Pushing Children Beyond their Natural Readinessby Mamapumpkin
Posted on 04 December 2013
As first time mothers, we are usually extra vigilant on where our child is compared to their peers, compared to our peers. If your child is not unusually different from the rest of the mass (i.e. he’s not autistic or suffering from any learning disability or impairment), chances are you will be comparing his or her progress to somebody else’s ‘normal’ child. Why do we do this? It is our own insecurities as first time mothers, of course, which is only natural.
However, it is not only a futile exercise and a complete waste of energy as every child is different and every child develops at a different rate from another. If we as mothers are secure of that real and true fact, we have really no reason to compare or chase our own children to learn a new skill academic or otherwise. They will naturally learn it themselves when their time is right. It is like a crawler learning to walk. You never know when they will start walking exactly, but it will certainly happen one day. For example, you may have a crawler that crawls forever, like my first daughter, who crawled for a good 9 months before she started her first real 10 steps on her own without support; yet my 2nd daughter only crawled for a month or two before she started walking. People used to tell me, it is better if they crawl more because crawling stimulates their brain with the motion and coordination of limbs and brain, but guess what folks? My 2nd daughter is no less intelligent than my first girl.
Let’s talk about Potty Training – With my first girl, I read and listened to others. I spoke to many, many mothers on what was the norm for a toddler to start potty training. When should we start? Some old Amah’s believe that you start your child from newborn almost, either by removing any diapers so they feel the wet sensation every time they have a wee or by regularly taking them to the toilet to pee making a regular Ssshhhhhh whisper. The rule of thumb was that when they get to be about 2-2.5 years old, they are about ready to be potty trained because they are old enough to understand the rules of potty training. We did just that with T1, my elder. At exactly the age of 2, on the following of the mothers around me, I removed all carpeting from my home and told T1 that she will no longer wear diapers during the day time. We had potty stations for her in several rooms and told her that this is her new peeing place. She completely understood. She was a clever little girl but guess what, she was always too busy and engrossed in her playing that she’d forget to go pee and by the time she decided that she really needed to pee, it was too late, and we’d have a wet floor. We tried to counteract this by asking her regularly or forcing her even to sit on the potty regularly. Every time we went out, there’d be a wave of nervousness as we never knew when an accident would occur so we were prepared by bringing extra towels in case we had to clean up pee in a public place. Some people just take the easy way out and put them back into diapers when they go out. Nonetheless, there were public successes and accidents still. Within 2-3 weeks though, T1 was 95% potty trained. She would know how to ask for the toilet 95% of the time. The next step was to night potty train her and we did that when she was 4. Every night at midnight, 3-4 hours after she’d gone to bed, we’d pull her panties down and carry a sleeping little girl to the toilet for a midnight release. After a few months of doing this, she finally slept without diapers at night short of 1-2 accidents in bed. We completely potty trained our first daughter.
Let me tell you now about T2, my 2nd girl, whom we were not at all under any pressure to potty train. At the age of 2.5 years old, T2 herself despite not having been to school yet, informed me that she no longer wanted to wear diapers. They’re too hot, Mama. I don’t like! And I panicked. I told her, no, she had to wear her diapers otherwise there would be pee everywhere and Mama was too busy to clean up pee on the floor! Please wear your diapers, T2? No, Mama. I don’t like diapers. I want panties. She of course had an example to follow of her sister. Her elder sister did not have to wear diapers, why should she!? So finally, despite discouraging her with the panties idea, we gave in as she was a strong willed child. Thankfully, she did not ask to sleep without diapers then. Ladies and Gentlemen, I swear to you, T2 has never had a potty accident ANYWHERE. Not in my home, not at the shopping mall, not at the playground, not anywhere. As promised at the mere age of 2.5 years old when she probably didn’t understand what a promise was, she always asked to go to the toilet. At 3, she asked to be diaper-less at night. YIKES!!! Not so early, honey!!! I looked at the Hubs in despair and he said to let her have her way but to do the same thing we did with T1, and that was to carry her at midnight to the loo. However, T2 had a completely different temperament than T1 and the first 2 nights that we tried to carry her naked bum into the toilet, she threw a hissing fit that just wasn’t worth it! This girl did not like being awoken in the middle of the night at all and by doing so, we tortured ourselves into a further 3 hours of drama and continuous waking and wails. Oh. My. God. We literally gave up after 2 nights and decided that if she wet the bed, we’d just deal with it then but guess what? I swear to you again (and Murphy’s Law might just return to bite me in my ass), T2 has not to date had a single night time bed accident. Never. She has just NEVER had a pee accident ever, daytime or nighttime. Weird? Unbelieveable? It’s true!
My conclusion to this is that when a child is ready, you will know. It may be that she is ready only when she is 6, but so what? Why force the issue when her time hasn’t come? It doesn’t mean she’s not as intelligent as the next child.
Let’s talk about reading now. My T1 was an early reader. At 3.5 years old, she was reading those simple three letter word books. She first learned to read at 3 because she was ‘taught’ to read at the playschool that she attended where they would practise with her C-A-T-cat, B-A-T-bat, and etc. She got it. It was exactly in New York when she read me her first book independently, the Clifford phonics series, and I was so excited. I thought I had myself a super reader and super reader she was. Ever since then, she’s been reading voraciously even finishing the Harry Potter series before me, obviously understanding it only in her child mind capacity, but already wanting to re-read it. T2, my current 4 year old however, is a late reader. Well, I say late in comparison to her sister, but seriously we should not never say that word. She’s been going to playschool since she turned 3 and up to now, the school has for the last 6 months gone over their phonics with the children but although she knows the individual sounds of all the alphabets, for the life of her, she just cannot string them together. We have tried revising with her upon advice of the school to please practise some reading with your child, but nay. She’s just not ready. She loves being read to and she loves picking up a book on her own and ‘pretends’ to read it with her own make up words but really, she cannot read. She does not yet get it that if you put one alphabet sound together with another, the sound will change. Now if we were first time parents, we would probably be trying hard to practise this ‘reading’ exercise with T2 till she got it. We know parents who went on a reading rampage with their child once their child approached 6 and still could not read as they were concerned that it would hinder them at Primary One. It is completely unnecessary though because when the child is ready to read, he will pick reading up just like that. I know several people who started reading at 8-9 years old and that is fine. When your child is ready, he will be ready and you will know. Why waste his whole childhood teaching him how to read when he could be enjoying his childhood learning so much more through play than learning how to read.
So please, parents, up to the age of 6, your child really does not need enrichment classes or being taught anything other than manners and values. The rest will come. Let children be children. They truly become richer adults if they are left to be children. Their job as children is to play. They learn the MOST through play. Not even taught play. Let them be kind of play is the way you want to go. Do not get caught up with the rest of the kiasu parents (95% in KL/Selangor is my guess) and you will be thankful you didn’t once your child succeeds as an adult with happiness and passion for life.
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