CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF A CHILD'S FIRST YEARS:
A BABY SPEAKS
By Jan Hunt, M.Sc
Statistics tell us that something has gone wrong in our
world. A steadily rising rate of social ills, and the
proliferation of self-help books and therapy techniques
for "re parenting the inner child" attest to the sad
fact that we have lost our way in raising our children.
It is up to us as parents - despite our personal
limitations - to give our children the right start in
life: to help them become fulfilled, emotionally healthy
adults, capable of loving and trusting others.
Philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that "the entire ocean
is affected by a pebble." Our children should be like
pebbles bringing forth waves of joy, not more sorrow and
Current thinking about our failure to fulfill our
children's needs points to the importance of the
earliest years of childhood, making it clear that the
first three years are especially critical. What should
we be doing during those years to ensure that our
children have the best chance of becoming healthy and
happy - as they deserve to be? Consider what a member of
that age group might recommend to us - if only they
I am eleven months old. I can't talk yet, so when I am
hungry, tired, wet, lonely, ill, or in pain, I cry. It
is the only means I have to let my parents know that
something is wrong.
If my crying is ignored, all that happens is that my
needs become greater - I get even more miserable. On top
of that, I have to face the fact that apparently no one
cares about me. I'm sure Mommy would feel the same way
if she were crying and Daddy ignored her. Believing that
no one cares about you is a very devastating thought.
When my tears are ignored, I begin to believe that no
matter how hard I cry, and no matter what is wrong, no
one will ever come. If no one ever comes, I worry that I
will die, because I cannot meet my own needs yet. You
see, I have no concept of time, and two minutes is
forever to me.
Sometimes I stop crying - but I am not learning patience
- I am learning despair. When I stop crying, it means
that I have lost all hope of ever being loved again, and
all I feel is helplessness and despondency. I worry that
I will never learn to communicate with words if I am not
allowed to communicate with cries. And I worry that if I
feel this frustration too many times, I will withdraw
and stop feeling anything.
It sure can be frightening to think that no one cares
enough about me to meet my needs. In fact, when my cries
are ignored, I begin to think the world is a really bad
place, and I worry that this will give me a negative and
selfish outlook on life. But when my needs are met, I
feel loved and secure enough to return that love to
others, and eventually to my own children. I do so want
to become a loving, caring person, but how will I learn
to be like that if I don't see examples of it?
On Identity and Character
A recent best-selling book raises the
question whether we are losing our national identity or
character. Something central to us, it posits, is being
obliterated by a world of change: change in opinion and
understanding, change in technology, and change in
economics and demographics.
This claim is worth taking seriously, not only because
change is now the rule to a degree, and moving at a
pace, never seen before. It is worth taking seriously
also because the status of national identity or
character in our country is, by older standards, ever a
The term “identity” comes from a Latin term "
Sameness". The term “character” comes from a Greek term
meaning to inscribe or engrave, to make a mark that is
indelible.* The thing we fear losing is therefore
something that is not easy to lose if we have it. It is
marked deeply upon us, and it makes us the same.
These classical terms remind us of some characteristics
of the classical world that are not so common in this
modern world. In the classical world, the character or
identity of the people was shaped by their laws and
institutions. These laws and institutions were
comprehensive in their direct influence upon the manner
of life. Religion and politics were one. The gods were
the source of the law. Public institutions had profound
effects upon the closest particulars of private life.
What the law did not permit, it forbade.