17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Who is Your Favorite Developmental Theorist?

I just started taking a parent/child development class given through the local community college with Pumpkin (now 13 months old). I think it will be a fun thing for her and I to do together once a week while Princess is at school. She can actually participate in age appropriate activities instead of just having to play with her 4 year old sister and tag along with mom on errands. And with the pricetage of FREE, it doesn't have to be that great for me to be satisfied.

Our first week went great. I got to meet lots of other moms in my community who also have children Pumpkin's age. The kids all played together--inside and outside. We sang and played musical instruments. We ate halved grapes and cheerios with an apple juice chaser. Then the teacher led a short discussion on how and why to observe and record our child's behaviors which was semi-interesting. At the end, I was happy to find myself looking forward to next week's class and thinking "I might have even payed money for a class like this".

But yesterday, the class received an e-mail from the teacher detailing this week's activities and discussion. We will be discussing characteristics of one-year olds. Fine. But then she continued with this line:

"I would like everyone to share who their favorite developmental theorist is and why."

Seriously? And then this:

"Share with the group what you have taken from that particular theorist and how you have applied it in your child's life."

You have got to be kidding me.

All of a sudden I am feeling stupid for having missed that part of the parents manual where I was supposed to pick out my favorite developmental theorist. I can picture the page now - set up kind of like a yearbook. Rows of smiling faces eager to have me agree with their research and findings. Or maybe it was in a completely separate book without any pictures at all and required much more reading and study. Yep, that's probably it. In that form, I most likely skipped right over it.

Seriously though, please tell me that I am not the only one out there who has no idea what she is talking about (or at least the only one who didn't study Family Sciences in college) because the only answers I have come up with so far are Tracy Hogg (the Baby Whisperer), Mr Rogers, and my Mom.

I have a feeling those answers are not quite what the teacher is looking for. Apparently her favorite child development theorist is Erik Erikson(that's him in the picture on the left). Fabulous.

Maybe I will just hide out in the little plastic jungle gym during discussion time.


  • I'm with you. I wouldn't know what to say. Developmental Theorist? I don't even know what that is. Okay, another chapter in parenting I need to catch up on. Google here I come!
    posted by Blogger Trivial Mom at 9/18/2006 09:05:00 AM  

  • I'm sorry that I'm laughing, but I can't help it. I was a PRO at developmetal theorists in college (I majored in it!), but I couldn't for the life of me, even begin to quote, report on, or mention anybody. I can't remember! (although that Erik Erikson was good, but I never would have remembered him unless I saw his name on your post).

    Just be honest about it. I bet you a million bucks that every other mom in there reacted the same way. "What the..?!?!"

    One of my favorite "theorists" is Laurie Berkner. Yeah. Music and movement and lots of fun. That's what young kids need. :) :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 9/18/2006 09:06:00 AM  

  • I'd have to second Cheryl- go with Laurie Berkner or Mr Rogers- they work well in our house. And follow that with the "What the...?"
    posted by Anonymous tracy m at 9/18/2006 09:39:00 AM  

  • You should totally make one up! My favorite theorist is Eric von Stensel, he's just brilliant! You've never heard of him? Oh, he's amazing. Just make crap up, and people will be nodding along like you know what you're talking about.

    I like Tracy Hogg too, but I don't know if she would fall into the theorist category. The dude who wrote "Between Parent and Child" is good. Also, the people who wrote "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys." Also, Matin Seligman gets big thumbs up from me for "The Optimistic Child."

    As you can see, I like certain books, but I have no idea if their authors are considered theorists or not. I would do much better with pick your favorite parenting book.

    I still say just make one up.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 9/18/2006 11:36:00 AM  

  • Oh, there are so many great ones! Of course, the idea of Development as a valid idea is itself a little unfashionable in some quarters. Me, I think there's a lot of great stuff in Developmental Theory.

    There's Maslow (needs), Piaget (cognition), Kohlberg and Gilligan (morals), and--probably my personal favorite--Robert Kegan (orders of consciousness), to name just a few. And Erikson is fine, too. =)

    If you're talking early-childhood development, though, Piaget might be a good choice. Brilliant research with kids. He's the one that did things like showing kids two glasses with differing widths and then pouring water from one into the other. Even though it was obviously (to someone with a more developed cognitive ability) the exact same amount of water, kids at a certain cognitive level would report that there was more water when it was in the skinnier glass. Cool stuff!

