Never underestimate a child
Children are far more intelligent than adults give them credit for.
Parents don’t always realise that a child’s brain is always turning over.

Most seasoned parents will know by now that kids are inexhaustible sponges, sucking up anything and everything they’re exposed to and it matters not whether you or they are conscious of it happening. This is a bit daunting, because we as parents, should be conscious of it more often than not.

A couple of months ago I was telling Maddi a story. For the life of me I can’t remember what it was about or how I ended up having to explain what telling a story in the “third person” means. Evidently I did a pretty good job of it. The other day a mate of mine, who picked up Maddi from school for me one afternoon, called me up in wonder.

Apparently Maddi was talking to herself in the back seat while he was driving. When he listened closely he realised that she was telling a story in which she herself featured and the whole made-up tale was being related in the third person.

When my mate asked her what she was doing, she nonchalantly explained that she was telling a story in the third person. He was gob-smacked for the rest of the day as he “had only understood the concept of the third person well into his teens.”

I think this illustrates the point that kids are able to process a lot more than we’d like to believe. Don’t ever make the mistake of over simplifying an explanation just because you think they might be too young to understand. Obviously not all kids of the same age are going to process things at the same rate of knots, which is why it’s important to make sure they do actually understand a particular lesson or point you’re trying to make. And the easiest way to ensure that they do understand is to ask them, or coax them into giving you a demonstration of their understanding.

I have a very good memory, and the fact that I cannot for the life of me remember the details of my initial conversation with Maddi means that I was probably just jabbering on about it, not expecting her to be able to grasp the concept. Clearly I had underestimated her powers of absorption.
The scary thing, as all good parents know, is that they are very capable of absorbing all kinds of, shall we say, behaviour or lessons which could lead to embarrassment or even anti-social behaviour.

You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to protect them against all negative influences, it’s just impossible to provide that kind of isolation. However the best anti-virus programme you can load into your kid’s brain is their ability to ask questions. And coupled with that should be an open line of fearless communication between yourself and your kids. Their morals and values will be tested constantly and if unsure, they need to be able to fall back onto a trusted point of reference, ie YOU.

It really becomes vital that you get it right while they’re still impressionable, because when they hit their teens and think that they now know it all (and sadly find out that they still don’t), they’ll remember that YOU have the answers and that they can come to YOU, instead of relying on the advice of some equally scatter-brained teen.

Have you ever underestimated your child’s cognitive abilities?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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Read more by Marlon Abrahams

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