Othman, Your Child Zero to Five (1975)
p. 2 of 2
The Child from First Year to Three Years
message is that although the child looks stronger at this age it still
needs a lot of care and attention. Many significant events in his
development take place here:
The physical and
psychological effects of these landmarks in the child’s development
are very important. The child during this period is very pleased with
its new abilities. The child wants to discover the “world” and by
doing so forms its self-concept. (The traditional concept of the ideal
child is the good obedient child, who should be protected by being
prevented from moving, doing, or exploring.) The role of the mother is
great here because she is still very close to the child and can take the
opportunity presented by feeding, bathing and toilet training to teach
the child many things: a sense of time (by giving regular meals and
baths), a love of learning (by reward and encouragement not fear and
punishment) and a feeling of security (by encouraging self expression).
Proper feeding is
important for growth. The idea of a balanced diet with a high
protein content is introduced. Fish, which is abundant in a lot of Arab
countries, is encouraged (there is a traditional belief that fish and
milk leads to being crazy and therefore fish is avoided). The idea of regular
meals is encouraged so that the child does not live on snacks such
as biscuits, sweets and very sweet drinks.
Child in Self Feeding
families children are spoon-fed sometimes till as late as seven years.
Therefore mothers are encouraged to let the child feed himself as a form
of independence training that is eventually healthier than feeding or
force feeding or pampering into feeding, all of which are very common
feeding procedures. Pointers that could help the mother in this
situation are given.
does it mean? It implies sphincter and bowel control as well as teaching
the child to use the right place. Toilet training depends on the
child’s reaching a level of muscular maturity and mental development
(understanding verbal communication). This maturity is only possible
beginning around the second year and toilet training should be completed
around the fourth year. With the two above factors established, reward
becomes a more effective method than punishment. Traditionally, common
practices are severe. They often vary from leaving the child on the
potty for hours or spanking and, in extreme cases, threats (to boys
particularly), to burn their organs with a lighted match. Night
cleanliness is discussed and related to the extreme anxiety produced
during the day by anger and shouting. Helpful hints for training are
The idea of
establishing good habits in early childhood is stressed (vs. the
traditional concept of “the child will grow up and learn’’). Good
habits in cleanliness (bathing, washing hands before and after meals,
and taking care of teeth) and in sleep (since traditionally there is no
bedtime for children the establishment of a routine bedtime and bedtime
problems) are discussed.
Medical - Vaccinations and the idea of booster shots are stressed
At home - Since the child will now be more mobile, how to make
the home safe. This section pays special attention to the most common
accidents in Arab countries, namely gasoline poisoning, bottled gas
poisoning, and falls.
From 12 - 24 months
From 2 - 3 years
abilities and what can be done to develop them. Special stress
Freedom of movement in safe surroundings
Toys for each age level
Importance of individual play
of Developing Language Ability in Relation to Intellectual Growth
What is language ability: function of physical development plus
How language develops
How to encourage language development
Common ways that usually hinder language development
Some problems of speech
of this Period
Fear - natural fears; learned fears. The widespread method of
using fear to control the child’s behavior is discussed. The harmful
effects are pointed out as well as the fact that natural fears should be
explained and the child helped out of them. The main idea being that
fear hinders learning.
Jealousy (sibling rivalry). Discusses causes and how some parents
encourage rivalry without meaning to, and sometimes on purpose. For
example, the parents who voice and carry out an active preference for
the boy child over the girl child.
Appetite troubles: Why and what to do. Examines the misconception
that obesity is associated with health and excessive feeding with love.
Explains that obesity is often an indication of malnutrition.
Enuresis: Establishing the fact that before the age of five, it
is not abnormal, and explaining how very strict toilet training with
threats can lead to it.
Playing with sexual organs: clearing misconception that any
exploration or even touching organs implies that the habit of
masturbation is established.
The Child Between Three and Five
The child after three
has all the abilities that allow awareness of himself and others. The
child can now explore and communicate, and the process of accumulating
knowledge is accelerated.
