There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about what parents, families, and caregivers can do to support little ones’ development while raising thoughtful, successful, happy children. What and whom to trust in parenting space can be daunting. We’d like to help. We’re focusing on a few misconceptions about early childhood that have been debunked by some of the world’s leading institutions and scholars.
Misconception #1: All stress is bad stress
Fact: Not all stress has been found to be detrimental to children’s development. Manageable stress, which may include experiencing a fall, the loss of a beloved pet, or a lack of acceptance from their classmates is defined as “mild or moderate, predictable, of short duration and experienced with the supportive presence of a caregiver.” 1 Source Though perhaps counterintuitive, this type of stress supports the development of children’s resilience and may actually be growth-promoting when experienced with a caring, responsive adult.
Children who learn to deal with, and respond in healthy ways to, stress grow into more resilient adults who are more adept at coping with life’s many hardships, stressors, and stumbling blocks. Indeed, openly discussing and participating in stress-reduction practices with your child builds, strengthens, and improves their ability to regulate their emotions and executive function skills, which leads us to myth #2.
Misconception #2: Children’s executive function and self-regulation skills will strengthen automatically as they mature. Little ones may struggle with these skills, but will eventually outgrow them.
Fact: Most adults recognize that children are not born with impulse control, the ability to follow multiple-step directions, or the will to ignore colorful, shiny distractions. Yet few prioritize improving these capacities in the same way we do letter recognition or number sense. Children need the opportunity to develop both executive function and self-regulation skills and the support from adults to do so.
“Establishing routines, breaking big tasks into smaller chunks, and encouraging games that promote imagination, role-playing, following rules, and controlling impulses”2 Source are all ways adults can scaffold practicing these emergent executive function and self-regulation skills for their children.
Misconception #3: Early childhood matters less than a child’s elementary years
Many of you who read the misconception above know it to be false; there is significant and compelling research illustrating the relationship between a child’s youngest years and the forming of their intellectual capacity. During the early stages of child development, the brain’s weight and size of a child’s increases significantly, “doubling in size in the first year and it keeps growing to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90% – nearly full grown – by age 5.” 3 Source
Children’s youngest years and earliest experiences lay the developmental foundation for the rest of a person’s life. Early childhood is a critical period for cognitive and socio-emotional gains, learning and growth, when the child is highly receptive to the world around them: sounds, rich and complex language, music, and learning. The substantial brain development that occurs during a child’s youngest years impacts the rest of their lives, relationships, and social-emotional health.
Find an educator who can support your child throughout these crucial years here.