The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

The First Three Years of Your Child’s Life Is the Most Important

Women  who leave work to have a child often have a difficult

decision to make after the birth of the child.   They must decide

when  to go back to work.   It is important that parents have the

information  necessary  for  an  informed  decision.   The  final

decision is theirs and once made,  parents should not be made  to

feel  guilty  no  matter what their  decision. Many  new  parents,

however,  are  uninformed  about child development and  sometimes

make this irrevocable decision based on lack of information.

Dr.  Burton  White  of the Center for Parent  Education  has

worked  for  twenty years observing babies from  birth  to  three

years of age.  His studies indicate that these years are critical

for children’s ultimate educational development and that the best

teachers are the parents and grandparents.  These are the  people

who  give the children the incentive to grow and develop by their

deep love and encouragement.   They are the baby’s first cheering

section  as each milestone is passed.   For the new  parents  and

grandparents,  seeing  the child learn to take his first step  or

say his first word, produces genuine and delightful fuss in which

the baby basks and grows.
Babies  need to explore their environment to  learn.   Their

curiosity  can  decline if they are too  restricted.   They  need

someone to watch them so that they can explore safely.  They need

someone  to  help  them  when  they  get  stuck.   This  takes  a

commitment  on the part of the adult and the people who are  most

committed are the parents and grandparents.

Dr.  White  is so convinced of the importance of parents and

grandparents in providing care for the first three years of life,

that  he  recommends  that the  government  provide  support  and

assistance  to  the family so that the parents can  provide  this

care  rather  than providing support for day  care  centers.   He

recommends  a parent education program for families so that  they

can  provide their children’s first educational delivery  system.

Intervention should begin at the earliest age possible and should

improve  the child’s home environment by sensitizing the  parents

to the child’s developmental needs.

Parents  need to know about developmental stages in order to

be  prepared  to  help their child develop  language  and  social

skills.  Part of this preparedness requires that they be alert to

physical and sensory handicaps. Dr. White is especially concerned

about hearing loss.  When it occurs,  detecting and responding to

the loss is crucial.  During the first three years of life children

undergo rapid,  basic language learning.  Delay in acquiring

language  skills  is  one  of the most common  causes  of  under-

achieving  in  school.   Being able to hear is essential  to  the

devlopment of receptive language in a young baby.   Parents  need

to  know  about the importance of talking to  babies.   The  baby

should  begin  to understand speech even though she  cannot  talk


The  first  three  years  constitute  a   once-in-a-lifetime

chance  for the child to attain good language skills in  addition

to  a sense of curiosity about the world around her.  Many  other

essential skills are acquired during this period.  It is the time

when  the child develops a sense of trust and learns that she  is

loved  and  safe.   The  child  begins  the  development  of  good

interpersonal  skills.   This  is not a haphazard process or  one

that  can be left to chance.   Dr.  White feels it is  harder  to

produce a happy and nice child than it is to produce a smart one.

Parents have to make a decision about their children and how they

want  them to develop.  It takes work and commitment but putting

the commitment into these first three years,  will make the rest

of the job easier and more successful.

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