Monday, February 14, 2011

A Connected Childhood

"A 'connected childhood' is the most reliable key to success and happiness," observes Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., in Work & Family Life (January 2011). Hallowell was a recent speaker at the American Montessori Society’s Heads of School Retreat.

The parental or familial practice of balancing unconditional love with realistic expectations is instrumental in developing connectedness in childhood. The following is a list of particularly relevant excerpts from Hallowell’s recent article.

Unconditional Love
The starting point in creating a connected childhood is unconditional love from parents or another important adult who is active in a child's life. But loving children unconditionally doesn't mean you don't have expectations for them. High expectations are fine — just not unrealistically high. When parents' love always has to be earned (when they imply "I'd love you even more if you got all A's"), children feel that they can never please their parents, no matter what.

Realistic Expectations
Have high but realistic expectations. It's easy to get caught up in the great riptide that sucks kids out of childhood and into an achievement fast-lane as early as nursery school. Be assured that by providing connectedness, above all, you're giving your child the best "leg up" on the competition. The connected child will achieve at the level he or she is supposed to and will enjoy doing so.

As with everything else, balance is key. Being a loving, connected parent doesn't mean giving kids too much, too soon and always coming to their rescue. We should remind ourselves that children don't need a lot of fancy toys or clothes. What they do need is your time, interest, love, guidance, and ability to say no.

For more insight on this topic, I highly recommend Edward Hallowell’s book,
The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness.

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