Understanding Your Young Child
By Joshua Nave LLMSW
“She’s so funny sometimes. I know she’s only 2, but sometimes, she reminds me of a little adult!” How many times have you heard this or even thought this yourself in reference to a child? As adults, we often like to believe that we have developed to a point where we are no longer children, and while it is true that for many of us are brains have reached the final stage of development, the truth is that are basic needs really haven’t changed much from when we were children. In this article, we’ll take a little time to discuss normal human development, as well as some of those most basic steps to understanding your child.
Throughout the several years I’ve worked in the field of birth to five, as well as the larger whole of families with children, the number one struggle I have found between parents and their children is understanding their child. “Why does he clench his fist like that when I tell him no more food?” “Why does she throw herself in her room and cry when we tell her to go to bed?” “I just wish I understood what he/she wanted!”
The first and foremost basic principle I try to impart on all families I have worked with is this: children are not complicated. We like to believe that children are vastly different than ourselves, but the truth of the matter is children have the same needs that we ourselves seek, only they are often much more expressive when those needs are not met. Children/adults/human beings require: food, safety, love, community, and affirmation of their self-worth. By no means an exhaustive list, these are the most basic needs your child is seeking, and it is when these needs are not met that children/adults/human often resort to greater extremes to acquire them.
The second principle I try to impart to each of my families is this: all behavior happens for a reason and a purpose. If your child is clenching his fist, they are likely experiencing anger, which is a normal human emotion. The question you have to ask yourself is what need is he seeking to be met with this behavior? On a basic level, is he still hungry? On a much deeper level, does your child remember times where your family has struggled to put food on the table, and is clenching his fist a way for him to fight off the scary memories of that time?
The final principle that I seek to impart on families is this: everything that you could feel, your child can feel too. If you are scared of a loud noise startling you, so to can your child be. If you worry about running out of food at the end of the month, your child can feel that anxiety as well. If you are furious when your wife doesn’t listen to you, so to can your son. Children have all the capacity to experience and learn about their world that we ourselves due, and are constantly looking to learn about their world from their parents, even when their parents are not actively trying to teach them.
That’s all for this post, if you’re interested in learning more about your child and their needs, and possibly your own, please check back for more posts to come. If you experience struggles with your child and are interested in achieving a better relationship and an easier state of parenting, I encourage you to book a session with me on my home page. Together, we can learn more about your child’s unique needs, how they are trying to communicate those needs to you, and how we can help teach them a better way together!