The Role of Parents in Early Childhood Education

In the early years, children go through a golden period, which is a time when they become sensitive to various stimuli. The sensitivity period varies for each child, depending on their individual growth and development rate.

This is a period of physical and psychological maturity, where they are ready to respond to the stimuli provided by their environment. It is also a foundational period for developing cognitive, motor, language, socio-emotional, religious, and moral abilities.

Development in Early Childhood

Understanding child development is an important factor that parents must possess to optimize their child's potential. Catron and Allen (1999:23-26) state that there are six aspects of development in early childhood: personal awareness, emotional health, socialization, communication, cognition, and motor skills. 

Understanding child development encompasses cognitive/intellectual, physical-motor, language, socio-emotional, as well as moral and religious values.

1. Cognitive Development Aspects

The stages of cognitive development according to Piaget's theory are as follows: (1) Sensorimotor stage, ages 0-2 years. During this stage, a child's abilities are limited to reflex movements, basic language, present time, and immediate space; (2) Preoperational stage, ages 2-7 years. During this stage, the child's ability to receive stimuli is limited. The child begins to develop language skills, although their thinking is still static and they are unable to think abstractly. Their perception of time and space is still limited; (3) Concrete operational stage, ages 7-11 years. At this stage, the child is capable of completing tasks involving combining, separating, organizing, sequencing, folding, and dividing; (4) Formal operational stage, ages 11-15 years. During this stage, the child is capable of high-level thinking and abstract reasoning.

Therefore, it can be understood that young children are in the sensorimotor and preoperational stages. In the sensorimotor stage, their abilities are limited to reflex movements, basic language, present time, and immediate space. Meanwhile, children attending kindergarten are in the preoperational phase.

This phase of cognitive development is characterized by the functioning of symbolic thinking abilities. The reflection of this thinking ability can be seen in a child's ability to mentally imagine objects in their surroundings. Thinking is intuitive and centered on the child's own perspective or egocentric.

Vygotsky perceives that the social system is crucial in the cognitive development of children, where parents, teachers, and friends interact with the child and collaborate to foster understanding. 

Therefore, learning takes place within a social context, giving rise to the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is defined as the potential area where a child can learn or a stage where a child's abilities can be enhanced with the assistance of more knowledgeable individuals (Papalia, 2008:56). 

In the subsequent stages of development, the learning process for young children occurs gradually through scaffolding, which aids in building upon their previous knowledge and internalizing new information. As a result, children learn progressively according to their abilities.

2. Physical Development Aspect

Motor development is the development of physical movement control through the coordination of the central nervous system, nerves, and coordinated muscles (Hurlock: 1998). Children's motor skills consist of gross motor skills and fine motor skills. The motor skills of children aged 4-5 years develop more in gross motor skills, and fine motor skills develop after the age of 5. According to Papalia (2008), the bones and muscles of preschool children become stronger, and their lung capacity increases, enabling them to run, jump, and climb faster, farther, and better.

At the age of 4, children still enjoy simple movements such as hopping, jumping, and running around, solely for the sake of those activities, but they are willing to take risks. Although they have been able to climb stairs with one foot on each step for some time, they have only recently learned to descend in the same manner.

At the age of 5, children are even more willing to take risks compared to when they were 4 years old. They have more confidence in performing daring feats such as climbing objects, running fast, and racing with their peers or even their parents (Santrock, 1995: 225).

At the age of 4, children's fine motor coordination has improved and become more precise. Sometimes, 4-year-old children find it difficult to build tall towers with blocks because they want to place each block perfectly and may not be satisfied with the blocks that have been arranged. 

According to Santrock (1995), at the age of 5, children's fine motor coordination continues to improve. The hands, arms, and body move together under better control from the eyes.

3. Language Development Aspect

According to the research by Carnegie Corporation experts (Jalongo, 2007), it is stated that the development of brain functions is faster and broader during the first year of a child's life, so an unsuitable environment greatly hampers the child's development. 

Hayes & Ahrens (Jalongo, 2007) state that a child has mastered several thousand or approximately 90% of the words heard in regular conversations.

Hart & Risley (Morrow, 1993) state that at the age of 2, children produce an average of 338 understandable utterances per hour, with a broader range between 42 and 672. Children who are two years older can use approximately 134 different words in different hours, with a range of 18 to 286. Reading and writing are part of language learning. In order to read and write, children need to know some words and gradually understand sentences. Reading also expands a child's vocabulary. 

