Posted in Child Development

Theories of Human Development

The ways we teach and understand children today are still heavily influenced by six theories including work by Freud, Erikson and Piaget.  When someone says your child is “going through a phase” what does it mean?  More importantly, can how we parent have a long-term impact on the child’s development?  What if we potty train early or late?  When might a child experience separation anxiety?  The stages children go through include everything from  forming attachments through cognitive-development. 

The Teaching Company - Portable Educational Courses on DVD, Audio CD, Cassette and MP3

There is an amazing company called The Teaching Company (  They find and record brilliant Professors from around the globe on hundreds of topics.  The course range from Understanding Opera to History of the World. 

There is a course available on DVD, Audio CD or by download call “Theories of Human Development.” .  It is a series of 24 lectures by Professor Malcolm W. Watson at Brandeis University.  It is a great way to listen and understand some of the basic principles behind your child’s development and behavior.

Parents should evaluate the appropriateness of any product in their own child’s situation.  Please feel free to check the consumer product safety commision ( or with other groups that test the safey of children’s products.

© 2010  All rights reserved. 

 Here is a write-up from the Teaching Company website on the course itself:

Course Image

“Six Theories of How We Become Who We Are

The six major theories have had a pervasive impact on the way we, both scientists and the general public, see ourselves. They are:

Sigmund Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory. The lectures discuss this theory, the earliest of the six, including such concepts as the Oedipus Complex and Freud’s five stages of psycho-sexual development. Although now widely disputed, Freudian thinking is deeply imbedded in our culture and constantly influences our view of human nature.

Erik Erikson’s Psycho-Social Theory. This is the theory that gave rise to the term “identity crisis.” Erikson was the first to propose that the “stages” of human development spanned our entire lives, not just childhood. His ideas heavily influenced the study of personality development, especially in adolescence and adulthood.

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth’s Integrated Attachment Theory. This was the first theory to focus primarily on the formation of parent-child relationships. It explains the connection between relationships that occur early in our lives and those that happen later, including romantic ones. Attachment theory has generated thousands of scientific studies, and has led to changes in many childcare policies, such as those allowing parents to stay with their children in hospitals.

Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. This theory modified traditional learning theory developed by such behaviorists as B. F. Skinner, which was based on stimulus-response relationships. It considered learning to be no different among infants, children, adults, or even animals. Bandura’s approach is influential in such areas as the effect of media violence on children, and the treatment of problem behaviors and disorders.

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory. Piaget’s influence created a revolution in human development theory. He proposed the existence of four major stages, or “periods,” during which children and adolescents master the ability to use symbols and to reason in abstract ways. This has been the most influential of the six major theories. In the 1970s and 1980s, it completely dominated the study of child development.

Lev Vygotsky’s Cognitive-Mediation Theory. Alone among the major theorists, Vygotsky believed that learning came first, and caused development. He theorized that learning is a social process in which teachers, adults, and other children form supportive “scaffolding” on which each child can gradually master new skills. Vygotsky’s views have had a large impact on educators.

Early Theorists: Locke, Rousseau, and even Darwin

To give you the best understanding of these theories, this course also explores the general history of the study of child development. It touches on the work of other important researchers, such as John Watson of Johns Hopkins University, who developed behaviorism, and Arnold Gesell of Yale, from whose work sprang such well-worn phrases as “just going through a stage” and “the terrible twos.”

Professor Watson also discusses the era of observational research on children, which marked the beginnings of child study as a true science. This period was pioneered by scientists who began publishing detailed accounts of the development of their own children. These early “baby biographers” included Alfred Binet, who first developed intelligence testing in France, and even Charles Darwin.

You may be struck not only by how much we have learned about child development, but also by how much our attitudes toward children have changed. Until the beginning of the 19th century, there was no interest in child study and, in fact, no concern for children. Such factors as poverty and high infant mortality created an atmosphere in which children were barely tolerated, or used for labor.

In Paris in 1750, 33 percent of all newborns were left in foundling homes or on doorsteps; most died. In England, boys and girls as young as four were often sent to work in mines.

You will see how attitudes toward children gradually improved, due mostly to the efforts of physicians and religious leaders. And you will appreciate the tremendous contribution that two renowned philosophers, John Locke (1632–1704) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), have made to the field of child development. Their ideas about children—whether they are inherently good or bad, or whether they actively shape their environments or passively react to stimuli—still form much of the basis of our modern theories.

The lessons of this course are not simply about learning, behavior, and relationships in youth, but at any age. Taken as a whole, they provide our best answers to the questions of human nature—how we learn, adapt, and become who we are at every stage in life. “

Posted in Ongoing Journey

Tech Updates

In addition to getting updates from the blog, there are a few new ways to keep updated.

