Windows of Opportunity, Part 2

In my recent post, I discussed how children are born with specific windows of opportunity for learning and language. And, how your presence as the parent is especially critical during those early years of optimal learning. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work, especially when you have no choice.

However, if you choose to be away from your child, do so with the full understanding that there are risks you take. For even the best daycares and nannies do not always understand the developmental needs of a child, and thus can’t deliberately or attentively guide the transition from one developmental stage to the next.

Timing is everything. In order to unlock your child’s gifted potential, these patterns must be stimulated and guided during optimal windows of growth. If you are not present to take advantage of these windows, you risk leaving your child’s development to chance.

Therefore, when you must leave your child with another, be sure to compensate for the time your child loses with you. This includes compensating for lost developmental time as well as overriding the stress he experiences while waiting to be reunited with you.

The bottom line is that if these critical times for synaptic learning are missed, they will never be recovered. For example, if your child has a hearing problem in the first few years of life that goes unrecognized or untreated, then he is tracking sound, rhythm, grammar, phonemes, and language usage incorrectly. Perhaps sounds are muffled or he’s missing the rhythm and intonation of your particular language. Although your child’s hearing may be corrected if caught in time, he will still retain the incorrect rhythm or intonation in his speech-because it was set while his hearing was compromised. However, a speech pathologist may be able to remediate the speech disorder if your child gets the attention he needs early enough.

The cumulative effects of positive parental involvement in your baby’s early life will extend way beyond the borders of childhood. Even brilliant and gifted children can’t reach the full potential of their innate abilities without the special attention of parents. Regardless of anecdotal evidence that “geniuses are born, not made,” research tells us that the influence of parents can make all the difference in the world. The main factor, proven again and again, are that parents who give their children support, encouragement, and the opportunity to develop their gifts and self-confidence are those who excel in school and in life.

Parental involvement simply is central to aptitude and development. Only by knowing and paying attention to your child, and recognizing and acknowledging his passions, talents, and abilities, can you create a home conducive to cultivating positive experiences and exploration. And if you miss the opportunity to influence those critical moments of development, you may miss your chance.

Educational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom and author of Developing Talent in Young People, has pointed out that children reach half of their I.Q. by the age of four. This means time is of the essence and there really is no time to lose. You and your child are on a challenging journey together. And you, the parent, have the power to recognize your child’s full endowments and direct them.

Not only does important learning take place in those critical early years, but this is when the actual architecture of your child’s brain develops and takes shape. And it is that architecture that will influence your child’s language, cognitive, social, and emotional abilities, from now through adulthood. You really are your child’s first and most influential teacher, and who and what she becomes is completely up to you.