Pushing kids too hard too early

I’m not a fan of ‘Hothousing kids’ an 80s term for pushing your kids to learn beyond their cognitive age.  My daughter is only 4 and I’m a strongly believe in her learning via play at the moment; whether it’s a gentle introduction to Maths via board games, a Science lesson by walking through the park collecting leaves, fostering an interest in Literacy through bedtime stories and trips to the library, a Geography lesson when Daddy is watching the rugby, History by telling her about her grandparents, or ICT by letting her have a bit of screen time.

Why I worry

I understand that parents want to prepare their children for school but I do worry about the pressure they’re putting on their children, as research has shown that pushing children at an early age can have detrimental affects to their learning down the road.  I see it all the time:  signing 3 year olds up for piano lessons,  Baby Yoga, Baby Signing, daily flashcard sessions and of course don’t forget the Baby Einstein series.

Am I a hypocrite?

However, I had a chat with Madame on Friday night, amongst our normal bedtime routine and she declared that she doesn’t like school, it’s boring.  Of course, I asked her why and she said it’s because they ‘won’t let her learn letters and numbers’ and asked me if I would teach her.

I appreciate why the nursery is not doing this at the moment as their ethos is learning via play which I like, however they do send homework sheets home on a Friday.  But as an ex-teacher, I’ve humoured her and printed some hand-writing sheets.  She absolutely loves doing them and seems to have the fine-motor skills and stamina to do it.

Was this a bad idea?  I wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t asked…..

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Is this another result of ‘competitive parenting’ ? Will my daughter be left behind if I don’t do it?  What’s the worst case of Hothousing you’ve seen?



Author: mediocremum

A slightly older mum of one, who drinks far too much red wine and has an unhealthy obsession with her slow cooker. During the day she's an ICT Trainer, Social Media/Online Marketing consultant and does a bit of public speaking. Full Profile on Google+

10 thoughts on “Pushing kids too hard too early”

  1. I recognise the conundrum – I went through the same thing myself with my children and my mother with me. Each time, the school tried to put off the parent, threatening dire consequences, from the child growing up to be ‘rebellious against authority’ to them dropping out of school because they thought themselves superior to other kids.
    Don’t get me wrong, I hate it when I see parents pushing their kids so hard that the poor mites end up having nervous breakdowns (I’ve seen that, too). But there has to be an argument for allowing a child to absorb as much information as they are willing to. Otherwise we’re pulling people down to a level some stranger or government department considers ‘an acceptable level’, and so we stifle the children’s innate desire to learn, we teach them that trying to improve is regarded as ‘wrong’ by the ‘grown-ups’ and, as a society, we sentence ourselves to stagnation.
    If the first man who had the revolutionary idea that pushing a cart on wheels required less effort would have had his tools taken away, where would we be now?

  2. I’d say this is just an example of allowing your daughter steer the direction of her learning. In much the same way that if she asked you to take her to the park to collect leaves you would (hence a science lesson) or if she wanted to play a counting game (a maths lesson). As a pre-school child I loved playing “school” and got my mum to pretend to be a teacher whilst I did handwriting and numbers. When I went to school I was “ahead” of some but certainly not alone in being so.

    Much home education is done in such a way that the children learn things when they are ready and it just sounds like she wants to play school like the older children. I’d encourage her if that’s what she wants to do and just not push her if she doesn’t want to do it.

  3. As a parent of a four year old, and a one year old, and as an ex teacher, I have to say that I think hot housing is generally a waste of time. I think all these baby ‘classes’ are an excellent marketing strategy which preys on the desires of parents of a certain socio-economic group to ensure that their children are ‘doing well’ right from the start. This is perfectly understandable, given that our children are facing an increasingly competitive environment in their future. The fact is that in the end children all pretty much catch up with each other anyway. Bright children, given the right environment will always do well. My experience has taught me that the best way to help your little one ‘get on’, is to take an encouraging interest in all they do, and help them develop the confidence to learn. If they feel good about their ability to learn, they will enjoy it, and develop skills and soak up knowledge like little sponges. Basically, I think we need to chill the heck out, and help our children enjoy their learning experiences, rather than worry how much they are learning at such an early age.

