These are very common questions asked by parents of very typically developing children.
| During the first several years of life, children are dominated by emotions. As Lise Eliot puts it, "the early years are really one extended emotional roller coaster, with lucky parents along for the ride." (What's Going on in There?) Sometimes we expect our children to be able to act in a more mature way than they are able. While we are proud that they are counting to 20, we often don't recognize that they are paying attention longer, managing their emotions better and responding to discipline in a calmer way. Yet emotional maturity creates the foundation on which every other mental skill can thrive. |
Now let's revisit our questions from concerned parents.
Q: Why does my child sometimes express his emotions physically?
A: As humans, when we are stressed, we regress in our brain function. Young children, who are working hard to develop their brain potential, have much less ability to use their logical brain than an adult. They also see the world through THEIR eyes, with an egocentric worldview. Successful human interaction relies on a person understanding another person's perspective, and this skill is just developing in young children. When they are playing in the block area, working very hard on a project, and a peer knocks down their creation, they are probably not going to react verbally, and they are not going to understand their peer's perspective on the "fun" of knocking down blocks!! They are going to respond to the stress of the situation and probably hit, bite, scream or push. Think about how you might respond if someone deleted a document on which you were working on your computer? Would you react calmly?
Q: Why does my child give up when tasks seem difficult?
A: How often do you say to your child, "Good Job?" Think about differentiating between praising your child for what YOU want and affirming your child for who he/she is. We all have natural talents and children are born quite motivated to learn and accomplish tasks. Think how far they've come! Two things that can impact a child's perseverance are excess praise and inborn temperament. As parents and caregivers, we want to focus on the process not the product. For example, when the child is drawing, we do not need to focus on the completed product of their artwork but on the act of holding the writing implement, moving the arm and wrist and fingers appropriately and creating an image about which he/she is proud. Children who are too keenly aware that they cannot yet master a task as well as the parent will not try. The child who say, "You do it," when asked to draw a person is more concerned about the product. He has internalized that his drawing is not good enough and it's not worth trying.
Q: Why does my child cry when I leave?
A: Once again, inborn temperament greatly affects our reactions to life. Some people are very extroverted, high energy people and some people are slow to warm to situations, more premeditated and careful. Neither way of behaving is wrong. Children who have difficulty separating are probably individuals who have difficulty with new situations and people. Adults can encourage and affirm without being condescending. One very powerful thing a parent can do is to empower the child. When the child is anxious to separate, the parent can say "You can do it. Have a great day. I'm excited to hear about your day." Try to make sure that you empower the child to be successful WITHOUT you. Avoid saying things like "I'll be back after school," because this statement implies that things will be better only when you return and that YOU fix things. Each time your child is successful without you he builds his confidence and self-esteem.