When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

The Foundation for Success - Part 3: Applying the Principles

The Foundation for Success - Part 3: Applying the Principles

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The term “parent education” bears an unfortunate burden with the general public. Mention that you are seeking it out and a friend might cock her head and ask, “You?” That’s because the term “parent education” is usually preceded by the words “court ordered”. For some, the burden of “parent education” is one of embarrassment. They feel that taking a class in something that seemingly ought to be intuitive (namely, raising a child) would make them seem cold or abnormal, or even disrespectful of the way they were raised. There are schools, rec centers and colleges to teach adults everything from quilting to car repair to quantum physics, but the idea that a person would seek proactive mentorship for the raising and nurturing of another human being is somehow unusual.

In the two preceding Birth2Work newsletters, we’ve featured the stories of a parent-to-be and a veteran educator in their respective experiences attending the parent education course “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. This newsletter is a sharing of our experience, as B2W co-founder Elane V. Scott’s eldest daughter and son-in-law, having taken the course together in 2010, and the application of what we learned in the last two years raising our daughter.

The truth is that sharing our experience is something we’ve been encouraged to do for some time. But our enormous sensitivity to not wanting to present our child as an idyllic model or, worse, ourselves as models for others to envy or mimic has kept us mum. In our experience, it seems there is nothing… NOTHING… parents resent more than unsolicited advice from other parents. Experts on specific topics? Fine. Websites on parenting miscellany? Sure. But other parents candidly talking about what they’ve done? Not so much. So it’s vitally important to us to establish here that we don’t really even want to talk about our amazing, brilliant, vocal, creative, funny toddler. (Ha!) What we want to share is the immense relief we had as new parents having put a plan in place - well ahead of even getting pregnant - to nurture and support the development of our baby, right from birth.

As a parent-to-be, society presents to you three phases of having a child: pregnancy, birth, and the rest of the child’s life. As if they all bear equal weight. And there are endless classes available, with books and CDs and other supportive materials, for learning how to alleviate, encourage, or support any and all facets of pregnancy. And in terms of getting the baby out of the woman’s body, there are classes for that, too, should she and her partner choose to seek them out. But the reality is, in the majority of cases, the baby is going to grow and get out some how in roughly 40 weeks. And then what are you going to do with that child for the rest of his life? And how would you be expected to know? To us, spending one week in a class in order to learn the fundamentals of child development so that we might learn how to prepare our future child for a globally connected and competitive world, didn’t seem optional, but imperative.

While it’s hard for anyone to predict the future, it’s possible to look to the trends of the last decade to gauge roughly where society, education, and the workplace are going. Public schools today look nothing like the way they used to a generation or two ago. There will be increasing volatility in the quality of public education as our government continues to experiment with what a “modern education” looks like. The widespread implementation of technology in the classroom is a sea change, the effectiveness of which won’t be determined until today’s children enter the workforce.

The norm in most people’s minds, as of 10-15 years ago, was that if you went to college you would graduate and get a job that you would likely keep your entire career and retire from. That model is dead. In a fairly quick transformation, the necessity for a formal college education is called into question as the global democratization of higher education allows universal access to massive open online courses (MOOC). The workplace will continue to determine what it wants of its employees - college educated or not - and the children going to work in 20-30 years will need to be able to learn and adapt to those trends quickly. Our children will not be competing against each other for jobs, they will be competing in an even further globalized environment than today. This makes a case for establishing the learning pathways and patterns for growth and adaptability in our child from the earliest days of life.

We live in an environment today that was unimaginable for our parents to foresee. No one actively prepared us to be ready for online technology to become the primary way in which we live, work, and socialize. Similarly, it’s unrealistic to think that the world we live in today will remain the same for our children. Our goal is to prepare our child to be ready with a flexible intelligence to succeed in whatever unpredictable future she will encounter.

The crippling fear of many older adults considering becoming parents, (those starting families in their mid-30s and later), is that they don’t know what to expect once a kid enters their lives. That is, what to expect of themselves as parents…of their careers…of how their world will function. Often these personally isolating unknowns prevent them from considering a broader perspective and asking proactive questions that inspire conversation and connectivity, such as: “How will I endeavor to support my partner?” “Who can we call on in our support network when we inevitably need help?” “What do we need to learn so as to be the best prepared parents we can be?” The IAHP class initiated that preparation for us and gave us an understanding of our function as the mentors of our new baby. That gave us a job, and thus we were able to write a job description, examine our strengths and weaknesses, and establish our long-term goals together.

It’s unnecessary to go into the details of the course here. Birth2Work has often discussed the details, including in the last two newsletters in this series, and in a two-part interview with the Director of the Institutes, Janet Doman, for Birth2Work Radio. What’s important to reflect on here is that we were not at the course to learn “tips” on raising confident kids or for “how to’s” for getting our kids into good schools, etc. Above all else, what we received were principles fundamental to anchoring our new experience as parents, and the subsequent birth and maturation of our child, to a lineage of human experience and the evolution of man millions of years preceding us. And with that anchoring firmly in place for us, we have been able to navigate the endless, formidable seas of modern parenting dilemmas and “expert” advice with minimal turmoil.

No one ever told an entrepreneur thinking of starting a business to just take their money, time, and soul and see where it goes. They are told to make a plan. Parent education, such as the IAHP’s “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” course, supports adults to get their plan together for the support and success of their children’s future. But whether parents-to-be choose this specific course or not, pre-conception / pre-natal parent education should be as common as a business plan for the entrepreneur. The stakes are ultimately higher, after all.

Because the environments in which we raise our children are constantly evolving, we somehow have the mistaken idea that kids are also changing how they evolve. The reality is, they aren’t. Children consistently are and always have been the most eager and enthusiastic learners, right from birth. As IAHP founder Glenn Doman said, "Learning is not synonymous with education. Education begins at six; learning begins at birth or earlier. Tiny kids learn more, fact-for-fact, prior to three years of age than they learn for the rest of their lives." With this principle in mind, we planned ahead and arranged our lives so that when we had our child we would be able to introduce her, with enthusiasm and specificity, to the world around her - from the first day of her life. And we will only say here that the rewards have been rich.

The essays of Kahlil Gibran are quoted extensively in discussions of family, marriage, friendship and so on…but we’ve reimagined his essay on children, integrating some B2W tenets that remind us every day the time we have to accomplish our goals as parents is limited.

Remember that for all of us who have raised children to those who are thinking about it, the child is not our possession, but someone who passes through our lives. Our goal is for them to be capable, enthusiastic learners who can successfully adapt to any of life’s challenges or opportunities. Our single greatest opportunity to lay this foundation is from the time they are born to the time they find their own place in society. Happiness is not the end goal for them. Happiness is the result of confidence and knowledge that they are able to achieve their goals and give back to the community that provided a safe place for them to grow and be nourished. We must consciously work with our children in order to assure they get the real world experiences they need to build their foundation for success.

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