Children can learn language through reading storybooks aloud. This is done to teach children about the sounds of language.

The 5-6 year period, according to Seefeldt and Barbour (1998: 40-52), is characterized by cognitive development, including language, which is marked by: a high interest in letters and numbers, enjoying nature, being able to recall meanings based on words, written letters being different or ordinary, having a vocabulary of more than 2500 words, having difficulty pronouncing the letter "r" or "sh" at the end of words, often misunderstanding the use of words, and transitioning from fantasy to the real world.

Halliday (Jaggar and Smith, 1985:16) concludes that adults and older siblings need to adjust to children, especially in the process of acquiring language. He states that teachers play an important role in the child's language development, especially when the child experiences difficulties in school. Therefore, teachers need to understand children well in order to find new ways of language instruction.

4. Socio-Emotional Development Aspect

Early childhood is a period of early childhood. The social behavior patterns observed in early childhood, as revealed by Hurlock (1998:252), are: cooperation, competition, generosity, desire for social acceptance, sympathy, empathy, dependence, friendliness, selflessness, imitation, attachment behavior.

Erik Erikson (1950), a psychoanalyst, identified the social development of children: (1) Stage 1: Basic Trust vs. Mistrust, ages 0-2 years. In this stage, when responding to stimuli, if a child has pleasurable experiences, they will develop a sense of trust, whereas unpleasant experiences will lead to mistrust; (2) Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt, ages 2-3 years. Children are already capable of controlling the movements of their entire bodies. During this stage, if a child feels capable of controlling their body parts, it can lead to a sense of autonomy, but if the environment lacks trust or overly intervenes, it can result in feelings of shame and doubt; (3) Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt, ages 4-5 years. At this stage, children can begin to detach from their parents and freely move and interact with their surroundings. Being independent from parents fosters an initiative mindset, while the opposite can lead to feelings of guilt; (4) Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority, ages 6 years to puberty. Children are capable of fulfilling developmental tasks to prepare themselves for adulthood. They need to possess specific skills. If a child masters certain skills, it can generate a sense of achievement, but if they fail to do so, it can result in feelings of inferiority.

The Role of Parents in Early Childhood Development

According to Munandar (1999), various aspects related to the role of parents and the family environment in developing a child's potential are explained. It begins with Dacey's research on several family environmental factors that influence a child's growth and development: (a) Genetic factors and parenting patterns that influence a child's habits; (b) Behavioral rules - parents should not impose too many behavioral rules within the family. Instead, they should establish and exemplify a clear set of values and encourage their children to determine behaviors that reflect those values; (c) Parents' humorous attitude and fondness for jokes, which commonly occur in daily life, are recognized to add color to a child's life; (d) Early recognition and reinforcement, by observing signs such as special thought patterns or high problem-solving abilities before the age of three. However, most children state that they feel a strong sense of encouragement from their parents; (e) Parental lifestyle - in many families, children share similar interests with their parents; (f) Trauma - children who experience more trauma have a greater ability to learn from their experiences.

From Dacey's study, the differences found in family environments strongly indicate that the family is an important force and the primary source in the development of a child's talents and creativity. A child's potential and creativity can flourish in a non-authoritarian atmosphere that allows individuals to think and express themselves freely (Rogers, cited in Vernon, 1982).

1. Developing Children's Potential and Creativity.

Parents support their children's intellectual growth. Education is a lifelong process that encompasses the family, school, and community environments. The age range of 0-5 years is a period where children learn at a faster pace compared to later stages. 

The most significant contribution parents can make to their children's development is to ensure and reassure that they have opportunities to gain diverse experiences. They need to be aware that each individual has different abilities and intelligence profiles. All children have their own talents. Some succeed in developing them, while others are unaware of their talents. 

Some are good at singing, cooking, painting, or writing. Every potential needs a place to express itself, and childhood is the right time to bring forth those talents. If a child is supported in line with their natural tendencies, they will develop their talents and become successful individuals. 

Parents should be able to identify several strengths in their children, both obvious and hidden talents. Parents should focus more on the strengths their children possess and guide them in the right direction.

