Epiphany - Dr. Wanda Roundtree Henderson
The Gifts That Last
Posted January 12th 2013

It is January 2013, and many of us are still reeling from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. And year after year, it becomes increasingly difficult for some folk to avoid the mounds of debt accumulated during the “Season of Giving”. It is a known fact that people’s insatiable quest after material possessions and the need to keep up with the “Joneses” often transcend socio-economic status, gender affiliation, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. For the most part, many of today’s parents/guardians strive very hard to provide gifts for their children that convey their unconditional love for them, and they are quite reasonable with their provisions. But then there are some who are bent on providing their children with the best toys and gadgets that this world has to offer. Often driven by guilt feelings that may or may not be justified, some seek resolution by continuing down the path of using material objects as a sort of inappropriate surrogate.

I contend that the eternal gifts are “gifts of the heart”. In our work with young children, we come to realize that the gifts that last are the teachable moments that occur between a child and an adult—a time when they seem to hold each other emotionally captive. The far and unusual places that words in a storybook can take children, a child’s learning arc and sense of accomplishment that are the result of having mastered a task in conjunction with a more capable other, and the look in a child’s eyes that conveys how much he adores you are very priceless gifts. These are the consummate gifts, perpetual favors, if you will. The gifts that last are not the objects that come in boxes, beautifully accentuated with wrapping paper, bows and ribbons. While the tradition of exchanging gifts has its place during the holiday season, I believe that it is the intimate engagements with our young that become, what I have dubbed, “close encounters of the third kind.” They simply make indelible impressions on children’s hearts and minds.

Developmentalist Urie Bronfenbrenner, who has written extensively about the ecological worlds of children, talks about “putting people back into the lives of children.” In a rather dated article: Who Cares For America’s Children (1971), which still has profound significance for contemporary society and tremendous appeal to today’s social scientists and educators, alike, Urie Bronfenbrenner suggests that society imposes pressures and priorities on families that allow neither time nor place for meaningful activities and relations between children and adults. According to Bronfenbrenner, “children need people in order to become “human”, an idea that is both fundamental but yet compelling. He writes, “In order for a child to become uniquely human, somebody has to be crazy about him—somebody has got to be irrationally involved in his life”. According to Bronfenbrenner, “a child cannot pull himself up by his own bootstraps” and it is primarily through meaningful interactions with those whom he loves and admires that the child discovers both what he can do and who he can become, that he develops both his ability and his identity. All of us bear the responsibility to become a significant part of children’s social landscape. The child’s engagement in meaningful interactions with significant others makes all the difference in the world. For the young and very innocent, these meaningful interactions and other renderings of the heart are truly the gifts that last.

Question: What are your thoughts about parents and other significant adults serving as primary socializing agents for young children?

(Urie Bronfenbrenner: Who Cares for America’s Children. National Association for the Education of Young Children.Vol.26, No. 3, January 1971)

