What can a parent do (or refrain from doing) to enable a child live well and love life?
Teach them about reality. Show them how to learn about reality, to develop their mind and skills, and to make their own choices. They will live well and prosper.Children learn and thrive by using their senses to apprehend reality and their minds to identify the interconnections between individual objects which are the basis of concepts which are the basis of each word and right up to the most advanced scientific discoveries and the most complex abstractions.
A conceptual mind is given to each child but the way to use it to think must be learned. You say everyone can think and that’s true enough but how well do people think? No one can invent a language so teaching a child about words opens up more pathways for them. Language illuminates the vast discoveries from the microscopic world to the far reaches of the universe. Language must be taught. Language must be learned.
The ability to speak is a given. The skill to speak well must be learned. Words and the rules about words, grammar are just the foundations. The concepts represented by the words are more difficult but children are helped along by their senses and their minds. They notice and mimic older children and adults which is why adults must be evermindful to say and do the right things.
Ayn rand taught: What are “Concepts”? A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition. By organizing his sense based perceptual material into concepts, and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts, man is able to grasp and retain, to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge, a knowledge extending beyond the immediate concretes of any given, immediate moment.
“In any given moment, concepts enable man to hold in the focus of his conscious awareness much more than his purely perceptual capacity would permit. The range of man’s perceptual awareness—the number of percepts he can deal with at any one time—is limited. He may be able to visualize four or five units—as, for instance, five trees. He cannot visualize a hundred trees or a distance of ten light-years. It is only his conceptual faculty that makes it possible for him to deal with knowledge of that kind.
“Man retains his concepts by means of language. With the exception of proper names, every word we use is a concept that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind. A concept is like a mathematical series of specifically defined units, going off in both directions, open at both ends and including all units of that particular kind. For instance, the concept “man” includes all men who live at present, who have ever lived or will ever live—a number of men so great that one would not be able to perceive them all visually, let alone to study them or discover anything about them.
“To what precisely do we refer when we designate three persons as “men”? We refer to the fact that they are living beings who possess the same characteristic distinguishing them from all other living species: a rational faculty—though the specific measurements of their distinguishing characteristic qua men, as well as of all their other characteristics qua living beings, are different. (As living beings of a certain kind, they possess innumerable characteristics in common: the same shape, the same range of size, the same facial features, the same vital organs, the same fingerprints, etc., and all these characteristics differ only in their measurements.)
That’s how the concept of men is formed and used. That’s the basis of each word in each language (except for Proper Nouns which designate only one thing).
“It is crucially important to grasp the fact that a concept is an “open-end” classification which includes the yet-to-be-discovered characteristics of a given group of existents. All of man’s knowledge rests on that fact.
“Concepts and, therefore, language are primarily a tool of cognition—not of communication, as is usually assumed. Communication is merely the consequence, not the cause nor the primary purpose of concept-formation—a crucial consequence, of invaluable importance to men, but still only a consequence. Cognition precedes communication; the necessary precondition of communication is that one have something to communicate . . . .
“The primary purpose of concepts and of language is to provide man with a system of cognitive classification and organization, which enables him to acquire knowledge on an unlimited scale; this means: to keep order in man’s mind and enable him to think.
“Abstract ideas are conceptual integrations which subsume an incalculable number of concretes—and . . . without abstract ideas you would not be able to deal with concrete, particular, real-life problems. You would be in the position of a newborn infant, to whom every object is a unique, unprecedented phenomenon. The difference between his mental state and yours lies in the number of conceptual integrations your mind has performed.
“Conceptual awareness is the only type of awareness capable of integrating past, present and future. Sensations are merely an awareness of the present and cannot be retained beyond the immediate moment; percepts are retained and, through automatic memory, provide a certain rudimentary link to the past, but cannot project the future. It is only conceptual awareness that can grasp and hold the total of its experience—extrospectively, the continuity of existence; introspectively, the continuity of consciousness—and thus enable its possessor to project his course long-range.