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According to eminent psychologist Sigmund Freud, babies are initially driven by instinctive and selfish urges but gradually adapt to a more realistic approach by imbibing their parents’ values and rules. These play a role in the development of the child’s conscience.
One of the most important things that you, as a parent, should work on is understand your child’s psychology. No, you need not get a ‘degree’ in parenting. What you should do, though, is find out about the simple things that tell you what your kid likes or dislikes, what makes him laugh or cry, and what motivates him or causes him misery.
Here, MomJunction explains you about child psychology and gives tips to understand what’s going on in your child’s mind.
Child psychology, a key part of developmental psychology, is vast and one of the most commonly studied types of the subject. This specialized branch focuses on the psychological processes of children from birth to adolescence. It takes note of the psychological changes that occur from infancy.
The scope of the study includes motor skills, cognitive development, language skills, social change, emotional development, etc.
[ Read: Cognitive Development In Children ]
Parents have their way of interpreting their child’s abilities and skills, or lack of those. When you don’t understand your children, you may misinterpret or misjudge them. Sometimes these misinterpretations can be harmless, but most of the times they are not. Parents’ role is key in a child’s psychological development. Lack of awareness about child development can often lead to poor judgment of children, which in turn leads to poor parenting decisions.
A study by Dr. Brenda Volling, director and research professor, University of Michigan, revealed that children are directly affected by the amount of time a parent invests in their development. Hence, it is important for parents to educate themselves about the different aspects of child psychology and development so that they can contribute meaningfully towards the child’s emotional and mental growth.
Well-known child psychologist Jean Piaget says, “From the moral as from the intellectual point of view, the child is born neither good nor bad but master of his destiny.”
Parenting is more than just providing comforts for your children. It is being there for the child emotionally, and providing them a sense of security. Here are a few basic child psychology tips that will help you understand children better:
One of the simplest, yet most effective, ways to learn about child psychology is observation. Show interest in what your children are doing or saying. Observe their actions, expressions, and temperament when they eat, sleep, and play. Keep in mind that your child is unique and may have a personality that stands out, even as he grows. So avoid comparing your child with other children, as that not only adds stress to parenting, but also makes the child feel inferior.
Do ask yourself a few questions that can help you understand the kids’ psychology.
While you answer these questions, remember not to judge the child. Just observe to be aware.
[ Read: Strong Willed Child Characteristics ]
Parents today are busy juggling work and home. Multi-tasking, as they call it, allows them to take care of many things at a time, one of the ‘things’ being the child. If you have been spending time with your kid in this fashion, it is time for a change. If you want to understand your children, you need to make time for them.
[ Read: Important Life Lessons For Kids ]
When you plan to spend time with your children, plan to do only that and nothing else. Your children deserve your undivided attention. If you try to talk to your kid while you are cooking, driving or doing something else, chances are you’ll miss on the most important insights your kid might give you about himself.
Plan at least one activity that allows you to spend time exclusively with your kid. When you pay undivided attention to your kid, he or she feels safe and validated and is likely to open up to you more.
Research has proven that a child’s behavior and attitudes are shaped largely by the environment that he is brought up in. To know the child better, you should pay attention to the environment he is in (3).
Research also proves that the environment can affect the child’s brain development, which in turn affects the development of his language and cognitive skills. The link specifically talks about home environment in comparison to any other (4).
Your child’s behavior is largely dependent on the kind of people that are around him and how they interact with him. Take time to gauge the kind of ambiance that has been created at home and his school. For example, if your child is being aggressive or is withdrawing from socialization, you may want to know what or who has influenced the child to behave in such a manner.
Parents may often know their child’s physiology, but they don’t know how the child’s brain works. The brain is shaped by the experiences that the child has, and this in turn impacts how he responds to different situations.
Understanding how a child’s brain functions can help you learn about the kid’s behavior, his decision-making, social, logical, and cognitive abilities.
