So far, we have discussed the important responsibility of parents in helping their children make and sustain friendships, and learn to be competent in various skills. We also learned that parents everywhere have challenges related to providing appropriate levels of nutrition for their children and keeping their children safe while they are engaged in play activities. Now that we have examined the ways in which parents impact the social-emotional and physical development of their school-age children, we will turn our attention to the role of parents in promoting the cognitive development of their school-age children. In the upcoming discussions, you will discover that the views of Piaget and Vygotsky are useful for helping parents to maximize their school-age children's cognitive potential. We will also focus on the significant role that parents play in promoting their children's academic achievement.
Promoting Logical Reasoning
According to Piaget, in comparison to preschoolers, who make judgments based on intuitive thinking and are easily fooled by appearances, school-age children are logical thinkers. The logical thinking of school-age children emerges as egocentrism decreases, allowing children to decenter their attention. As children develop the ability to decenter their attention, they are able to take into account multiple aspects of a situation, which greatly enhances their problem-solving ability. One advantage of school-age children's ability to decenter their attention is that they are able to focus on present, past, and future events. They are, therefore, capable of planning ahead and considering how current efforts relate to future accomplishments (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969). An aspect of logical reasoning that develops during middle childhood is the ability to classify, which helps school-age children to put objects in more sophisticated categories than they were able to do during the preschool years.
What This Means for Professionals
The logical thinking abilities of school-age children means that parents can feel freer' to use more complex speech with them because, unlike younger children, school-age children are able to understand metaphors, realize that some words have multiple meanings, and comprehend reverse-order sentences. Capitalizing on their children's developing ability to decenter their concentration, parents can point out to their children the ways in which their behaviors affect others, thereby promoting their development of empathy. For example, parents could say to their first-graders that when they share with other children, those other children are pleased and more likely to share with them. Parents might assist their school-age children in the development of their ability to classify by supporting their interests in collections of various objects and by making recommendations for categorization, ordering, and collecting that their children might not have considered. Parents can capitalize on their children's ability to consider past, present, and future events by providing them with calendars and watches. By encouraging school-age children to use their watches to monitor events in their daily lives and assisting them in the use of their calendars to keep up with and plan for future events, parents offer their children the experiences they require for continued development of their ability to decenter their attention.
The Parental Use of Guided Participation
You might recall from an earlier chapter that Lev Vygotsky theorized that parents and other adults shape children's cognitive development through the process of guided participation. According to Kermani and Brenner (2000), through the process of guided participation, parents lead their children toward greater understanding of the task at hand while assisting them in the development of their own comprehension of the task. The following example demonstrates the ways in which a parent might use guided participation to support the cognitive development of their school-age children.
Suppose a child attempts to solve a jigsaw puzzle, gets discouraged, and stops trying. Although it appears at first glance as if the task is beyond the child's ability to accomplish, that is not necessarily the case. The child might be successful in putting the puzzle together if the parent provides guided participation to facilitate the child's learning experience. Guided participation might include: (a) remarks designed to motivate the child to solve the problem, "Oh, I think you can do it; let me help you"; (b) assisting the child in focusing attention on the important steps, "First, we have to study the picture, then try to match the puzzle pieces to the picture"; (c) providing instruction, "Sometimes we need to rotate the pieces to get them to fit into a certain space"; and (d) encouraging the child's interest and motivation, "See, you're making progress. I thought you could do it."
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