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I have mentioned that children do not understand the concept of time in Counting time 1. After months of writing that post, and now it is a new year, I want to say that adults have the responsibility to explain the concept of time to children.
Scenario 1: On 30th Dec 2013, an elder sister (7 years old) told her younger brother (5 years old) that he would be 6 years old on 1st Jan 2014. The mother, who had gone away when the conversation took place, came back and the brother asked the mum whether he would be 6 years old in two days. The mum told the boy that he would only turn 6 at his next birthday and scolded the sister, asking her not to say anything stupid like that again to her brother.
Scenario 2: On 2nd Jan 2014, my 7-year-old student said to me: “We have not met in a year.” Then, he continued that the last time we met was before Christmas 2013, and “after a year”, which is 2014, we meet for the first time (in 2014).
Children and adults think differently. It is important for the adults to explain to the children about how long is a year. From scenario 1, it is not stupid to say that you are one year older when it is New Year. When I was younger, my mum used to tell me that I am one year older on Chinese New Year. When I grew a little older, I understood that I grow one year older on my birthday. When the two concepts collide, I asked myself, so am I two years older in a year?
No one answers my question. Along the years, I learn the concept of time and understand that both concepts are correct, but you only need to take one reference point in a year, either your birthday or the New Year. Just like anniversary, it is the one reference point (a specific date) in a year that you take note and celebrate.
The mother in scenario 1 seems like she is busy juggling between family and work. But I do not agree that she said her daughter’s idea was stupid. It will only leave both the children in confusion. Though, one day, both of them will understand the concept, but the word “stupid” will leave an impact in the daughter’s memory. Since it was lunch time, I would suggest the mother can either explain the concept while they are having meal or ask the children to drop the subject for the moment and discuss later. (I am not a mother yet, I may not understand what she has gone through.)
When I heard “We have not met in a year.” in scenario 2, I was shocked. After some probing, I understand that his concept is: we last met in Dec 2013, and then we first met in Jan 2014. It does not matter which month it is, the important thing is the year has gone from 2013 to 2014, it is one year!
I explained to the young boy that from Christmas to New Year, it is only one week, so we have not met each other for two weeks at most. I hope he will understand the concept of week and year faster than any other children.
Whether you are a parent or not, if you have a chance to discuss time matters with children, please spend time to explain to them. Yes, it takes time. Nonetheless, children nowadays are learning faster. It will worth the time spent with them.