The wrong experiences can result in imprinting negative responses into your child’s mind, having an adverse affect on his overall development.
Knowing how his brain works will help you transform negative experiences or meltdowns into positive experiences or opportunities.
According to Daniel J. Siegel, author of The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, you can help your children build a solid foundation for a healthy social and emotional life, and enable them to handle difficult situations with ease, by understanding the brain’s functions.
Talking is good, but listening is important when you have a conversation with your child. Initiate a conversation to get your child talking and then listen to what they are trying to say. Kids may not be able to express themselves clearly, which is why you should pay attention to the words that they use and their non-verbal cues as well.
Not only should you listen, but also let your child know that they are being heard and taken seriously. Acknowledge what they say and respond to let them know that you understand what they say. If you don’t understand, ask questions for clarity. But be careful not to talk too much or ask too many questions, as that can shut your kid off completely.
Your children can express themselves in more than one way. Besides talking, kids express their feelings through activities.
If you want your child to speak, it is important to ask the right kind of questions. Initiate conversations by asking open-ended questions, which would encourage the child to share details.
Be proactive in understanding the different stages of child development to know how well your kid is faring. Take time to read books, online journals, and speak to a specialist who can give you some insight into child psychology and development. When you don’t know what to expect, anything and everything may seem alright or vice-versa. Don’t make wild guesses.
[ Read: Social And Emotional Development In Kids ]
Sometimes, observing other kids who are of the same age as yours can also help you understand your child better. This can let you understand how your child behaves in a social setting and identify his strengths and weaknesses that determine his personality. This does not mean you compare your child with every kid his age and pass judgment on who is better.
Parents tend to ascertain their children’s performance abilities by comparing them to other children. However, this can have a negative impact on the child, in the long-term. While comparison is not always bad, it can be dangerous when you overdo it.
Sometimes you have to think like a kid, and even act like one to reach out to them. Empathy is an important quality that parents should develop if they want to understand their children better. You may be aware of what your children are going through when they tell you about it. But you may not even come close to understanding what they are experiencing if you cannot empathize. Below are some simple ways to empathize:
“What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.” – Sigmund Freud
For a long time, kids were not considered as important as adults. Their feelings and emotions were taken for granted, for it was assumed that they’d forget all of it when they grow up.
Now, we know it is not true – what a child goes through in his childhood has a significant impact on the kind of person he grows up to be (5). As a parent, you should never underestimate your child’s emotions, or his capacity to manage them.
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) is a person’s ability to identify, express, and control their emotions. Children are born with a unique temperament. Some may be outspoken and proactive while others may be shy or slow-to-warm-up.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to understand your children’s EQ and do what is needed to help them grow into healthy, emotionally intelligent adults.
Do not assume that you know what your child wants or how she feels at any given point of time. If your child is not complaining, you may assume that she is happy. You assume that you are a great parent because your child behaves well in public and does not throw tantrums.
When you assume, you are closing yourself to understanding your children accurately, thereby making poor choices for your kids. Asking them should help clear any air of doubt and you will know for sure what the matter is.
Children acquire certain behaviors, influenced by their parents, family members and the society. Most children have minor behavioral issues (6) such as being adamant and rude or lacking attention. If these issues get complicated they become disorders. Here are a few common psychological disorders in children:
[ Read: Anxiety Disorder In Children ]
If you think that your child displays symptoms of any of the disorders mentioned above, consult a medical professional immediately.
Child psychologists work on two primary theories
Experts study development in children under different contexts including:
Understanding the psychology of kids can be challenging. If you have more than one kid, the first child’s psychology may be different from the middle child’s, which may be different from your youngest ones.
Believing that all children are the same and using a one-size-fits-all parenting style for your children could misfire. It might be tedious and time-consuming, but understanding the psychology of a child is the most important thing that you can do to nurture him into a healthy adult.
What do you do to read your child’s mind? Let us know here.