You all know that on the show we pretty much steer clear of the clickbait articles that try to convince you that something is wrong with your child, in favor of getting a balanced view of the overall body of literature on a topic.
But every once in a while a study comes along and I think “we really MUST learn more about that, even though it muddies the water a bit and leads us more toward confusion than a clear picture.”
This is one of those studies. We’ll learn about the original Hart & Risley study that identified the “30 Million Word Gap” that so much policy has been based on since then, and what are the holes in that research (e.g. did you know that SIX African American families on welfare in that study are used as proxies for all poor families in the U.S., only 25% of whom are African American?).
Then, Dr. Doug Sperry will tell us about his research, which leads him to believe that overheard language can also make a meaningful contribution to children’s vocabulary development.
I do want to be 100% clear on one point: Dr. Sperry says very clearly that he believes parents speaking with children is important for their development; just that overheard language can contribute as well.
And this is not Dr. Sperry out on his own criticizing research that everyone else agrees with: if you’re interested, there are a host of other issues listed here.
The overarching problem, of course, is that our school system is so inflexible that linguistic skills – even really incredible ones of the type we discussed in our recent episode on storytelling – have no place in the classroom if they don’t mesh with the way that White, middle-class families (and, by extension, teachers and students) communicate.
But that will have to be an episode for another day.
One of the most-often asked questions in parenting groups that I’m in is “My child WILL NOT let me brush his/her teeth. How can I get through this?”
Oh my goodness; I feel your pain.
We went through this too when my daughter was about 15 months old, and it persisted for several weeks on and off before we finally figured it out.
I would say “OK, it’s time to brush your teeth!” and she’d say “NOOOOOO! I don’t wanna!” and collapse in a writhing heap on the floor.
“Storytelling? I’m already reading books to my child – isn’t that enough?”
Your child DOES get a lot out of reading books (which is why we’ve done a several episodes on that already, including What children learn from reading books, How to read with your child, and Did you already miss the boat on teaching your toddler how to read?.
But it turns out that storytelling benefits our relationship with our child in ways that reading books really can’t, because you’re looking at the book rather than at your child. If you ask your child what kind of story they’d like you to tell, you also get incredible insight into both their interests and concerns – I can attest to this, as I’ve been singing story-songs about poop and various kinds of baby animals who can’t find their mamas on and off for several weeks now (we had an incident a few months back where she couldn’t find me in a store).
In this episode we also discuss the ways that people from different cultures tell stories, and what implications this has for them as they interact with our education system.
Other episodes mentioned in this show:
"Social and Emotional Learning" is all the rage in school these days, along with claims that it can help children to manage their emotions, make responsible decisions, as well as improve academic outcomes.
But what if those programs don't go nearly far enough?
What if we could support our child in developing a sense of compassion that acts as a moral compass to not only display compassion toward others, but also to pursue those things in life that have been demonstrated - through research - to make us happy? And what if we could do that by supporting them in reading cues they already feel in their own bodies, and that we ordinarily train out of them at a young age?
Dr. Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, Associate Director for the Emory University’s Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics, tells us about his work to bring secular ethics, which he calls the cultivation of basic human values, into education and society
Learn more about Breandan's work here:
Desbordes, G., Negi, L.T., Pace, T.W.W., Wallace, B.A., Raison, C.L., & Schwartz, E.L. (2012). Effects of mindful-attention and compassion medication training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 6(1), 1-15.
Frey, K.S., Nolen, S.B., Edstrom, L.V., & Hirschstein, M.K. (2005). Effects of a school-based social-emotional competence program: Linking children’s goals, attributions, and behavior. Applied Developmental Psychology 26, 171-200.
Lantieri, L., & Nambiar, M. (2012). Cultivating the social, emotional, and inner lives of children and teachers. Reclaiming Children and Youth 21(2), 27-33.
Maloney, J.E., Lawlor, M.S., Schonert-Reichl, K.A., & Whitehead, J. (2016). A mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculum for school-aged children: The MindUP program. In K.A. Schoenert-Reichl & R.W. Roeser (Eds.), Handbook of mindfulness in education (pp.313-334). New York, NY: Springer.
Ozawa-de Silva, B., & Dodson-Lavelle, B. (2011). An education of heart and mind: Practical and theoretical issues in teaching cognitive-based compassion training to children. Practical Matters 4, 1-28.
Pace, T.W.W., Negi, L.T., Adame, D.D., Cole, S.P., Sivilli, T.I., Brown, T.D., Issa, M.J., & Raison, C.L. (2009). Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34, 87-98.
“How much can there really be to learn about storytelling?” I thought when I started on this mini-series.
It turns out that there’s actually quite a lot to learn, and that family storytelling can be a particularly useful tool for parents. We’re all trying to figure out how to transmit our values to our children, and storytelling can be quite an effective way of doing this. Further, storytelling can be a really valuable way to support children in overcoming traumatic experiences. In this episode we dig into the research on the benefits of family storytelling and look at how to do it.