Vygotsky and parenting


At the moment in my Masters course I’m learning about educational theory. I know a lot of parents don’t think education and parenting have all that much in common but I really have to disagree.

Theories abound about child development and learning but there is one particular theorist, Vygotsky, who talks about the Zone of Proximal Development. I find this really relevant to a child’s socio-emotional development. We, as a society, seem to expect children to learn on their own without any guidance. Piaget, another theorist, felt that children would develop according to stages without guidance and that we should expect certain behaviours and learning understanding to occur along a continuum.

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development theory actually is similar but he said that while we can expect a child to do certain things on their own, and we can contrast and compare with other kids, what happens when they receive some assistance, how much more can they achieve.

I feel this draws strong parallels with gentle parenting, peaceful parenting, parenting via breastfeeding, attachment parenting, whatever you want to call it.

Vygotsky’s big idea was to see what happened when you offered children assistance.  What he found was that with assistance, some students could answer questions two years above where they were at even if they achieved the same IQ mark as another child.

Some students and children are more ready to learn than others. So you might try to teach a child to self-soothe, but if they aren’t at the right developmental stage, or if they aren’t ready emotionally, then how can we expect them to do it?


This might not make a whole lot of sense to all, but it illustrates to me that most theorists agree that children are not ready to learn new things until they reach a particular stage, and we as a society are often pushing them to achieve particular things that they might not be ready for.

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