Parenting and Caregiving Litmus Test: How Am I Doing?

According to The Urban Child Institute, a baby’s brain at birth “already has about all of the neurons it will ever have,” “doubles in size in the first year, and by age three it has reached 80 percent of its adult volume.”  The period from birth to age 3 represents the single most crucial period of brain development in a young child’s life as crucial brain connections and super-highways are built in this time frame.  Ideally, then, parents and caregivers are spending a substantial amount of time observing and assessing children 0 to 36 months to be sure that brain development is on track.

But, do we, as parents and caregivers, spend enough time observing and assessing ourselves to be sure that we are on track to provide the best care and brain-boosting/school readiness activities as humanly possible? One of the best ways to assess ourselves is to ask questions regarding how our babies and toddlers see us, how they sense us and how they feel in our presence.

Below are some questions that can be asked of ourselves frequently (i.e., weekly or every other week) to be sure that the young children in our lives are getting what they need from us to be ready for school by the age of 3.  How would the babies and toddlers we love, raise and care for answer these questions if you posed them and the children were able to respond to you?

  1. Does my parent/caregiver love me?
  2. Do I trust my parent/caregiver?
  3. Does my parent/caregiver like me as a person?
  4. Does my parent/caregiver have my best interest at heart?
  5. Does my parent/caregiver care about what I have to say?
  6. Does my parent/caregiver teach me things?
  7. Does my parent/caregiver enjoy my company?
  8. Does my parent/caregiver find me funny or entertaining?
  9. Does my parent/caregiver feel relaxed when I am around?
  10. Does my parent/caregiver give me warnings when we are about to leave or change activities?
  11. Does my parent/caregiver stay true to his/her word?
  12. Does my parent/caregiver use a wide vocabulary with me everyday?
  13. Does my parent/caregiver smile at me often?
  14. Does my parent/caregiver encourage me to try new things?
  15. Does my parent/caregiver encourage me to try things on my own before helping me?
  16. Does my parent/caregiver allow me time to problem solve?
  17. Does my parent/caregiver give me time to complete tasks that I may do a little slower than her or him?
  18. Does my parent/caregiver allow me to take safe risks?
  19. Does my parent/caregiver allow me to fail?
  20. Does my parent/caregiver use words to reflect on my behavior or my feelings?
  21. Does my parent/caregiver model appropriate manners and ways to interact with others?
  22. Does my parent/caregiver seem to like all kinds of people, regardless of age, gender, church affiliation or skin color?
  23. Does my parent/caregiver listen to me?
  24. Does my parent/caregiver express affection with me?


If a baby or toddler would (if he/she could) answer “yes” to each of these 24 questions, there is a strong likelihood that this baby or toddler is not living in a situation of toxic stress (so damaging to brain development!) and is living in a loving, educational, nurturing environment that is preparing him or her for school by the age of 36 months.


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