    (Anyway, sorry to dive-bomb in here. Few things turn me on like Developmental Theory. Sad, I know.)
    posted by Blogger Logan at 9/18/2006 11:37:00 AM  

  • This reminded me of a book I just finished by Alexander McCall Smith, titled 44 Scotland St. One of the characters is a hopelessly overbearing mother who has been teaching her 5 year old to play the saxophone, and speak Italian on top of teaching him mathematics, reading writing, and other more basic things. She refers to it as "The Bertie Project." The poor kid is obviously overworked and growing to resent his mom, but she just can't see it because she's so wrapped up in one developmental theorist's works. Every time her kid acts up she says something like "...[W]hen Bertie blew up the other child's train station this was purely because he was expressing, in a person object sense, his fundamental anxieties over the fact that society would never allow him to marry his mother. This was obvious."
    While there is something to be said for being well versed in developmental theories, and parenting strategies, I fear that most of the parents who can name their favorite developmental theorists off the top of their heads are little too much like the overbearing mother in the story. (There are of course, those that read and theorise for their own intellectual benefit which is completely different than thinking of your child as a 'project')
    posted by Blogger Starfoxy at 9/18/2006 12:00:00 PM  

  • I really laughed over this one, Carrie. Ummm...you and I missed that same parenting class. And you know what? WHO CARES! Seriously. It's great that some people can actually answer that question, but come on, is having a favorite developmental theorist REALLY going to help me with my 3 1/2 year old who woke up performing magic tricks this morning with Tic Tacs and dice (where did he find these?)and my 2 year old who gave herself a marker tatoo today to look like that lady in the picture my desk? NO...no it's not.

    Don't hide on the jungle gym - tell them YOU are actually your favorite develpmental theorist!
    posted by Blogger chloe at 9/18/2006 02:15:00 PM  

  • ahh.. the answer to everything: wikipedia or google.

    You can always take a crash course and research it online:


    Theres a list of links to theorists and theories at the end. Who knows, it could be interesting.. (or not)

    I know I'd rather be playing on the jungle gym than talking pretentiously about my favorite theorist... blech.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 9/18/2006 04:06:00 PM  

  • Honestly, I'm going to guess that unless you've stumbled upon a large group of intellectual moms or ex-preschool teachers or former child development majors, most of the class is going to come back with answers like your first thoughts. I'd imagine there will be some Dr. Sears in there, some Baby Whisperer, and maybe some old school Dr. Spock. Heck, there might even be a Nanny 911. It would definitely be interesting to do some reading and actualy learn some of the theories, but just for your own kicks. I'd go to class armed with the answer you already came up with, with a little why prepared, and feel good about that. Really, the question is getting at the heart of what guides you as a parent - what is your view of how children look at the world and learn. It's interesting to take a moment to think about it, since you're probably like me and spend so much time DOING it that you don't spend a lot of time on analysis.
    posted by Blogger marian at 9/18/2006 04:33:00 PM  

  • I can see why we are all friends. Carrie, Chloe, Marian... I am so with you. I have no idea who or what a developmental therorist is. I have decided though to ask every new mother I meet this question just so I look smart!

    LOVE LAURIE BERKNER!! Thanks girls for introducing her to us!
    posted by Blogger Zinone at 9/18/2006 06:10:00 PM  

  • Ha! I love Starfoxy's response. Along those lines, I'd say tell them you're a big fan of Freud and maybe that will shut her up!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 9/18/2006 08:10:00 PM  

  • carrie, I am looking forward to the AFTER post that you inevitably HAVE to write.

    I think that you should refer the class to this website.

    Were any of these dev. theorists mothers? I want to know.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 9/18/2006 08:34:00 PM  

  • I love everyones ideas on how to handle this class discussion! Now my problem is trying to decide which way to go: oblivious, sarcastic, funny, honest, know-it-all. The possibilities are endless really.

    I did google child development theorist and all the ones that came up were men--Freud being one of the big ones (thanks Jen for that suggestion) but I am sure there must be women who are mothers...right?

    And Starfoxy - that excerpt was great. I think I will add it to my amazon wish list.