According to Shapiro (Arya, 2008), parents can motivate their children's talents and interests by:

  • Teaching children to expect success.
  • Tailoring their education to their interests and learning style.
  • Children should learn that perseverance is necessary for success.
  • Children should learn to be responsible and learn to face failure.

2. Parents as Role Models

All adults can serve as role models for children: teachers, family members, friends of parents, or grandparents.

However, the most important role models are creative parents who focus their attention on their areas of interest, demonstrating expertise and self-discipline in their work, as well as enthusiasm and internal motivation.

For example, Albert Einstein began reading popular science books when he was young because a medical student who visited his home once a week provided those books. 

Parents can help children discover their deepest potentials and interests by encouraging them to engage in various activities.

Parents should appreciate their child's intrinsic interests and demonstrate attention by intellectually engaging with the child, discussing problems, questioning, exploring, and examining them.

Both adults and children's potential and creativity will flourish if they have creative habits. For instance, the habit of questioning what is seen, having new perspectives, finding alternative ways to do things, and engaging in creative pursuits as much as possible.

Determining Factors of Parental Attitudes and Their Impact on Child Development

Several determining factors that directly influence a child's development are as follows:

Freedom: Parents who believe in granting freedom to their children tend to have creative offspring. They are not authoritarian, do not restrict their children's activities, and are not anxious about them.

Respect: Intelligent and creative children usually have parents who respect them as individuals, believe in their abilities, and appreciate their uniqueness. These children naturally develop self-confidence to dare to do something original.

Emotional closeness: Emotional creativity can be hindered by an atmosphere reflecting hostility, rejection, or separation. However, excessive emotional attachment does not support a child's creative development either. A child needs to feel accepted and loved but should not become overly dependent on their parents.

Achievement: Parents value their children's achievements, not just numerical scores. They encourage their children to do their best and produce quality work. For them, reaching the highest score is less important than imagination and honesty.

Active and independent parents: Parents' attitude towards themselves is crucial because they serve as the primary role models for their children. Parents who feel secure and confident in themselves, disregarding social status and being less influenced by societal demands, contribute significantly.

Valuing creativity: Creative children receive much encouragement from their parents to engage in creative activities. Charles Dickens, a renowned children's book author, frequently visited theaters as a child. His father would often tell him stories, and his caretaker would share spooky tales before bedtime.

Attitudes of Parents that Support the Development of Children's Potential

Various studies have yielded results regarding the attitudes of parents that nurture children's potential. These attitudes include:

  1. Respecting the child's opinions and encouraging them to express themselves.
  2. Allowing time for the child to think, reflect, and daydream.
  3. Permitting the child to make decisions on their own.
  4. Encouraging the child to ask questions.
  5. Assuring the child that parents value what they want to try and accomplish.
  6. Supporting and encouraging the child's activities.
  7. Enjoying the presence of the child.
  8. Providing genuine encouragement to the child.
  9. Fostering the child's independence in their work.
  10. Establishing a good working relationship with the child.

Attitudes of Parents that Do Not Support the Development of Children's Potential

Attitudes of parents that do not support the development of children's potential are as follows:

  1. Threatening the child with punishment for making mistakes.
  2. Prohibiting the child from expressing anger towards the parents.
  3. Not allowing the child to question parental decisions.
  4. Prohibiting the child from playing with other children who hold different perspectives and values from their own family.
  5. Not allowing the child to be noisy.
  6. Excessively monitoring the child's activities.
  7. Failing to provide specific suggestions regarding task completion.
  8. Criticizing the child and rejecting their ideas.
  9. Being impatient with the child.
  10. Engaging in power struggles with the child.
  11. Pressuring and forcing the child to complete tasks.


The potential of young children can be realized if parents are highly concerned about their child's development and allow them the freedom to explore and develop their talents or potentials. Based on the principles of child development, early childhood education should be based on the child's needs, aligned with the values embraced in their surrounding environment, and tailored to their physical and psychological developmental stages. It should be conducted in a fun and playful atmosphere, designed to optimize the child's potential.

Parents can stimulate their children by asking thought-provoking questions that ignite their curiosity and adventurous spirit. In doing so, children will be motivated to engage in learning processes guided by their parents. Additionally, parents also need to provide various necessary facilities for their children without being too involved or intervening excessively in their activities.

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