It’s unbelievable sometimes how I remember vivid images of my childhood. Good things are less remembered than the bad experiences I’ve had. My husband thinks there must be something wrong with most of my childhood to have kept mostly the bad memory. Hmph! I don’t know. I don’t talk much so the best way to get to know what I’m thinking most of the time is through my ‘creative’ writing.
This act of memorizing and expression got me thinking how spectacular the mind of a child works. My son likes to play a lot, breaking in sweats permanently. Not exactly because sweating is what we do best in Africa. Lol. I realize the best way to get to know his thoughts when he’s not playing so buy asking him to do the next best thing he’s received awards for – wanna take a guess what it is? “Creative Writing”. Hehehe! For a six year old, he writes beautifully, capturing little details. It’s also the best way I have found yet to get to pick his brain.
So basically, I figure the steps to understanding the mind of a child which will help parents figure them out to enable them optimize their potentials and call out their flaws are:
To Listen. It is important to let children speak without being interrupted and to listen carefully to what they are saying regardless of how their words make you want to react at intervals. This is so important. If nothing else, your complete attention, eye contact and response helps them feel validation and love. Although, at times, their stories do not make a lot of sense, they often relate to facts; to lived moments, to things that they have heard or seen. Children have the capacity to embellish stories, add a few flying ponies or talking butterflies to them, but they do not all have the capacity to lie, be conniving, or create problems. However, at, approximately, age five, most kids learn how to lie, so they won’t always be innocent. Therefore, if a child, for instance, mentions that his grandma doesn’t like someone, you might want to question the validity of the statement. Don’t worry, you probably won’t like your daughter-in-law either … some day … circle of life.
To Give them undivided attention. Always look them in the eye. Not only will you know what the child wants and feels, they will understand how you feel. They will be validated through your love of understanding.
To Pay attention to their imaginations. Expose them to as much as you possibly can and see how they react to it. While strolling or walking, every little thing along that path such as sounds, smell, touch, etc. adds to their learning and imagination. They are sponges for the first five years and it is up to you to give them all the information they will need for the future. Take your time, slow down, and see how their minds work by how they interact with the world.
Focus on their creations. Their art work often represents their feelings. Adults should take the time to analyze what kids say. In order to comprehend children, parents don’t have to be psychologists. They should know their kids better than anyone else.
Play with them. Enter their world of imagination and make yourself at home, abandoned adult feelings of embarrassment and shame and crawl like a baby, meow like a cat, and jump up and down like a monkey and then watch the sparkle in their eyes. When you become a part of their world, happiness overcomes them and makes them want to connect with you more and more. This is when adults can bond with their children on the deepest level, bond with them in their world. By engaging in activities that kids enjoy, parents can transfer to them some of their traditions, morals, and beliefs and strengthen their bond with their children.
Let them lead you. Let children give you roles sometimes. My three year old likes to play the mommy sometimes. It is interesting when watching her do that, most times she reenacts my behavior and I hers and it’s surprising to know that she finds me as her as exhausting. That way, I understand that she is perfectly aware and in control of her actions to me. (God help me).
Physically, verbally, and emotionally connect more with them. Visual connections make conversations with kids more personal. Don’t talk too fast or they’ll stop listening, and don’t use big words. Adults should use simple sentences when they speak to children, should show them love through uncomplicated speech. For instance, a parent might say, ” Eat your food, my love, so you can grow big and strong” or “Sit far from the T.V to protect your beautiful eyes”. They will then see parental messages in a loving way rather then in a nagging way. (Again, God help me). Lol
Finally, Never dodge questions. My children’s term for that is “Mr. or Mrs. I-don’t-know”. I definitely don’t want to be that so, I’m going to put in the effort to be in the moment to understand motive behind every question.
I hope this has been helpful. It has been enlightening to me.