“I love him so much, but he won’t stop crying, I’m not sure why and I’m trying to understand what it is that he wants. I offer different toys, I talk to him, I try to make him laugh, and eventually we both end up crying together.”

These are the words of a young mother. She waited so much for her baby to come into her life, she was excited trying to imagine how he would look like, how they would spend time together, hugging, cuddling and laughing – but something just isn’t right.

Today, there is no shame in admitting: being a parent takes learning. Those parental instincts aren’t always there to guide us; parents can hone their skills of this seemingly natural craft, and truly savor the time they spend with their children.

A new center for parents and toddlers (aged 0-3) has recently been launched in Holon. Together with educational experts, I listened to the lecture given by Prof. Pnina Klein, a renowned researcher in the field of education, at the opening ceremony. Prof. Klein’s philosophy of early childhood education constitutes the foundation of the new center.

One of the most important principles Prof. Klein mentions is treating parenthood as an enjoyable, joyful and enhancing experience for both parents and children. My own experience as a mother and others’ experience has taught me that, all good intentions aside, the reality is not always what we had in mind or what we were aiming at. Upon the birth of their firstborn, many parents enter a world of uncertainties and questions.

During her lecture, Prof. Klein highlighted some of the dilemmas and challenges young parents face, alongside the methods and solutions the center will be offering them:

How to encourage the parent and enhance his sense of capability? How to enhance the child’s sense of capability? How to set boundaries while still making the child feel loved? How to plan ahead before spending time with the child? How to tell which activities are suitable for the child? How to make the most of our time with the child? What is a Mental Menu? How to teach children new things at their own pace, without forcing them to use certain ways of action, in a way that allows them to make mistakes? How do we, as parents, act as mediators between realities or games and our child? How much time do we dedicate to focused activities with our children, barring distractions and other parallel actions? How to plan activities with our children? How does our conduct with our toddlers influence development and success in the long term? What are our ambitions with respect to our children? How to do the right thing at the right time without putting the cart before the horse in terms of the child’s needs? How to prepare the child for a competitive, high-achieving and sometimes disappointing reality, without subjecting him to a similar reality ourselves?

During the lecture we were shown several videos that follow the process of mentoring parents according to Prof. Klein’s method. The videos show clearly and visually how the behavioral patterns of both parents and children change through learning. The videos illustrated some of the principles Prof. Klein’s method is based on.

Following is a taste of Prof. Klein’s principles:

All babies need to be loved; they need to be around a person who is happy to be with them. Let your baby know and feel that you love him, hold him close to you, treasure your time together.

Give yourselves the opportunity to enrich your child and rejoice in him. See how important and special you are to him; acknowledge how much he needs you and loves you in a special way.

Positive feelings open the door to emotional, social, and mental growth, through feelings of trust and attachment to people.

Allow your children the opportunities to develop, so that they would live a better and more fulfilling life – and so would you.

In the short period the new center has operated in Holon, it has already attracted thousands of young parents who enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the innovative equipment, and benefited from the high professional level of the mentors onsite. It is my hope that these mentors will provide more and more parents with important tools and insights that would contribute to enhancing young parents and nurturing a new generation of happy and thriving toddlers.

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