According to a recent study, parents with four or more kids are the happiest. I saw this study posted by friends who have five or seven children, with the caption, “Told ya so!”
How is it that parents so outnumbered by their kids can possibly be happiest?
Recently, I went out with a friend who made her own baby food. She told me she was up until 2 a.m. puréeing peas, pears, and more. When I told my husband (as I bemoaned our inability to vacuum, let alone make homemade baby food), he asked me, “How many kids does she have?” The answer was, of course, just one.
The more kids people have, the less we find ourselves sweating the small stuff. If parents of five or seven were up until 2 a.m. making baby food for each kid, they would be zombies by their older child’s 7 p.m. ballet recital. Parents of multiple children learn, for their own sanity and well-being, that it’s necessary to let go of their ideal in order to make a household run smoothly. When parents let go of the ideal, they’re able to sit back and enjoy their kids’ childhoods, mess and all.
The same kinds of parents who want to do the best for their kids try to give them every opportunity to succeed. The children watch “Baby Genius” DVDs and their parents drill them on vocabulary before they’ve learned to walk. There are computer programs designed to teach kids how to read, which parents eagerly snatch. It comes from a good place in parents’ hearts, but is it best for the kids?
A new book called “The Intuitive Parent” unequivocally says no, and its author, Stephen Camarata, a Ph.D. and father of seven, has the research to back him up.
In study after study, it’s shown that creative free play, like with Play-Doh and wooden blocks, activates both sides of the brain and creates more neural pathways than rote learning like one would find on DVDs and computer games marketed to babies and young children. One study even showed that kids who were taught vocabulary words via DVDs and flash cards verses kids whose parents incorporated them into everyday life actually learned fewer of the target words. Kids learned the most in the everyday world, not from television or computer screens.
When children are pressured to sit at desks or learn to read and count before they are developmentally ready, they lose their love of learning over their lifetime, and it could even be the cause of the increased number of learning disabilities diagnosed in the United States. In Scandinavia, children learn to read much later than their counterparts here. They are reported to be happier and more literate by the time they graduate high school, and they have fewer learning and developmental disabilities. Of course, there could be many reasons for this disparity, but one possibility is certainly that Americans push “too much, too soon” on their young people.
For the last several decades, the birthrate in the United States has been dropping. The average number of children per household is now barely two. It’s no wonder, when parents are fooled into thinking “what an enormous undertaking parenting is!” Children must attend only elite pre-schools, read by age four, know their multiplication tables by age six, complete dozens of pages of worksheets per night for homework, and so on. The truth is, according to Camarata, none of that is necessary. Children should be enjoyed by their parents, and in turn, children should take joy in their childhoods for as long as possible.
For the last several generations, we’ve been told that there are scientific shortcuts to making a better baby; nature’s ability to care for human young had been outdone by scientists. In the 1950s, parenting “experts” claimed science told mothers to ignore their baby’s cries and avoid holding them too much. Later, they were told formula had surpassed breastmilk as the ultimate baby food. Studies have since shown many of these claims to be false. God designed human parents to be the best caregivers for their young. No amount of marketing hype can change that.
Image via Shutterstock