Does your child have the skills she needs to be successful as an adult?
You might know that your child needs to develop self-control or communication skills, but it can be hard to recognize how everyday simple tasks help children's minds prepare for the challenges they'll face in the future. Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs , will be discussing simple ways to train your child's brain on Dec. 6 at The Harbor School in Bethesda.
Washington Parent sat down with the lecture organizers-Denise Gershowitz, director of Concord Hill School in Chevy Chase, and Valaida Wise, head of The Harbor School in Bethesda-to hear more about what parents can expect to learn from the evening with Galinsky.
WP: How did the idea for the Ellen Galinsky lecture come about?
Gershowitz : I went to see her and I took one of my teachers with me. [Listening to] Ellen is like you're sitting in her living room… She highlights what we know as early childhood educators in a way that is appealing to the lay person. When I talked to Val [Wise], I said, "Let's do this." We've been wanting to get someone interesting who is focused on our age group.
Wise: Our schools are both focused on early childhood. It's imperative that with the things she's talking about, we lay the foundations now.
WP: We had an article in Washington Parent a few months ago about how, in the sea of parenting books, it can be hard to determine what's worthwhile advice. What is it about Ellen Galinsky that makes her expertise worth listening to?
Wise: She's taken the compendium of information that's out there, and she's distilled it down to seven points, saying that these are the essential things to ensure your child grows up successful.
Gershowitz: She has the brain-research backup. It's not a "what to do with my child" book; this gives real research-years of research. … There's a neuroscience behind what she's teaching.
WP: Galinsky's book goes through the seven essential life skills every child needs in order to succeed-everything from focus and perspective-taking to self-directed learning and critical thinking. How does your staff help nurture these life skills in the classroom setting?
Gershowitz: The self-control piece is the one that we work on in our classrooms a lot. We ask for children to wait appropriately, to delay gratification for a bit. … In our classrooms, we're naturally doing some things that parents don't find so natural. Kids are not getting indulged as often, because they have to wait.
WP: So there's a need to create challenges for kids. Is that something you see parents doing?
Wise: We're finding that families are more and more reluctant to have children take on risks, to fail. They want their child to be perfect and their world to be perfect, rather than allowing their child to take on the challenges.
Gershowitz: As a parent, you want to be there. Obviously, we know this because we've been early childhood educators, but they need to fall off that jungle gym. … For example, in preschool, it would be much easier for teachers to put coats on their kids. They'd be out on the playground in no time. But they need that. It's a challenge for young kids.
WP: You mentioned that it's important to start laying the groundwork early. What about teens; is this book applicable to parents of older children?
Wise: What's interesting is this thing called neuroplasticity. The brain changes. There are sensitive periods-those times are now [for our students], in the early childhood. It's not that children can't learn it later on, but it's just not as easy.
WP:What do you hope parents take away from this lecture?
Gershowitz: [Galinsky] has very layman, easy things to do with your child. She talks about activities; things that in this field, we know to do. We hear all the time from parents, and they understand that sitting and reading with their children is important, but they might not see the value of children sitting and sorting laundry.
Wise: They'll get a broader perspective of their role in helping their child understand these life skills, and of seeing their schools as partners in these things.