The concept of child development is neither concise nor precise and lacks clarity. The basic questions are what is a child? What is development? Why development? Child is a stage in life and not a parking lot to get into the future. Some parents value the child as a source of happiness, some others look at it as an opportunity to realise their dreams (not the child’s); to some it is a protection in their old age and to some others it is a burden. In the circumstances, the magic and pleasure of childhood get destroyed.
Development is the function of learning, adapting and changing. The pace and pattern of development vary from one child to other. Some children develop like “chicken to hen” and some others from “caterpillar to butterfly;” some grow as “fish in the water” and others struggle like “fish out of water”. Development has several facets, viz., health, education, social interaction, intellectual, moral, ethical and spiritual. A secluded and isolated child learns very little. Social interaction triggers learning.
Parents, teachers, siblings, elders and friends play an important role in child development and, more importantly, the family and teachers have a critical role. The conventional and traditional pattern of family, consisting of husband and wife, married and living together, is the best situation for child development. But in reality, the nature of families widely varies. It may be single male or single female, it may be husband and wife working, or working wife with house husband or housewife with working husband, incompatible couples, family which cares for the child and family which scares the child. Each situation causes a different impact on the child. The teacher’s understanding of family is largely based on the teacher’s own family and if that of the child is a different nature, the teacher’s perception of the child’s family will be distorted and hence hamper the role effectiveness.
In the development stage, children pose two major problems — one relates to eating and the other to learning. According to most parents, children do not eat well in terms of quality and quantity. The problem may lie with the parent’s ignorance or anxiety. Eating is very important for physical and mental growth but right food, of right quality, in right quantity and at right time is a perpetual problem.
The second aspect of development is learning which involves gathering information, storing, comprehending and making meaning thereof. Language and communication skills are the tools for learning. Informal learning takes place through social interaction and formal learning through schooling. Language skills facilitate conceptualisation. Good communication helps effective social interaction. Responding to the doubts from within the child deserves priority over the child answering questions from adult. Every child is unique, and each one is good in one thing or other and no child is beyond hope. Praising the child at every stage will generate joy in learning. Teachers and parents have to help the child to learn even from frivolous success as well as fruitful failure.
Some children may be action-oriented. They cannot sit quiet for long. They love sports and activities and enjoy tough and tumble. Some others may be gregarious, like interaction with people and enjoy parties. The third one may be philosophers wanting to think more, and have very few close friends. Some may like visual images than thinking and reading. They draw and display pictures and paintings. Some may have a musical mind. They find it easy to recognise and repeat songs and tunes. Yet another group may be logical in thinking, enjoy numbers and solve problems. Still others may be linguistic and verbal, and enjoy crosswords, read more, talk well and are practically wordsmiths.
Some children are thinkers and some are dreamers. If the learning synchronises with their inherent talents and aptitude, it becomes easy and enjoyable for the children. A happy experience of the child with a positive environmental influence in the first three years helps the child to blossom. What makes the child to stand out instead of stand back is the self-confidence, self-esteem and initiative. Mere knowledge and intelligence without those traits make the child diffident and insignificant.