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Awakening Children's MindsHow Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference$
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Laura E. Berk

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195124859

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195124859.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 December 2021

The Child in Contemporary Culture

The Child in Contemporary Culture

(p.220) Seven The Child in Contemporary Culture
Awakening Children's Minds

Laura E. Berk

Oxford University Press

In this chapter, I take up dilemmas that today’s parents face in rearing young children. Throughout this book, we have touched on myriad forces that make contemporary parenting highly challenging. These include one-sided, contradictory messages in the parenting-advice literature; career pressures that impinge on parent involvement in children’s lives; abysmally weak American child-care services to assist employed parents in their child-rearing roles; cultural violence and excessive materialism permeating children’s worlds; schools with less than optimal conditions for children’s learning; and impediments to granting children with deficits and disabilities social experiences that maximize their development. Contemporary parents do not just find child rearing more difficult; they feel more uncertainty than their predecessors about whether and how to intervene in their children’s activities and behavior. In the pages that follow, I draw on major themes of this book—the power of adult warmth, appropriate expectations, narrative conversation, make-believe play, and teaching in the “zone”—to show how Vygotsky’s sociocultural approach can serve as a guide for resolving a great many child-rearing concerns. This chapter answers twenty questions drawn from a survey of over four hundred parents of 2- to 8-year-olds living in a Midwestern city with a population of one hundred thousand. In that survey, I asked parents to list any questions about young children’s development and learning that interested or worried them. The questions I answer here address issues that appeared most often in parents’ responses. Each represents a concern that surfaced in three or more parental replies. I intend these answers to parents’ questions to reflect a way of thinking about child rearing, not a set of recipes for dealing with specific events. When parents are familiar with principles that are grounded in contemporary theory and research on children’s development, they can better deal with the quandaries generated by the changing home, school, and community contexts in which today’s children grow up. Although adverse cultural trends have complicated and threatened good child rearing, parents—as agents of change, buffers against stressful life circumstances, and gatekeepers of learning opportunities—can do much to protect, restore, and reshape children’s experiences.

Keywords:   Bossy children, Cerebral palsy, Ear infections, Games, Mathematics, Only child, Play spaces

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