    I'll post an update here on Wednesday after the class to let you all know what happened.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 9/19/2006 09:55:00 AM  

  • Someone should write a Quizilla for this.
    posted by Blogger Mabel Maybe at 9/19/2006 10:29:00 AM  

  • You have to go with Mr. Rogers! He is a valid Developmental Theorist. Mrs. Pat, the director of my duaghters developmental preschool (for about 50 years!), loves Fred Rogers and speaks often of the role he has played in helping adults learn how to properly teach/speak to children.

    I have to agree with Cheryl.....the other moms are stumped too.

    I took the same Parent Ed class with both of my kids. One day the discussion topic was about how moms can relax and take time for ourselves. The teacher asked us each to share an idea with the class. BTW This class was for moms with children around 18 months
    old. "Take a bath!" someone said, "go for a walk before your DH goes to work", "read while your child is napping!" were typical responses. So, now it's my turn to put my two cents in. My answer was obvious--can't believe no one has said it yet! I had no idea the looks of horror that would ensue as I blurted out "the only way I can really relax, is to get a babysitter for a few hours and do whatever I wan't!". It was during the silence that followed that I realized that not everyone was doing this. In fact I think I saw some involintary twitching at the thought of it. I giggled inside thinking of the first day these mothers would have to drop thier children off at school because I'm evil like that.

    I'm sure whatever answer you give, you will be met with a warmer reception!
    posted by Anonymous Marianne at 9/19/2006 10:58:00 AM  

  • You should totally say that you are your fav Developmental Theorist. Or the Tales girls and readers!
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 9/19/2006 01:01:00 PM  

  • So, Carrie, I just read this totally fascinating article in the New Yorker about a cognitive psychologist at Harvard named Elizabeth Spelke who studies how babies learn. It describes these fascinating experiments she has developed to come to the conclusion that babies have innate capabilities that shape their perceptions of the world and how they learn. I'll email it to you. It's well-written and interesting to read.

    There's also another great book by some other baby researchers that I read a few years ago and just loved. Again, it was the descriptions of these experiments with babies and what they have been able to figure out about language acquisition and a lot of other stuff too. It's called Scientist in the Crib and it really awed me to understand better what was going on inside these little baby blobs.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 9/19/2006 07:22:00 PM  

  • OK Carrie, I want the update - how did it go down today?
    posted by Blogger chloe at 9/20/2006 05:07:00 PM  

  • Okay. Here's how it went. We all sat down for the discussion. The teacher opened with
    "Who would like to share who their favorite developmental theorist is and why." From the fifteen mother sitting in the circle came complete silence. I swear I actually heard a cricket chirp. I almost started to giggle aloud.

    The teacher seemed a little surprised by the silence. "Hasn't anyone come across a theorist that they particularly liked?" Anyone? Anyone? "How about lets just start naming any developmental theorists you might have heard in passing" .

    The only answer someone threw out was Freud and the teacher actually seemed pleased (not that we went into any details regarding his theories). Then silence again. The teacher then said she was quite surprised that as parents, we couldn't name anymore child development theorists (okay she didn't say it exactly that bluntly, but that's the feeling I got). I couldn't take it anymore. I had to chime in.

    I said something like this:
    "Frankly, when I read your e-mail. I laughed out loud and then I got worried because I couldn't answer your discussion question. But then I realized that once I became a parent, I was way beyond theories. I need practicalities. That is why I think Mr Rogers, my friends and my mom hold far more weight when I am looking for "parent development" than some developmental theorist I've never heard of before.

    It was silent no more. People were agreeing and laughing. I'm not quite sure what the teacher thought. I don't think it phased her much because it seemed in the end that her original question was only posed as a jumping off point to talk exclusively about the theories of Erik Erikson - which was only semi-interesting until we got to the practical application of his theories.

    That discussion deserves a post of it's own though. It also involved me actually being honest when nobody else would. And it also ended in everyone else feeling a little more relieved I think.

    Oh, and to Logan - I am sure glad you're not in my class. I would have felt really dumb. I couldn't even remember any of the names you said once I got to the class. I'm glad it's totally your thing. It is so not mine.

    And thanks for that article Michelle. It was facinating reading about the different experiments they use to come up with their findings. I also loved that the theorist was a woman and mother and was influenced by another woman and mother.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 9/20/2006 08:54:00 PM  

  • Ha, Carrie! I'm glad I wasn't there, too. I would been a real dork, I'm sure. It sounds like it turned out great for you after all, though. Glad to hear it.
    posted by Blogger Logan at 9/21/2006 09:51:00 AM  

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