A couple of responses to discussion posts in my last class.
I find Dr. Diamond’s studies to be extremely interesting. She has also written a book called Magic Trees of the Mind with the author of this article. They go into more details about Diamond’s studies and then attempt to translate them to human terms. This can be difficult because an enriched environment for a rat is very different than an enriched environment for a child. I have studied various aspects of this topic in some detail as I have set up home and educational environments for my children. I strongly believe that the primary thing an infant needs is a loving adult who is thoroughly attached to him or her. “Recent brain research suggests that warm, responsive care is not only comforting for an infant; it is critical to healthy development. In fact, a strong, secure attachment to a nurturing caregiver appears to have protective biological function, protecting an infant to some degree against the adverse effects of later stress or trauma” (Shore, 2003, p. 27). The ideal learning environment would also include the following:
-A healthy, safe environment, where the infant is breastfed.
-Adults who respond to the child’s cues in a loving kind way.
-Playfulness and cheerfulness are given in frequent interactions throughout the day between the primary caregiver and the infant.
-Physical attention is given often. The child is carried, rocked, held, kissed and hugged.
-The adult understands basic child development, but also realizes the uniqueness of each child and that every development has a normal range.
-The environment is linguistically rich. The adult talks, reads and sings often to the child.
-There are a variety of activities that the infant engages in throughout the day. This would include such things as tummy time with toys just out of reach to encourage the child to learn to crawl, and pillows over soft carpet for the infant who has started crawling to climb over. Also a variety of colored objects would be available to the infant, but only a few at a time in a rotating basis.
-Routines would be in place although strict schedules would not.
To implement such an environment most parents could use a little counseling and shown the research as to why these steps are beneficial. Researchers could then observe and record the behavior of the caregivers and infants along with a control group of infants who in daycare centers with high staff turnover. Future records of the two groups could be made at five years, ten years and fifteen years to see how the two groups faired intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially. If the group with the nurturing attached caregiver faired better than the infants in daycare with high staff turnover then we can conclude that the suggested enriched environment is better at helping children to develop well.
I do not believe western civilization is the only civilization where adolescents have to figure out their identity and their direction. In many cases this has been decided for the youth already, as Hall says in our text (2007, p. 181), and so this aspect is different than many experience in our society today. At the same time I do think our modern society has created the “teenager.”
In our house we have defined teenagers from the examples of the many that we know who are self-inclined, lazy and often rebellious individuals between 13 and 19. Youth are the hard working youngster between 13 and 19 who know their parents have a purpose, they have a purpose and that we all must put in a great deal of work to figure out and accomplish those purposes. I have a friend that has informed me that all children sleep around and try drugs and rebel when they become teenagers and her oldest is now in those years and proving her predictions to be true. But I did not do any of those things and neither will my children. I was too busy as an apprentice to a horse trainer, riding instructor, nanny, leader in my youth group, straight A student and following my many other self imposed goals. The rebellious teen image is often the product of a generation of children who have been raised doing mostly what they want with too little supervision and too few goal setting sessions and heartfelt talks with their parents. When a parent is around and requires hard work and that the child pursue something of his or her choice that is of value then much of the tumult of these years is channeled into productive purposes and not allowed to fester unsupervised. Also rebellious acting out is limited when the individual has real responsibilities that no one else will step in and fill. For instance, my siblings and I were all required to buy our own extras, cars, insurance and in my case horse feed from the time we were 14. My parents had eight children and work was simply part of our family. This isn’t to say we didn’t get hormonal and moody, some of us did, but it never lead to all out inappropriate behavior. We simply loved and respected my parents and this kept us in bounds. All of this comes together to resolve Erickson’s view of identity crisis. But take a teen who does not set goals, is not required to work and doesn’t pursue anything that will help him the future. In this case the identity crises will not be solved and the person will go into the next stage still not knowing anything more about what he or she is to do here. This is when we get the twenty something who is still partying, living at home or off others and has no real direction. Not always, but more often now than ever before.
Other examples of youth versus teenagers can be seen throughout history. Benjamin Franklin became an apprentice to his older brother, a printer, at age twelve. He worked long hours and learned a lot. At seventeen he moved to a new town and set up his own printing press and newspaper. At 16 George Washington became a surveyor, laying out property lines for new settlers. At 14 Thomas Edison set up a chemistry lab on a short circuit train, where he sold newspapers and other merchandize, so that he could do experiments in between selling things. These men were reacting to an environment that expected them to work, which is in sharp contrast to the homes of many teenagers today who are given much with very little required of them in return.
For those who work with teens Sheryl Feinstein author of Secrets of the Teenaged Brain suggests that we help them make goals, identify obstacles to realizing the goals, find alternatives for overcoming each obstacles, rank the alternatives and then choose the best alternative (2004, p. 133). We should help them to make goals and pursue their goals as much as we possible to encourage more mature behavior and support in solving their identity crises’.