"Today's enticing and addictive media easily suck attention from real life," she says. "It takes determined parents to limit exposure appropriately."
Besides the issue of too much screen time for all of us, adult and child, media has another insidious effect on family life, Neville believes. "It focuses so much on violence that parents fear every neighborhood is unsafe; for many parents, it takes courage to allow their children to walk to school without an adult."
Given all these factors, the author is not surprised that parenting is a challenging job. Of course, she points out, it always has been. Her own career path led to parenting education after her own two children were born. "I was surprised to discover it was the most difficult job I'd ever undertaken!"
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