  • Follow the blog on Twitter – The Twitter name is tohighchairs
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Posted in Child Development

Building a Baby Conversationista (Action Steps Included)

There are those in the world that can walk into a room and everyone notices. My friend’s daughter is one of those people. She has a way of making everyone feel loved, important, interesting and heard. These individuals can capture your attention and entertain you with their stories. They are present and fun.  After working in Corporate America for 13 years, I have recognized these are common traits of the leaders of organizations, the top sales people and the ones that are frequently promoted. Granted, there are other necessary factors such as education and experience but the art of human interaction is invaluable in work, in life and in relationships. 

I fear for many children this is a lost art. At a young age children begin to grab cell phones from their parents: this interesting, blinking noisy toy that Mom and Dad love. TV, hand held games, iPods and so on have replaced the need for conversation. Car trips are made easier with DVDs and Playstation.

Where is the time to practice? When can they daydream and why would they want to when someone has already made something to watch.  So many of my dreams were formulated when I had the moments to let my mind drift. Daydreaming as a child has become a useful in grown up terms as mental rehearsal. Coming up with car games and stories has made me a person that can make any situation fun (without gear!) Most importantly, many in my generation were taught early on a proper handshake, to look people in the eyes, how to be an active listener and how to acknowledge and be nice to people who cross your path regardless of their look, language or station.

I recently sat in on a friend’s nursery school class at a Montessori on the west side of Manhattan. To welcome each child to the class, she sat at their level, shook their hand and made sure there was eye contact. Little rituals such as these keep children engaged and teach them the importance of something as simple as a greeting. After years of work and visits to all sorts of offices, I can tell even as adults some of us can work on our morning greeting!  The addition of simple rituals in your day is easy, free, fun and an amazing way to get to encourage your child’s inner coversationista.

Action Steps – here are a few ideas to get you started.

1.) On long car trips, make a deal. Try talking, games and family fun first, perhaps even a required time period without t.v. Ex (Geography Game, the license plate game, going on a picnic)

2.) Teach your child to acknowledge when someone joins the room or a conversation with a greeting or handshake.

3.) Instate some family rules – no electronics at the dinner table, time limits on TV, time limits on internet (this can even be automated)

4.) Have family game night!

5.) Read to your kid before bed.

6.) Model these behaviors yourself. If you don’t care neither will your child.

7.) Finally try everything! Go to museums, go outside, try foods and sports. This way once your child says hello…they will have plenty to talk about and share!!!!

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in Children's Literature Series

Make Reading a Habit for You and Your Child (action steps included)

During my time as a Board Member of The Children of Bellevue, which initiates, develops and funds special programs for the children at Bellevue hospital and their families, I learned about the Reach out and Read Program and in turn the benefits of reading for your children.  Language, school performance and curiosity are just a few of the many benefits to reading to your child and encouraging your child to read.  The more words parents use the greater the child’s vocabulary.  No matter where you look the positives are endless.

In Reach out and Read, volunteers sit on the floor with children.  Kids are allowed to touch the book, to look at the pages, they are encouraged to ask questions and discuss what is happening to the characters in the book.  In this way the volunteers are modeling great reading skills to parents and encouraging curiosities in the children as well as a love of reading.

So the question is what are the benefits of reading correlated to?  Is it having books in the home?  Is it actually reading them?  Or is it modeling reading behaviors.  According to Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in their book Freakonomics (pg 167) there are many factors correlated with test scores including many books in the home but also including parental age, income and involvement.  What is clear after reading through the websites and statistics is that books are important for you and for your child.  Currently fewer than half (48%) of American children are read to daily (Reach out and Read)

Why not take the time to read a book to your child each day?  Carve out time for personal reading as well.  Your child will see that this is an enjoyable, relaxing activity that is worth your time and theirs.

Action Step –  Want to make reading a habit?  Try  Enter your goal to read to your child or carve out personal reading time.  The website will check in daily on your goal.  It takes 21 days to form a new habit. Start now!

Taking it an ‘Action Step’ Further – Find a series that your child is interested in and buy the whole series.  Instead of tuning in every night to a TV show, tune in to reading the series.  Some examples are ‘The Magic School Bus’ or ‘Captain Underpants’

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in Child Development

Your Child’s Development – On a Handout!!



I came across a great website ( They have created 9 spreadsheets detailing your baby’s development.  They review the following –

  • A chart that helps you know what to expect developmentally from your child, and how you can help your child learn at each stage
  • Frequently asked questions and answers
  • A spotlight section that goes into greater depth on a common issue or challenge for each age
  • A research summary specific to each stage of development, and what it means for parents

© 2010  All rights reserved.