Arabs are aware of
this change in abilities but often have overly high expectations of what
the child should be capable of. This is discussed in this chapter. It is
explained that expecting too much from a child all of a sudden may
interfere with growth. For instance a three year old child can talk but
is not yet able to draw logical conclusions all the time. It can hold a
pencil and scribble and perhaps draw but is not yet able to write. The
child’s attention span has increased but at three he cannot sit
through the long hours of regular school. Expecting more of a child than
its physical abilities permit can be psychologically and physically
Learning and play are
discussed, as well as methods of socialization. Specific methods common
in Arab culture, such as verbal threatening and mockery, are
Food and Food
Habits are very briefly discussed just as a reminder that the child
is now feeding himself and has joined family meals.
discussed at length here, since play in Arab countries, as in all other
countries in the world, has been traditionally associated with childhood
and dismissed as not being important. Traditionally, the ideal child is
the inactive obedient child who doesn’t like to play. Therefore, the
following benefits of play are examined:
the importance of play for both physical and mental growth
play as an opportunity for learning
play as an opportunity for discovery and creativity
play and social learning
providing the child with the opportunity to play safely inside
and outside the house
Some examples are
given of educational games that can be done at home from simple things
in the house, such as classification games, drawing and painting,
collecting items, dough and plastic dough, etc.
concept is that learning only takes place in formal education. This
section discusses what is learning. What does the child learn during the
preschool years? How is this related to formal school education? How is
it related to the future personality of the child? The importance of
making mistakes (something intolerable in Arab countries) is discussed
as part of the process of learning.
What is a nursery
school? What are some of the important qualities to look for in a good
nursery? What is the difference between regular school and nursery
The child’s abilities. What can he do?
At the age of three
At the age of four
At the age of five
This is discussed
because of its importance during this age period, where the child has a
command of language and is trying to explore and understand the
environment, people, and himself. At the age of four a child is
questioning because he really is trying to understand. The mother’s
attitude is very important to the development of the child at this
stage. Traditionally, the child is either scolded for asking because it
is a “shame’’ (especially questions about sex differences, birth,
etc.), or questions are ignored because parents think the child cannot
possibly understand. Many phenomena about which the child asks are given
the routine answer, that ‘‘God’’ has determined that this is the
way things are (especially in cases of ignorance on the mother’s
The effect of
discouraging questions could be to create anxiety as well as to
discourage the child from thinking and asking and learning.
It is recommended that
parents answer their children’s questions immediately in short simple
language. Parents are encouraged to say “I don’t know, let us find
out about it” when they themselves are unsure about the answer.
Questions about nature, God, sex and death are discussed according to
the common answers we found by interviewing mothers.
during this Period
‘bringing up” the child is discussed here with specific reference to
predominant methods of socialization found in Arab countries. The ideal
child has been considered to be the obedient child, burdened with high
expectations. After three, the child is expected to be a little adult.
His mistakes are a shame to us. His needs and perspectives are ignored.
In traditional society this ideal is extreme and is achieved by
punishment and disapproval. Some parents, wishing to be modern, think
that they should allow the child to do whatever he wants to do and try
to satisfy every need and whim to the point of spoiling.
To bring up a child
involves training, and this implies learning good habits and proper
behavior. Punishment and reward are necessary for learning, but they are
more effective if they are understood by the child. The ultimate aim
should be to build the child’s character, not temporarily control his
It is good for parents
to remember that the child is anxious to grow up and be like adults, and
therefore is highly motivated to learn. Children also learn by
observation and imitation, therefore the parents’ own behavior is the
closest model for their children.
The harmful effects of
severe punishment (especially beating), threats (especially those that
are not carried out), and instilling fear, either of imaginary figures
(ghouls, etc.) or real people (doctor, injection, etc.), are discussed.
Also discouraged are mockery and belittling, two common ways of treating
children, handicapped people or any unprivileged person.
differences are discussed and parents are exhorted not to expect all
children to be the same. An effort is made to clear misconceptions on
The difference between mental illness and mental retardation
Causes of mental retardation
Recognition of mental retardation
Individual differences between the mentally retarded
three chapters are included as reference chapters for the mother who
wants to know more about specific problems that have sometimes been
referred to in the earlier chapters. They are:
Nutrition and the states of malnutrition
Nutrition and Different States of Malnutrition
In this chapter an
effort is made to show the difference between eating to satisfy hunger
and enjoy the taste, and proper nutrition to satisfy the different needs
and functions of the body. The idea is presented that the kind of food
and the quantity of food eaten are both important.
