In the last edition of IPS and YOU, I wrote about heredity and environment citing research that said it was the interplay between the two that determines who we eventually become.  Keeping on that theme, here is another important concept—abilities are created, not solely inherited.  Abilities can be many things—we tend to think first about cognitive skills (e.g. IQ) but other important abilities include perseverance, self-restraint, curiosity,  trust, self-awareness and confidence, to name just a few.  These are competencies that can be learned, just like any other skill.  But the key to developing them is to start at birth; perhaps even before. James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate and child researcher says “Humans are most malleable, flexible and able to learn and be imprinted by parents and culture, during their first years of life”.  Heckman uses the metaphor of “scaffolding” saying that activities must be “tailored to the individual’s current ability—neither too hard nor too easy.”  He went on to say “Good preschools do what good parents do:  engage the child actively within the right scaffolding for their skills development”.
The methods that best develop non-cognitive skills change as the child grows but researchers agree that among the most important factors that can effect their growth is stress, or more specifically protecting our children from it. Stress can come in many forms—non-encouraging language and feedback, hunger, physical punishment or restraint, excess stimulation or the opposite, a prolonged lack of stimulation.  Further, researchers believe that even babies can sense the normal, occasional stress that exists within every family.  Given some family stress is inevitable, one of the most important things parents can do to counter the effects is to simply hold your child as much as possible.  When they nap or you read to them, hold them. When they are awake and calm, hold them.  Most parents have found an iPad is the 21st century version of a “pacifier”.  While there is debate on the value of these new technologies, everyone agrees–hold your child while he or she plays with it!
The bottom line is children need to be raised in a safe, nurturing, environment while being challenged with positive experiences consistent with their abilities.  That is what IPS is all about as it helps parents give their children the best possible start in life.