  4. I’m completely behind you, child centred learning is the way to go, especially when it comes to reading. I’ve also experienced the opposite problem, of having a child pushed before they are ready, which was just horrendous.
    Just 1 word of advice, make sure you know what system the school use for teaching reading. My eldest was a bit of a sponge for learning & amongst other things I taught her Te alphabet in name form, but this caused her a little confusion when she started school at 4 and had to learn them again phonetically (and having had 3 of them through KS1 in 2 different schools, I now know there’s more than 1 way of teaching phonics!!).

  5. I really don’t believe in pushing our children too quickly but at 3 1/2 my little one has shown an interest in trying to read and write too. I think its because her Preschool and reception class are mixed so she sees the older ones doing it. When she can be bothered and asks, I help her out and let her use the books where you can trace the letters and numbers but I don’t make her do it and don’t care if they stay in the cupboard for weeks or months. They learn a lot through play but if they are asking for more, there is nothing wrong with that!

  6. I agree with most of what Ashleigh but not too sure about the catching up bit. In my day I felt that the key was learning to read and all of our 4 kids could read before they got to school. They all had a bedtime story and a little lesson (not more than 5 mins). We used the Janet and John books that had a “New words on the page list”). We would go over the new words before we started, meet them in the text and read them again at the end of the page. Lots of repetition and feeling good. Invariably they wanted more of both especially my “made up stories” but were always left wanting more. They enjoyed starting school because being able to read what was around them they did not need the teachers attention all of the time. Max had masses of stories before he started reading so I imagine that Fiona delayed teaching until he showed the desire to learn to read. The long and the short of it is that Max who is 13 next week has read 10 tens more books than I ever have. When he went to senior school he almost breathlessly said “they have a thousand books in the library”. Some of my policies in teaching may be worth noting. I always said if they did not know a word to have a guess no matter how silly. Said “good” or the correct word. Never say wrong or laugh at a guess. Allow only one guess for 2 reasons. 1 is that you keep the flow of the story going and 2 you minimise the wrong word to correct word ratio. My 4 offspring are avid readers. Hope that I have not bored you tears.

  7. For me the difficulty is treading the line between pushing them to hard, and making them work up to their ability and a little beyond so as to develop them.
    If they have the potential to be more advanced than their peers then why not let them.
    My 3 year old can read, she is reading 6+ books at the moment, and I will continue to push her reading ability, even if others in her class cant read yet.

  8. Take a look at my post last week on self-harm. It’s a bit extreme, but we are finding exactly this now that GG is 7. She raced ahead early on and we found that if she wasn’t challenged she was bored and her behaviour at home was rubbish, so we pushed for more. She responded fine until this year, when the school upped the ante for year 2 and she has had some issues with frustration, and not wanting to try. I would say with hindsight, give her what she asks for but stick to your instincts and don’t ask for more.

  9. We are mostly guided by what they want – if they want to do worksheets super, if they want to play with dolls also super

    That said we do try and make sure they do colours, shapes and so on and are gently encouraging Bigger to spend longer periods concentrating on things – not terribly successfully but hey she’s only tiny

  10. CBA to Read all the comments But I guess I’m echoing others. If your child wants ballet classes and enjoys it, then why not? I believe if a child is good at something then nurturing it won’t do any harm, however if they don’t like or want to do it, then don’t push them, they’ll build resentment that could carry on into adult hood.
    I blame social media for ‘telling’ us what and how to raise our kids. People fail to take into account that the views they receive are from a wide variety of life experiences and finances. Making parents feel inadequate because there’s is the only child not having additional kimono lessons outside of school.
    For me when my kids were young my only competition was in the school play ground listening to how their child was now a free reader and mine was still reading Biff. However as I have a diploma in child psychology, am a special needs teacher and have spent many years working in a variety of educational settings, experience tells/shows me that unless your child is gifted or at the ither end if the spectrum, they all catch up/overtake/out perform one anotherin a variety of skills needed for the real world.

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