What are the functions of food
Nutrition and the pre-school child (birth - 5)
Importance of Pregnant Mother’s diet; spacing children is
discussed in relation to both the health of the mother and the child.
The importance of nutrition (especially protein) to both physical
and mental development.
The way to determine the normal growth of the child is to compare
his height and weight progressively, that is in relation to himself, and
not in relation to the neighbor’s child.
of a Good Diet
All examples are from
local foods with special emphasis on cheap, high protein, mixed diets.
Suggestions utilize foods already found in traditional cooking such as
lentil soup or vegetables stews, served with rice. The function of every
element is discussed as well as where each is found:
Carbohydrates and sugars
Vitamins (A, B, B Complex, C, D)
Minerals (iron, calcium, and iodine
Water (necessary, but must be safe)
protect against malnutrition of children
Mixed diets for children
Avoiding use of sugar. How it can be harmful.
Non-foods: colas and teas etc., harmful to health and teeth, also
Malnutrition found in Arab countries
The selection of
nutrition-related diseases was based on WHO Reports for the Arab region.
the result of inadequacies in both quantity and quality of the basic
elements of food. The most common form of malnutrition is called PCM
(protein-caloric malnutrition) and results in retardation of general
growth. It is the result of a combination of causes and makes the child
even more prone to disease, especially diarrhea. This in turn leads to
more severe malnutrition. Some of the common causes are:
Not getting enough breast milk (which is a complete reference
protein) or very early weaning.
Misuse of artificial feeding: the misuse of the bottle and the
incorrect choice of milk (especially in quantity. Often the same
prescribed combination of milk and water for a two-month-old baby is
given until the child is ten months old).
Lack of protein in diet
Intestinal parasites (most common in Arab countries is Giardia)
that lead to continual diarrheas and lack of absorption of nutrients.
Recurrent infections of the respiratory tract.
These are discussed
role of the mother, especially preventive
Reports on the most
common causes of children’s accidents. In the Arab countries these are
burns, gasoline, poisons (used for house cleaning and stored in
bottles), and falls. The outline includes:
Objects in eye, ear, nose, swallowed
Bites (dogs especially).
What to do or not do at home and when to take the child to the
nearest hospital or health unit.
A brief introductory
note emphasizing that the following discussion on diseases is to
familiarize parents with children’s diseases in Arab countries in
order to encourage them to recognize symptoms and seek doctors’ help.
The following is underlined: “In no way is it a substitute for the
The Sick Child
Some common symptoms
that indicate that the child is not well. These should indicate to the
mother that she should take the child’s temperature, not just feel his
hand or forehead.
What does a rise
in temperature mean?
How do you take
What is a thermometer?
How to use it? How do you read it? (Centigrade system is used.) What to
do if you find the child has a temperature.
The right ways
of using prescribed medicines
Stress given to following doctor’s prescriptions on use of
Modern drugs may work in seemingly irrational ways. For example,
the doctor may prescribe a medicine to be taken in the mouth for an ear
For how long.
For the patient, not others such as brothers or sisters.
diseases are discussed in the same way on a separate page:
Name of disease: (whether it could be avoided by vaccination)
Incubation Period (to instill the idea that diseases are caused
by germs and not by envy, evil eye, or superpower)
Role of mother
preventive when possible
to take the child to visit the doctor or health unit
to take care of sick child
are discussed where possible. For example, infected tonsils are not
caused by high pillows and cured by “pushing up.” Hepatitis is never
cured by the use of yellow blankets. Convulsions will not be cured by
putting scissors or knives over the baby’ s head.
The diseases are:
Typhoid and Para-typhoid
Ear Infections - inner ear, outside ear
Mouth (thrush and other diseases)
Urinary Tract Infections
What is an allergy
Most common in pre-school children