Learning to observe your kids

Why Observe?
As a busy parent, you may think you don't have time for observation. If you have a limited amount of time to spend with your child, why spend it observing?

Observation can be valuable for a number of reasons:

  • You get to enjoy your child. Moments of fascination, delight, and pride often accompany observation.
  • You learn about child development. Jean Piaget formulated his theories about children through the careful observation of his own three kids.
  • You learn what drives and motivates your children. When you watch children over time, you begin to get an idea of what interests them, how they explore and what they're trying to learn.
  • Observation enables you to provide children with avenues to further their explorations. When you know your child is working on pouring, you can supply her with a set of plastic cups in the bathtub.
  • Observation gives you a chance to see your children as they are. Most parents have some expectations about who they want their children to be. Yet it's also important to balance those expectations by asking kids, "And who are you?" Observation can help you answer that question.
  • Observation enables you to respond to each child as a unique individual. Janis notes: "I find I can interact with a child most appropriately once I've observed him. Otherwise I'm coming in ready to interact with all the children his age I've ever been with before, rather than this particular child."
  • When you see what children are working on, you can gain a new perspective on "misbehavior." This can help you move beyond your own frustration and respond more empathetically to unsuccessful behavior.
  • Observation lets your child know she is important to you. When children see that we are interested in them and in what they are doing, they feel valued.  

Excerpted from "Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years" by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser. Excerpted with permission of Broadway Books, a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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