Parenting, educating not competitive sports

By Li Aixin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/22 20:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

When I passed by an early childhood educational center the other day, I stopped to take a short look inside, wondering if I should send my own baby to the program even though he is only 4 months old.

They say the expectations of Chinese parents can be very high and are typically focused on traditional education. This is one of the major reasons why many parents send their school-aged children to various extra-curricular classes. Yet young Chinese students are not the only group controlled by their parents. Lately I have heard an increasing number of new moms talking about different centers for early education. They truly believe that infants are just sponges and when it comes to training their brains, the earlier the better. Most importantly, there is the fear of their children lagging behind the rest. If most of their friends' toddlers go, they don't want their kid to be left behind.

The Chinese education market is booming. It's not only piano and skating lessons but also early education institutions for 0-3-year-olds springing up across China's big cities. According to the Xinhua News Agency, a survey conducted by the Shanghai Association for Quality reported that "60 percent of children under 6 in Shanghai attended extra-curricular classes."

Just like other parents, I too of course have high hopes for my baby. When I see him playing in water with his plump little arms and legs while taking a bath, I can't help but start to picture him as the next Michael Phelps. When I hear him babbling, responding to my different words with various tones, I cannot help but picture him as a future diplomat. Nevertheless, should I be sending my 4-month child to an education program to accelerate his learning pace for the sake of my own aspirations?

The question already sounds a bit ridiculous, but nonetheless to be sure I did a little research into early education. Fortunately, unlike my preconceptions, it does not only mean early academic learning. I found that a qualified early childhood institution really does provide a playground for young children. It allows them to experience their world, lets them learn how things work through exploration and games. Such an institution introduces them to social interaction with other kids and teaches them how to share, cooperate, take turns and deal with small conflicts with other children. Meanwhile, parents can watch, learn and participate the whole time.

This kind of education is the exact type of cognitive stimulation that every young child needs, but it isn't necessarily related to books, pencils or early education centers. It can happen anywhere: be it home, neighborhoods or parks and in every moment of everyday life as long as parents know how to guide their children. It requires high-quality and dedicated companionship from parents and adults, instead of them constantly being preoccupied thinking about their work, checking smartphones or just taking photos of their cute little angels for "sharenting" on social media.

I used to believe every mother can turn into an educator at the blink of an eye once their babies enter the world. I recently found out I could not be more wrong.

Facing my sweet little angel, I have so much to say, but do not know where to start. I am eager to play games with him, yet I do not know how. I am dying to understand him but his vocabulary is so limited. That's when I decided to go to an early childhood learning program: not to teach my kid anything but to make myself feel more ready as a parent.

I want to see him play with joy. I want him to know that not everything he does in the future must be for the benefit of his academic record or career. I want him to enjoy life to the fullest wherever he is and feel capable of facing challenges, frustrations, successes and failures. He may one day become an Olympic champion, politician or aerospace engineer. Or not.

But one thing is for sure: He must be the writer of his own story and choose his own narrative. I can only start to teach him how to write, nothing more.

I feel now I have a little idea on where to begin in this mother-and-son journey, and compared with my son I think I need more learning education than he does. I think a lot of parents do.

I just need to find the right place, book or guide that does not teach infants how to do math but teaches kids to be kids - happy and curious - and helps make me into a truly capable parent.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. liaixin@globaltimes.com.cn



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