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Five Minutes with David Elkind

Author GreatDad Writers
Submitted 24-06-2008

David Elkind is a well-known psychologist and author of several groundbreaking best-sellers on parenting. Here’s what he has to say about child development and parenting.


You’ve written several books on parenting, including  The Hurried Child and  The Power of Play. What is the one thing
you think parents should know about your work?

I have always emphasized the importance of child development
as the basic guide for all facets of child rearing and education.

What are your feelings about the role of the father in child
development?

In today’s world there is a great deal of overlap in
parental roles. My sons, for example, are much more active in child care than I
was. I think this is very healthy. It gives both boys and girls a sense that
men can be as loving and nurturing as women. Learning that lesson early can prevent
children from accepting worn out sex role stereotypes.


What is the best thing dads can do in the raising of their
children?

The most important thing parents can give to their children
is the unshakable sense that they are important in their parents lives and that
their parents love them deeply. That sense is really what self esteem is all
about.

 

What is the biggest error dads can make in raising their
children?

One error some dads make is to let the mother play the major
role in child rearing. Dads need to assert their need to be an active
participant in the infant’s feeding, changing and bathing routines. Later, fathers
should spend time playing, going out to lunch, shopping, and some of the
transporting as well.

A common error of dads of adolescent girls is to stop
showing affection once they reach puberty and develop breasts and shapely
figures. It is natural for dads to feel uncomfortable about hugging their
teenage daughters they way they used to. But the daughter may not understand
this and interpret it as rejection of her.

 

It’s been said that the greatest regret aging men have is
that they didn’t spend more time with their kids. How do you feel about that
statement?

I think it is very true. I was interviewed by a reporter from
Taiwan and she told me of the tremendous pressure on Chinese children
to achieve academically. They literally study from dawn till they go to bed.
When I said it was a pity the parents didn’t get a chance to enjoy their
children, she simply didn’t get the point. Our children grow up very quickly
and if we don’t take the opportunity to enjoy them when they are growing up, we
miss one of the greatest joys of being a parent.

 

Every generation worries that their kids aren’t strong
enough to handle the real world. Do you feel kids need to be “toughened up”
by experiencing rough times?

We have a lot of wrong intuitions and one of them is that
the best preparation for a bad experience is a bad experience. Yet bad
experience is what makes criminals. Certainly we shouldn’t spoil children but
we shouldn’t expose them to bad experiences to toughen them up. That is simply
cruel.

The best preparation for a bad experience is a good
experience, sharing passions, and many of life’s natural ups and downs.

 

Or conversely, do you think kids need to be smothered with
love to give them storehouse of good feelings with which to deal with the
inevitable challenges of life in the real world?

You can never
protect children from the vicissitudes of life. Children will learn from the
bad experiences as well as the good. The point is these experiences should not
be engineered by us out of some false sense that we’re creating them for the
child’s benefit. Life itself has enough goods and bads without our having to
manufacture them.