Advice for parents
New book about children melds theory and practice
When a three-year-old keeps hitting her brother or a toddler sits, mesmerized, in front of the television for hours, parents can better respond when they understand why their children are acting the way they do.
A new book written by members of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development aims to help parents negotiate their way through their children's early years—and perhaps prevent problems from occurring. Proactive Parenting, Guiding Your Children From Two to Six is being published in February by Berkley Books. The goal, said George Scarlett, one of the 11 faculty members who wrote the book, is to teach parents about children so they can generate their own tools to deal with behavior.
Parents know their kids best
"What educators bring to the table," said Scarlett, "are lots of things about the way children function in groups and the organization of time, space and materials. If you're taking care of 20 children, you had better have it all together to provide meaningful activity. Psychologists bring research that unearths new facts about such issues as language, play and the effect of the media."
Scarlett, whose training is in psychology, said the hope is that parents will "get it" at a strategic level, but also at the theoretical level. "It's a 'how-to,' but also the 'why' is explained so parents can apply strategies in a variety of situations."
So while the book explains, for example, what a three-year-old is like, it also talks about something as seemingly mundane as what kind of blocks a child should play with and where to keep them so that she can get them at her own initiative, and why that is important.
Knitting the family together
"Children and Parents as Learners," the second section, incorporates the Eliot-Pearson viewpoint that learning is not just confined to school but is a lifelong activity. "Children learn from a walk in the woods, a visit to grandparents in another part of the country or a stop at the post office," writes Prof. David Elkind, an expert on cognitive and social development in children.
One of the goals was to cover issues that aren't normally addressed in child-rearing books, so there is a chapter, for example, on physical closeness and affection and another on the media's influence on children. Other topics include discipline, school adjustment and friendships. Yet another goal was to make sure the book addresses all kinds of families, not just the notion of the 1950s family with mom, dad and two kids.
Writing for parents is different
Scarlett said ideally, the authors tried to "write with the style of E.B. White, the theoretical knowledge of Jean Piaget and the practical wisdom of Penelope Leach. When you write for scholars, you don't have to write well. You do have to write well for parents because they won't tolerate poor writing."
Each faculty member wrote a chapter, and Scarlett and Prof. Fred Rothbaum served as project coordinators. The entire Eliot-Pearson department contributed by reading and reviewing chapters. Ultimately, the group decided to hire professional writer Cheryl Olson, who helped ensure that the information was being expressed in one voice.
Range of contributors
Calvin Gidney, who studies linguistic development, writes about children and language, and he and Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research, discuss how children learn to read. Rothbaum, who studies parent-child relationships, and Elaine Dyer Tarquinio, a former pre-school teacher, write about physical closeness, and Scarlett addresses behavior issues. The other contributors are Richard Lerner, Sue Steinsieck, Julie Dobrow and M. Ann Easterbrooks.
The authors hope the book will raise money for scholarships for children
attending the Eliot-Pearson Children's School and for minority graduate
students in the department's master's and doctoral degree programs. The
book, which is available at major bookstores, is owned by Tufts University
and had encouragement and financial support from Susan Ernst, dean of
Arts & Sciences.