The Other I

May 7, 2012

Talk to them!

Filed under: Psychology, Philosophy & Personal Nonsense — theotheri @ 4:07 pm

A recent finding by the UK government’s adviser on poverty has pointed to what I think is quite probably the most significant parenting skill of all:  talking to ones children.

Frank Field has found that the amount of talk between a parent and a child predicts the child’s future achievements better than class, better than ethnicity, and better than income.  He also found that by the time a child is three, a child from a functional family has heard almost half a million more positive and encouraging comments from their parents than a child in a dysfunctional family.

This is recent research, but the findings are not new.  As long as 40 years ago, David McClelland, a Harvard psychologist, found that family interactions predicted adult achievement better than school grades.

Research has also studied children who are survivors – that is children who come through what to an outsider looks like significant abuse or neglect or other traumas such as illness or death in the family.  The single most significant difference they found is that “survivors,” children who came through and triumphed over trauma, had at least one significant adult who cared about them.  Sometimes that significant other was a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a teacher, a boy scout leader, or perhaps a neighbour.

Just one person can completely change a child’s world forever.

 That’s sort of encouraging to know, isn’t it?




  1. For sure–and it reminds me of Alice Miller’s term “enlightened witness.” As I recall, she claims–rightly, I think–that even one encounter with such a person can change that child’s life because of the contrast it can offer, and the hope it therefore holds out. Even if a child must continue to survive in some emotionally or psychologically dark place, knowing that light exists makes all the difference.


    Comment by Barbara Sullivan — May 7, 2012 @ 4:21 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for sharing Alice Miller’s “enlightened witness.” I’m not familiar with it (I’ll see if I can google it), but it has a ring of authenticity about it, doesn’t it? I can point to several people who influenced me with a single encounter. I can imagine what a loving, caring encounter could do for a young person.



      Comment by Terry Sissons — May 7, 2012 @ 7:24 pm | Reply

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