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Reply from Karina Cervantes posted on May 20th 2013
Parents and other significant adults such as grandparents, aunts, or uncles are indeed a young child's primary socializing agents. They learn from these adults their first values and beliefs. If an adult is not around to share meaningful interactions with children, they may not grasp the the fundamental meaning of family and relationships. It is has become harder for parents to spend a vast amount of time now that most families have both parents in the work force. However, if the adult spends a short but meaningful interaction with the child they may still instill in their child their belief system and a sense of security.
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Reply from Jose Lopez posted on May 20th 2013
I don’t really agree with the idea of only having parents and other significant adults as the primary socializing agents for young children. The interactions that children have with their peers of age teaches them about different cultures and how you should and can respond to people in a social setting, not a setting that involves family. We all act accordingly to the different relationships that we encounter and interact with on a daily basis. Having only one type of person, especially a person that you know well and are comfortable with does not seem like a challenging environment for someone who is developing socially
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Reply from Rebekah Mamola posted on May 20th 2013
I think that parents and other significant adults are the most influential early in a child’s socialization process. Parent’s interaction with their children, teaches them the appropriate ways to interact within their society and the rules and norms of the culture. Children thrive in an environment where they are loved and valued. They need to feel secure and safe with the adults in their lives. I think it is a huge disservice to the child when parents express their love through material items and not through meaningful interactions. I think it is extremely important that parents and significant adults have continual meaningful interactions with their children throughout their lives.
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Reply from Hanna Adams posted on May 20th 2013
I think that parents are a key part of a child's development, and socialization is an important part of a child's development. A child gain many of their early beliefs through their parent, and other important adults in their life. This can be a simple as television shows that they watch, to the experiences that parents/adults can introduce them to. It is is all vital for social development.
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Reply from Maria Hernandez posted on May 17th 2013
I believe parents and people around children play an important role as being the primary socializing agents because they are the first ones that can encourage children to socially engage with others. In my case, my parents and extended family members, who were around during my younger days, were there ones who would help me to socialize with other people and other children from my neighborhood. They were the people who talked to me about how to make friends and that encouraged me to invite other children to play with me. Children by natural instinct search the company and attention of other individuals and family members serve as the first motivators for children to develop their social skills. The content of this article is very true because beautiful memories in the company of loved ones are much more memorable, important and valuable than getting the best and newest brand toy as a present. I would have to say, my most favorites moments were spending time with my family, when they were teaching me how to ride a bike, when we went to the zoo together, and when we used to play volley ball in the back yard. Those were my most precious gifts :)
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Reply from selena v. posted on May 8th 2013
My thoughts towards parents serving as primary socializing agents for young children are many. I believe parents should be the primary agents into which their children look up to as a role model. Many time children wonder about new stuff they do not know much about, and they go to their parents for guidance and help. Most times it is good for young children to look up their parents, but there are times when parents are not a good source of social agents. There are times when children have parents that consume drugs or alcohol, and these negatively can impact children’s lives. Even though, there are some parents that are bad role models for their kids; there are many others that do well being a good social agent for young kids. Furthermore, significant others, such as older sister or brother, can also serve as a primary social agent for young children. As mentioned before, there are times when the primary agent into which children look up is not a decent one due to the bad decisions they take. These bad social agents are not good for young children because then children will think that what they see their primary agents doing is correct when in reality it is not. In the other hand, those significant others that do well being a primary social agent help a lot young children to develop well through out their social/ emotional development and cognitive development. Material gifts serve children with joy and happiness; however, “gift of the heart,” like Dr. Henderson said, are ones that last a long time and are always remembered. A gift that last a long time in the heart could be the guidance, support, and love that the primary social agents give to a children during childhood.
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Reply from Noung posted on April 1st 2013
As the primary agent of socializing for children, adults and parents should set the best example they could give to their child. However, I feel that a majority of parents and adults do not realize the impact they have on their child's lives. Parent's may want their child to act and do things in a certain way, but if the parents are not acting in accordance to their words how can children learn? Words are important when explaining things to children, but actions are also crucial in socializing children.
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Reply from Sandy Do posted on March 14th 2013
I believe that parents and other significant adults serve as socializing agents for young children. Parents teach their children what he or she needs to know whether it is concerning how the world works or showing the child how to use objects. I believe that it is through meaningful interactions with the parents that the “child discovers both what he can do and who he can become.” Young children see their parents on a day to day basis, therefore it is important that parents take the time to interact and communicate with their child. However, parents are not the only socializing agents that children learn from. Peer group socialization also plays an important role. These are people who share the same interest, social status, and age with the child. Peer groups are important to young children as they begin to develop an identity separate from their parents. Children also learn to be independent. I think that both parents and peer groups are the most important socializing agents for young children. Institutional agents such as the school, government, and media also serve as socializing agents for young children.
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Reply from Jenn Frates posted on February 19th 2013
I feel that parents are very much the socializing agents for their young children. I related very closely to this blog for multiple reasons. First, I agree that the time spent with children is more beneficial and special than any gift a parent could buy them. The memories I have growing up with my mom and dad aren't about the gifts they gave me, but rather the time we spent together when I was growing up. I remember the family trips and all the yearly family traditions where we all come together. It is the togetherness I remember and cherish. Second, I work in an after school program. I have seen the effects of different styles of parenting on children. Those kids who don't have lots of valuable one-on-one time with their parents, but instead have fancy gifts to show off, are more needy in their nature. They are the ones that seek the most attention from us as teachers. They might have flashy presents, but the lack of contact with their busy parents is what stands out the most. Those children in my program that have close connections with their parents are more well-rounded. You can absolutely see a difference.
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Reply from maychee khang posted on February 10th 2013
i feel that parents and other significant adults give younger children hope for striving in higher educations and meaningful life. they are the joy to their kids and vice versa. childrens tend to trust their parents and loved ones more so without them, it would not be the same and they would not be recieving any other gifts.
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