“I’m not a child development expert, but I play one on TV.”
Wait. That’s not what I meant to say, but it just sounded so silly, I had to. What I really meant to say is that I’m not a child development expert, but I hang around with a whole bunch of kids. Just like Santa, I see them when they’re naughty and when their nice, and I know when they’ve been good or bad. I’ve also watched a lot of them grow up over time, with the most startling ones being the awful little 5 year olds who turn into lovely 10 or 12 year olds (I own one of those).
I’ve therefore drawn a lot of conclusions based on my real life, real time observations: (1) no matter the child’s objective deficits, structure and discipline (by which I do not mean abuse and insults) make a huge difference in controlling negative behaviors; (2) some kids, especially boys, are slower than their peers in developing impulse control; (3) most kids need some time during the day in which they can really run around and burn off excess energy, without being constrained by lawsuit or “tender flower” playground rules militating against real activity; (4) kids respond like flowers to water when given genuine praise and are morally destroyed by false praise; and (5) kids are growing so constantly that yesterday’s child may bear little physical, mental or social relationship to tomorrow’s child. I bet all of you have noticed pretty much the same things.
Experts, however, who study children in a vacuum, seem to have a harder time drawing logical conclusions. Even school teachers see children frozen in a moment. A lifelong 3rd grade teacher sees 8 year olds. She doesn’t have a sense of the child’s trajectory from K through, say, 5th or 6th grade. Without the sense of time, and the changes that time brings, one can draw false conclusions about what makes little kids tick and, more importantly, how they change.
This prolonged introduction arises because I wanted to give you a context for how I viewed this news:
Educators and psychologists have long feared that children entering school with behavior problems were doomed to fall behind in
One concluded that kindergartners who are identified as troubled do as well academically as their peers in elementary school. The other found that children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw.
Experts say the findings of the two studies, being published today in separate journals, could change the way scientists, teachers and parents understand and manage children who are disruptive or emotionally withdrawn in the early years of school. The studies might even prompt a reassessment of the possible causes of disruptive behavior in some children.
“I think these may become landmark findings, forcing us to ask whether these acting-out kinds of problems are secondary to the inappropriate maturity expectations that some educators place on young children as soon as they enter classrooms,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, who was not connected with either study.
My response, copied verbatim from my 5th grader is, “Well, duh!” I’m only surprised that it took so long for the experts to figure out that children grow and change. And if you need proof for that, I can tell you that all children are naughty but, thank goodness, most adults are not.