Flu­ent in par­ent­ing

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By AN­GELA JACK­SON

THE old adage that “prac­tice makes per­fect” has never seems more true than when it is ap­plied to par­ent­ing.

A com­monly shared keen ob­ser­va­tion – or even a funny “ur­ban leg­end” of sorts – is how a first child in a fam­ily is cared for com­pletely dif­fer­ently from how the fol­low­ing chil­dren are raised.

Con­stant sur­veil­lance of ev­ery move child No 1 makes is soon re­placed with a top-of-the-line video baby mon­i­tor for child No 2. And of­ten, with the ar­rival of child No 3 and on­ward, the overly cau­tious steps are no longer taken and the con­stant vul­ner­a­bil­ity is re­placed with a firm sense of con­fi­dence.

This con­fi­dence of­ten is cre­ated not so much by the ex­pe­ri­ence of par­ent­ing, but the ac­tual par­ent­ing prac­tice that varies from child to child.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of par­ent­ing lasts a life­time, but the prac­tice of par­ent­ing is of­ten for a more lim­ited time, dur­ing the de­vel­op­men­tal stages of a child’s life. And par­ent­ing prac­tice has some­what of a de­fin­i­tive end, when you can say you have in­deed “par­ented,” and watch your child jour­ney into adult­hood.

The process of learn­ing a lan­guage is very much like the process of par­ent­ing, as it re­lates to ex­pe­ri­ence ver­sus prac­tice.

When learn­ing a lan­guage, prac­tice is crit­i­cal to fully em­brac­ing a lan­guage and get­ting to a point when you can say con­fi­dently, “I know how to speak this new lan­guage.”

If you merely ex­pe­ri­ence par­ent­ing, you could limit your­self to hav­ing just a bi­o­log­i­cal link to your child and pro­vid­ing their ba­sic needs. But you would not fully em­brace the prac­tice of par­ent­ing with its trial and er­ror, and dis­cover that the rules of en­gage­ment change for each child.

Again, this is much like the rules of learn­ing a tongue that is not na­tive to you. Learn­ing “book Span­ish” and then try­ing to use only book knowl­edge in Ar­gentina, and then sep­a­rately in Puerto Rico, with­out chang­ing any of the rules of ap­pli­ca­tion and with­out hav­ing any prac­tice, may leave you feel­ing like you may not have learned Span­ish, none at all.

To ex­er­cise a lan­guage – to have the mere link to it through gain­ing a gen­eral knowl­edge of it – will never al­low you to be truly flu­ent, un­less you have an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice in many dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions and set­tings. But through par­ent­ing prac­tice in dif­fer­ent set­tings, its lan­guage comes alive and be­comes al­most sec­ond na­ture.

If we ap­proach par­ent­ing the same way as learn­ing a lan­guage, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to par­ent­ing mul­ti­ple chil­dren, we can save our­selves un­due frus­tra­tions and feel­ings of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, by merely em­brac­ing the life ex­er­cise that has been thrust upon us through hav­ing the ti­tle of “par­ent,” and re­al­iz­ing that we will never mas­ter par­ent­ing.

But we will be al­most “na­tive speak­ers” of the lan­guage of par­ent­ing by know­ing that, in­deed, prac­tice makes per­fect. Or at least as per­fect of a par­ent as one can be. — McClatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

An­gela Jack­son is the founder of the Global Lan­guage Project, a non­profit pro­gramme that teaches youth a sec­ond lan­guage while pre­par­ing them and em­pow­er­ing them to com­pete in a global work­force. Learn more at www. glob­al­lan­guage­pro­ject.com

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