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Children are not Apprenticing Adults: unrealistic expectations of children

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At GracePlace Wellness I work with children presumed to have behavioral problems. However, as I teach parents, the child is never to blame.

The reason we look to the child for resolution is because adults presume that a child’s mind is developed to the level of their own and thus that a child should be able to reason things out, understand cause and effect and have the verbal skills to explain themselves.

When a child is born, he is virtually born blank in terms of language skills, physical skills and mental skills that adults take for granted. But they do have feelings and it is these feelings that guide them. If they feel safe and secure, they continue their behavior; if they feel unsafe and not accepted, they adjust their behavior to restore the preferred feeling. Thus their personalities develop to satisfy their evolving perception of their world. Their brain’s reactions and responses to their world are entirely consistent with the child’s belief of his level of safety.

Because of a profound lack of experience with life, children have little information with which to put stimuli in context. Thus rarely are stimuli put into the context an adult would expect. The more information a person has to draw on, the better and more reliable the context, thus it’s not hard to see that most of a child’s life is about doing the best they can to understand their world with little, if any, relevant information at hand.

The expectation that a child can engage in deductive reasoning, put events and feelings into proper and productive perspective, or recognize patterns is truly unreasonable, especially in children under twelve. They react to stressors, but with limited resources, knowledge and experience and thus the resulting behavior seems unacceptable to the adult.

All negative behavior in children has, at its root, fear. The more aggressive the child, the more fearful you can be assured he is. When the feeling is that their very survival is at risk, a child literally panics and he expresses this panic in what, for an adult, would seem to be unacceptable behavior.

The overriding factor for all beings is the unstoppable instinct to survive. A problem child is a child trying, in his not yet fully developed mind, to survive as best he can…and adults are not understanding the message often enough to help him.

Visit my website www.graceplacewellness.ca to learn more about mindful parenting.

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